The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That’s how Winnie Godlove Msamba started her journey with Apps and Girls back in 2014. From being a computer club chairperson at Kisutu Secondary School to joining Apps and Girls coding club, getting a scholarship in South Africa and now a ten months full scholarship at EF Academy in the United States. This indeed are giant steps for the young lady.
Few hours before she took flight to the US on Sept 6th 2018, we visited her home and here is what we talked about on our farewell chat.
Winnie, can you briefly walk us through your journey?
Well, I remember I was the chairperson of our school’s computer club, and then Apps and Girls came to our school and started coding club, so automatically I kind like involved. But at school, we were not learning much because we wouldn’t go to computer labs unless it was club day, and for that reason, we were going at Madam Carolyne’s (founder of Apps and Girls) home every weekend to practice more about coding. We started learning about coding, how to create websites and we also learned how to solve problems surrounding our community. I remember we started learning HTML and then we moved to Java but it wasn’t like everyone was learning the same thing at the same time, those who were consistently going to the hub and those who joined first were a bit ahead than those joined later. I was one of the first mentee to join Apps and Girls and I loved their training particularly about design thinking, teaching others, doing research and find solutions for problems happening in the community. So that’s how I came up with my first project with the name FanikishaMama
How did you come up with FanikishaMama?
Well, I live in a community that faces a lot of problems and by that time, Fistula was one of the major health problems facing women in my country. So, I felt the urge to be part of the solution and I came up with FanikishaMama project basically in order to provide awareness about Fistula to the community, helping women who have been victims of Fistula to regain their dignity.
How did you get your Scholarship in South Africa? Do you think Apps and Girls played a part?
Definitely yes, Apps and Girls is the reason why I got a high school scholarship in South Africa. When I applied to the school, they chose me because of my community involvement. Because that school, African Leadership Academy doesn’t only take students who are bright but also passionate about community involvement, passionate about entrepreneurship and leadership. So, I built my profile under the wings of Apps and Girls. Most of my community projects I did including FanikishaMama it was because of Apps and Girls.
While you were at African Leadership Academy, what things did you learn that you think other schools do not offer?
Well, in contrary to many schools, especially Tanzanian school’s mentality that put emphasis on academic excellence (classroom performance), at African Leadership Academy we do more than that. We interact with students from all over African, people who are passionate about Africa, Pan Africa, entrepreneurs and passionate leaders. We also learn and discuss about international relations and human rights and a lot about other issues, we’re not limited to classroom issues like other schools do. At ALA we study but the goal is to help Africa.
How do you manage school and community involvement? Don’t you think the balance would bend somewhere?
First of all, I am someone who doesn’t believe in failure. In school I wasn’t having many roles apart from chairperson of computer club, but in the community where I lived, I was involving in many things, I was a leader in the church, and there was a time I taught English language to every kid in my neighborhood. All these didn’t affect my academic performance at school, I didn’t feel the heaviness of managing it because I was doing something that I love.
Let’s talk about your scholarship in America, How did you get it? What are you going to study? Is Apps and Girls having anything to do with this again?
First of all, I was planning to take a gap year before going to college and I didn’t apply for this school. They chose me out 20 student profiles they reviewed at ALA. I don’t know why or how but they chose me. And to be clear, I am not the smartest one so again this is because of what I did back here in Tanzania and that obviously means Apps and Girls. My profile will always refer back to Apps and Girls.
This school that I’m going now is called EF Academy (Education First Academy) in the Campus of New York. They have students from all over the world. The mission of EF Academy is the same as that of African Leadership Academy. The only difference is that EF Academy takes students from all over the world while ALA takes students within African countries.
So, the school gave me ten months full scholarship, that’s about 48, 000 USD. I gladly took the opportunity. I will be studying International Baccalaureate. While I’m studying, my other job will be creating a community of students who are passionate about their country diversity, also to make a community of aspiring leaders. I am also going to be in the students committee of leaders. So, that’s all, the school wanted strong young leaders since they were kind of lacking it in New York campuses and they came in Africa to my school, and I was among the chosen.
So where are you at with Apps and Girls now, still a mentee?
I think yes, I’m still their mentee but this time it’s different, it is not like when I was in secondary school when I learned everything from scratch. But madam Carolyne is still and will always be my mentor. She’s still coaching me in other higher perspectives like business ideas and stuff. But also, I think I can be a role model for those young students joining Apps and Girls now and I can assure them that with Apps and Girls, they can make a difference especially in technology which is the place where most young girls are left behind.
In your own final words what is your call to young people
Well, let me say this, if there is one thing that we need to get rid of, is the habit of sitting back and complain to governments for not doing anything. If there’s something wrong about your community, then try to be part of the solution. This should be the spirit of all African youths, to be change makers not complainers.