Sammamish nonprofit helps African orphans

May 10, 2011

By Christopher Huber

The orphans in the rural Tanzanian village of Mshangano are a 14-hour bus ride from the nearest airport, and even further from Issaquah and Sammamish.

That distance does not stop the volunteers of the Mwangaza Foundation from helping orphans in need, or from building them a new, 160-bed orphanage.

Under the foundation, leaders like Sammamish resident Linda Hines spent the past four years networking and developing programs to provide a better life for more than 60 orphans in the small village. Through monthly sponsorships, the foundation has provided balanced meals, shelter and education, and is working with leaders of the Songea region to create a sustainable village community.

“We are listening to village leaders,” said Sally Farrell, the organization’s board chairperson. “This year, we guarantee all our kids will be in school.”

While the aim of the organization has not changed, the name has. The Mwangaza Foundation is now Songea’s Kids, named for a region of Tanzania.

Ron and Linda Knodel, of Issaquah, sponsor a Tanzanian orphan through monthly donations to Songea’s Kids.

Tanzania has many orphans because of the AIDS epidemic, Ron Knodel said.

The main mission is to provide the orphans with food and shelter, he said, but another priority is giving them an education.

“In my mind, I don’t believe that you can progress without some kind of education,” he said. “That is something I want to see us do a great job with. By educating them, they can educate others.”

The Sammamish-based nonprofit organization, with the pro-bono help from Engineers Without Borders and Seattle-based firm Sundberg Architectural Initiative, is in the middle of developing a 160-bed kijiji cha matumaini, the Kiswahili phrase for “hope village.”

After hearing input from Songea’s leaders, foundation leaders expanded the project to include a health clinic, pre-primary school and a vocational school, none of which now exist in the Mshangano village.

Raising money for the orphanage

Leaders from Songea’s Kids and the other organizations will present a progress report regarding the development project aimed to improve the lives of 62 orphans in Songea at a benefit dinner at the Island Soul Caribbean restaurant in Seattle.

Songea is in the poorer southern zone of Tanzania, where people mainly subsistence farm and live on less than $1 a day, Songea’s Kids member Anna Sanford said.

“It’s pretty much a forgotten area,” Hines said. “They are always in some kind of risk.”

Formed in 2007 as the Mwangaza Foundation, Songea’s Kids took up the cause of supporting 71 orphans in June 2008 after members of the Songea Women and Children Organization approached them for financial help.

Songea’s Kids took on the task, and is working with Songea nonprofit organization Jirani Mwema, which means Good Neighbor, to build the orphanage.

The 12-acre village will serve as a permanent home, school and medical facility for the 62 orphaned children, Hines said. It will have six acres for raising livestock and growing crops.

The facility is meant eventually to serve as a sustainable source of income for Songea residents, Hines said. In a measure of its commitment to the youths of Songea, the organization sent its first student, Lucy, to college last fall, fully funding her three-year studies, in hopes, leaders said, that she will return to bring new ideas to help her fellow youths in the “hope village.”

“It’s not possible to underestimate the power this has for a child,” Hines said. “It gives them hope for the future.”

If you go

  • Songea’s Kids Benefit
  • 6:30 p.m. May 16
  • Island Soul Caribbean Restaurant
  • 4869 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle
  • Tickets cost $100, $60 of which is tax-deductible.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or Reporter Laura Geggel contributed to this report. Comment on this story at

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One Response to “Sammamish nonprofit helps African orphans”

  1. Linda Hines on May 11th, 2011 10:59 am

    Many thanks to Christopher and Laura for informing local residents about how they can personally touch the life of a very vulnerable child in remote Mshangano Village by working with Songea’s Kids, a local all-volunteer nonprofit. Eventually Hope Village will provide housing for 160 of the most vulnerable children and facilities to improve the lives of all the children in this poor village. I hope readers will come to Island Soul on May 16 to learn more and donate. Ticket information is on the web site

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