Talent Search and Empowerment is a Tanzanian NGO that has been supporting needy children and young people between the ages of nine and 20 years with a diverse range of educational and leisure activities in the capital city, Dar es Salaam. The organization was founded in 2008 by two Tanzanians and one German, Erick Morro, Alfred Tibenderana and Paul Buckendahl.
Tanzania is one of Africa’s largest countries with a total population of 53.5 million. The country’s high birthrate and comparatively long life expectancy for an African nation mean that the population is still growing rapidly. According to the United Nations, 66.7% of Tanzanians live in poverty, with about 32% of the population going hungry. Despite a relatively high literacy rate in comparison with other African nations, only about one third of school-age children go on to secondary school. There is also a huge disparity in the opportunities available to children and young people who have the privilege of attending a private school and students who attend state-run schools. Many children from socially deprived backgrounds have to contribute to their family’s income – the rate of child labor among 5-to-14-year-olds is 29%.
Being Tanzania’s biggest city and a commercial port, Dar es Salaam draws in large numbers of migrants from rural areas. Many children and young people leave their families and come to the capital in the hope of finding work. When they fail they end up on the streets. Estimates of the number of street kids vary between half a million and 800,000. And the numbers are rising.
What Talent Search and Empowerment aims to do for children from poor families is “support them with a view to 1) discovering and nurturing their talents, 2) improving the living conditions for disadvantaged youths long term, 3) thus preventing them from falling into criminality and 4) promoting stability within society”. The NGO runs an education center for destitute children and young people (chiefly orphans), a computer school and a soccer club. A cooperation with the Ahsante Arts Group gives the children the opportunity to experience traditional Tanzanian poems, plays on subjects that affect their lives such as AIDS, as well as dance and music. They even write and perform their own plays. The children also get the chance to take singing and rapping lessons as part of the cooperation.
Aside from its program of sports and cultural activities, TSE also runs a creativity workshop which offers children and young people courses in tailoring, painting and drawing. Teaching children about drugs and HIV and protecting young girls from prostitution and pregnancy is a further significant element of what Talent Search and Empowerment does. Everything that the charity offers is orga- nized and conducted by volunteers and is free of charge for all of the young people who take part.