Red Sweater Project: Transforming Communities by Empowering Youth In Tanzania

Red Sweater Project: Transforming Communities by Empowering Youth In Tanzania

Red Sweater Project

Ashley with village children. Photo courtesy of Red Sweater Project.

When I was in Tanzania recently I got to meet Ashley Holmer, founder of Red Sweater Project.  Red Sweater Project creates affordable advanced educational opportunities for children in rural Tanzania in collaboration with local communities. Without Red Sweater Project countless children from impoverished villages would not have the opportunity to get an education. 

How Red Sweater Project Started

Ashley and her twin sister went to Tanzania after college to teach English. When her time there was coming to an end she was approached by the local village government. They said they would give her 20 acres of land if she would build the village’s first secondary school. After having fallen in love with the country and children of Tanzania, Ashley agreed. 

Ashley’s first school opened in April 2008 with 40 students. Today that school has over 120 students. Her school has proved to be such a success that she was given additional land to build a second school in the Mungere Village. 

To explain why the Mungere Village was chosen Ashley’s website states the following: 

“Imagine you’re a 13-year-old. Now imagine walking 20km every day to get to your 7th grade math class, braving treacherous routes in flood conditions, avoiding wild animals just to learn Algebra. Your parents are discussing your marriage this summer to a man twice your age since they can’t afford the $500 annual tuition that allows you to learn at the only institution that offers you a better future: a school with two students to a desk and 120 students per classroom. Kids in Mungere Village, Tanzania face a reality few adults could handle. They are hungry for education and go to great lengths for the opportunity to learn. Families make huge sacrifices to get a single child through school.”

The average family income for children in the Mungere Village is $190 per year. Most families live in mud huts, sleep on the floor, and can barely afford food let alone an education. Average secondary school and boarding school fees are $500 which makes education inaccessible to many families. Only 7% of children complete high school in Tanzania. There are not enough teachers (there is an 85,000 teacher shortage) or educational institutions. 

When I met Ashley in Tanzania in January she took me and my local tour guides to the land her new school would be located on. It was completely vacant. By April 2012, just 3 months later, construction of the primary school building had been completed.

“Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it couldn’t be done.” 

Watch this video to see the progress of the Mungere Secondary School and how it is changing the lives of children in rural Tanzania. Mungere Secondary School opens in September 2012 and will cost families just $20 per year. Ashley proves just how far will and determination can take you.

According to Ashley, the biggest changes she sees in her students is the changes in the girls. She explains that “in an elder paternalistic dominated society, most girls don’t have a voice within the community”. So when you put them in an environment where girls are just as smart as boys you can completely change their outlook. 

The Mungere school starts in September and will provide 240 students each year access to not only an quality education with experienced certified teachers but also to: 

  • Unlimited safe water and sanitation
  • Basic health services and health-based education outreach
  • Renewable energy with computer and remote internet access
  • School garden and dining facilities serving two nutritious meals each school day
  • Extra-curricular activities, sports, field trips and life-skills workshops 

If you’d like to donate to Red Sweater Project or sponsor a child, you can do so by visiting their website at: By sponsoring a child you can provide them with a competitive high school education, balanced meals, school supplies and text books, health care, sporting equipment, and a school uniform and shoes. In return you’ll receive report cards, photos and artwork, letters and the chance to build an unlikely friendship. 

Red Sweater Project is also having a fundraiser to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in August 2012 to help support the new school. You’ll start the trip by volunteering at the Mungere school for a few days before heading off to a climbing adventure up Mount Kilimanjaro. Click here for more information:

Red Sweater Project

Ashley, Me & Immaculate in Tanzania

Red Sweater Project

School site in January prior to construction

Children of Tanzania

Children of Tanzania

Inside a mud hut in Tanzania

Inside a traditional mud hut in Tanzania


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