Peter Swan has devoted the past 15 years to transforming education in Meserani, Tanzania. His dedication was recognised by Middlesbrough Erimus Rotary who nominated him for a Champions of Change Award.
The journey began in 2004, when Peter took a group of pupils from a school he worked at, on a three week camping expedition to Tanzania. Little did he know, how much of an impact this trip would make on him.
During the expedition Peter and the group of pupils came across a primary school where the level of education and facilities shocked them. The school was like nothing they had seen before.
The building was in poor condition, and didn’t have enough classrooms for all the pupils there.
Due to the school being based in such a remote area, there was no water supply. The school was reliant on a basic harvesting system which could not meet its needs of the school and those of its many pupils.
This was a culture shock and really made an impact on the group.
Peter said: “What struck me most was how my pupils reacted, they really wanted to do something to help.
“They donated their own money which they had brought with them on the trip, as they realised the money would help the lives of the children in the Meserani community, who needed it more than themselves.”
Peter could see how much of a difference a bit of help could make in this small Tanzanian community, and this inspired him to begin the Meserani project.
What struck me most was how my pupils reacted, they really wanted to do something to help.”
The Meserani project believes education is key to help support the whole community.
Fifteen years later, the project has developed into a UK registered charity which has completely transformed Meserani.
Peter a former teacher, understands the power of education. He said: “Ensuring every child has access to a full education will benefit the community in the long run.
“We can’t change the world – only nature, politicians and God can do this – but what we can do is focus on individual challenges, and make relatively small, but life-changing differences wherever it is possible.”
Giving the children in Meserani access to an education and opportunities will help them escape from a life of poverty.
The funds raised to date exceed £400,000, and all of this has been spent on education and health provision for the young people of Meserani and their families.
“Today there are now four primary schools in the area with enough classrooms for all the children, resources to help their studies, and building work has begun on the first secondary school in the area, to allow more children to further their education,” Peter added.
Up to 30 students have been sponsored to attend universities, an opportunity which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Meserani project.
Now that Peter has retired, he takes groups of people from schools, colleges and commercial organisations in the UK on trips to the Meserani district of Tanzania, where they are able to contribute to the work of his project, as well as benefitting from an amazing personal challenge.
Students from the UK who have travelled to and worked in Meserani have been inspired to support the project and the experience has had a positive effect on their lives and their outlook on life.
Now that Peter has retired, he takes groups of people from schools, colleges and commercial organisations in the UK on trips to the Meserani district of Tanzania, where they are able to contribute to the work of his project, as well as benefitting from an amazing personal challenge.”
Peter said: “They have seen the world in a different light and can better appreciate its inequalities.
“They have been inspired to do what they can to make a difference.” Peter explains that his more than 40 years of experience as a teacher were amazingly rewarding and enjoyable, and he is now in the fortunate position of being able to give something back.
The work Peter and many volunteers are doing in Meserani is life changing. Families within the district are benefitting from the increasing number of young people being educated to a higher level, increasing employment, prosperity and knowledge in the area.