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Giving back to Africa

May 24, 2012

After an unforgettable school year in Washington through IRIS and the KL-YES program, YES 6 alumni John Gregory Mhando has a lot to bring to Africa.

“Words can’t explain how happy I was the day I was chosen to be in the program,” said Mhando. He stated he had always dreamed about traveling to the United States to learn about the education and political system, and he did just that.

Mhando recalls how attentive his high school teachers were, especially while he was adjusting to the strict homework deadlines. Mhando also credits his host family for teaching him lessons outside of the classroom, which he will never forget. “My host family played a great role in my life there. They helped me with everything,” said Mhando.

One of his greatest accomplishments while in the U.S. was exceeding the required 100 hours of community service, resulting in receiving a certificate signed by the president of the United States.

Mhando is now focusing on bringing prosperity closer to home. Throughout Kenya and his home country of Tanzania, he has volunteered at orphanages, initiated clothing-drives, volunteered at churches and started a soccer club.

A majority of his activities are based on education, such as his time spent at orphanages and coordinating a soccer club, called the Mwala “Football” Club. The club consists of 23 children between the ages of six and 15. Mhando said, “I taught them about the importance of education as well as other life skills.”

While the club nearly quadrupled in size, Mhando faced a few challenges, one being a lack of supplies such as soccer balls and jerseys. Although Mhando handed off the reigns to another coach, he is proud to say they are still practicing today.

With a little help from his host mom, Linda Thompson Leach, Mhando formed an organization called Choose the Right group (CTR). The group focuses on pushing people to make good decisions throughout life. Through the group, he and three friends share physics, biology, chemistry and math books donated by Leach to their classmates. Mhando has formed CTR groups in Kilimanjaro as well as the Pwan region. With a little help from teachers, Mhando said “we were well known as we encouraged students to achieve academic success.”

Until he leaves for college in October, Mhando will continue to stay in his village of Kilomeni where he volunteers teaching physics, math and biology at Maghare secondary school.

Mhando would like to give a special thanks to Leach, his coordinator Mama Foya, fellow YES 6 alumni, his schools, Chairman of Masandare village and IRIS. He said, “Without IRIS having chosen me to experience life in America, I wouldn’t know of the importance of volunteering. I am really thankful for all things IRIS is doing for both students and alumni.”

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