Guest Columnist

From Iowa to Tanzania, a story of inspiration

As Iowans, we are keenly aware of the importance of education, health care and women’s issues. We understand how knowledge empowers and advances our lives in career and goal attainment. Let me share a story about one Tanzanian woman who is making a difference in her home village halfway around the world from Iowa.

Lightness Bayo is co-founder, with her husband Modest Bayo, of the Tumaini Schools established in 2005. The school began in their own home with just 75 students. Today, the school covers three campuses near Karatu in the Rift Valley of Tanzania and serves over 1,300 students. From Primary (3- and 4-year-olds), Junior (baby class through seventh grade) and Secondary (eighth through 12th grade), the older students continue to excel in their programs and are in the top 1 percent of all schools in Tanzania (more than 8,000 schools). In the fall of 2019, the Tumaini Secondary School had its first 12th-grade graduation. Forty-four students graduated during the daylong celebration.

The school is currently building two new classroom buildings as it launches its new pre-college, two-year program this July. This will expand the award-winning Tumaini program to prepare students for their chosen careers. Both young women and men will have the opportunity to not just dream of what they want to be, but to put into action their path in life.

Since 2006, our local communities have been supporting the youth at the Tumaini Schools in many ways. In 2018, 19 Mount Mercy University nursing students, two instructors and school President Laurie Hamen traveled to Karatu to work in the schools and share their nursing knowledge with patients at the new Lake Eyasi Medical Clinic headed by Lightness Bayo. What they encountered was life-changing and made them appreciate the education and quality medical care that is available in the United States.

Lightness Bayo is from Lake Eyasi and is committed to giving back to her community. In addition to the medical clinic, she has a vocational school for young mothers who have been abandoned or widowed. They live on campus, some with their children, and learn life skills like sewing, accounting and reading. They also raise bees and sell the honey. The goal is for the women to be able to support their families. Lightness also secures funds from donors in the United States to build three-room block homes for women and children in her home village. She also sends handmade jewelry and decorative items for the annual art and craft sale in April.

Our community can support Lightness’ efforts locally by attending the “Arts for Africa” Art and Craft Fair with silent auction and bake sale on Saturday, April 25, at Noelridge Christian Church, 7111 C Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Lightness Bayo is an international woman with a heart that spans the globe. Her reach has touched many Iowans with her unconditional love and compassion for others. She offers a shining example of how one person really can make a difference in the lives of many people on different continents.

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Kellie Lala is senior account manager at Z102.9, KGYM and Smart-FM Radio. A Cedar Rapids native, Lala graduated from Mount Mercy University, is a lifelong member of Noelridge Christian Church and is a world traveler.

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