I met Beatrice in early 2013 and got to know her and her family incredibly well throughout my two years in Tanzania. Beatrice is smart, funny, cares about politics and improving her society, and is so committed to becoming an accountant that she often refers to things in percentages (as in “Yes, I am 112.4% sure I do not want to eat vegetables.”)
Beatrice is the oldest of three children, and her father passed away when she was young. She is from the Maasai tribe – a very proud culture that maintains its traditions, though this often includes resisting changes and advancements in women’s rights and girls’ education. Most Maasai in Tanzania still practice female genital mutilation and and when a husband dies, it is common that the wife must marry her deceased husband’s brother in order to remain on the land with her children.
However, Beatrice’s family is quite special. While her father was alive, he encouraged her education and after he passed away, her mother remained strong and independent – and tries her best to support the family by farming beans. It is back breaking work with very little reward (when I first met Beatrice’s mother and offered her a lift, she was on her way walking several miles down a long, dirt road carrying three large and heavy bundles of crops on her back). They live in a small home made of mud and last year their only remaining cow died. Beatrice is considered the hope of her family, and she was previously sponsored by another organization – though this ended after she became pregnant in 2014 just before her final year of high school. Beatrice gave birth at home without any medical assistance and still had not seen a doctor when (thanks to several weirdly fortuitous events and coincidences) I found her two weeks after she gave birth to her daughter, Angel.
Despite all that had happened, her first words to me were about finishing her education. I brought her to a clinic where they gave her a checkup, talked to her about post-delivery care, and made sure her daughter had all of her immunizations. Afterwards, we sat down with her uncle and discussed school options. Though he struggles financially, her uncle agreed to help with writing letters so that Beatrice could transfer to a school closer to home and continue with her education. Thanks to you, we helped Beatrice receive tutoring in 2015 to catch up in school before starting her last year of high school in September 2015. Beatrice is absolutely determined to complete school and become an accountant – and it is a privilege for us to be able to help Beatrice support herself and provide a better future for her beautiful daughter, Angel.