The trainers take a group photo with the girls at the center.
MARIA, 16, is a bright girl whose smiling face exudes determination and courage. But her upright posture and smile mask a past none of her peers ever experienced.
Originally from Iringa, she was sold off to a man twice her age; to her parents, this was soon to become her handpicked life partner. After years of abuse and hardship, Maria escaped to Dar es Salaam, only to end up into prostitution, joining a common trade in the crowded streets of Sinza.
Though horrific in nature, her story wasn't unfamiliar to the other 30-odd ladies who share her relief at New Hope for Girls in suburban Tabata area within the City of Dar. Having gained media spotlight only recently, the organization is the brainchild of a bold woman called, Consolata Eliya, herself a survivor of similar challenges during her youth.
The NGO takes in and supports vulnerable girls and marginalized young women from failed marriages-invariably all of them on account of mistreatment, sexual abuse, forced marriage, abandonment and domestic abuse.
Consolata and her husband, Albert, have taken in 31 girls into their custody, a welcoming home where many more walk in search for help or advice. It was a hot Saturday morning when we arrived at the centre, our initial aspiration focused on hosting a huge fundraising event--sponsored by large companies--and whose proceeds would further improve service delivery at this same facility.
Considering the current economic climate, that dream did not necessarily go as planned; so we were faced with two options-- cancel the event altogether, or show up empty-handed! Since we didn't have the financial muscle to carry out our original idea, we decided to give what little we could muster: knowledge and experience.
As young women and professionals in our late 20's, we've had that singular privilege of paid employment and private businesses. In other words, we had through life's cliché of 'ups and downs' that women normally go through.
From battling insecurities, to overcoming self-worth issues, to CV writing and applying for jobs-the list is endless. The concept of arriving without money or practical help is usually counterculture, as it were, and the whole concept of community outreach or corporate social responsibility in a culture accustomed to foreign aid is that a real donation would have to be "tangible" in order to make sense.
It is rare to hear praise for individuals who have given their time to transfer intangible knowledge or skills to others; infinite in nature, these skills are not physically quantifiable, and their benefits are often overlooked, simply because we cannot measure them on scales.
However, it's these 'intangibles' that stand up to the test of time; they are infinitely incomparable in value as confidence, self-drive, boldness, taking initiative and adaptability are all soft skills that cannot be taught at school or universities.
Yet, they are crucial to entering and surviving in today's competitive job markets. On reflection now, these are the things I wish I had been taught at school but life taught me the hard way. Everyone has something to offer, so experience in any sector or field, can and should be shared with the next generation.
As we prepared for the sessions we focused on skills that are helpful for young people. We divided the teams into different age-groups and interacted with them on a level they would best understand.
Girls over the age of 16 gained knowledge on CV writing and self-branding, while the younger girls did a series of exercises and games that taught them about boldness, self-encouragement and selfawareness.
Young professionals have so much knowledge they can share. The simple ability to write a CV should not be taken for granted. Simply sharing your story on how you have persevered through various trials in life or at work has the power to enlighten and change the course of a young person.
Imagine if you were taught as a teenager, that selfpresentation and confident communication were more or as important as the grades on your CV-wouldn't that have saved you time and effort?
I believe the reason why many young professionals do not involve themselves in more community projects is not because they do not have time, but because they have not realised how valuable their life experiences can be to someone else.
For example, if you are an IT Engineer, you can open up the minds of young people on the diverse fields of employment and self employment available with the simple use of a laptop and internet.
Expanding the minds of young people to the possibilities available in the market, even for two hours, can have an everlasting impact in their lives. After spending three hours at the center and sharing lunch with the girls, we thanked Consolata and took our leave.
Maria was one of the girls who walked us out, she kept glancing at her loosely drafted CV we had worked on together during the group discussion.
I have no idea what she was thinking; maybe she was contemplating how she could improve it or listing in her mind all the companies she will one day attempt to apply to. I don't know, but one thing is certain, she had gained gems of knowledge that have instilled confidence within her.