Houston woman on supporting more than 10-year-old Tanzanian school she founded: 'I can do something'

Gina Gaston Image
Friday, May 10, 2024
Houston woman on supporting more than 10-year-old Tanzanian school she founded: 'I can do something'
"All of my kids have Longhorn shirts. We've got the whole thing going with every Texas sports team", the Houston-area woman told ABC13 after gathering the donations to send to her Tanzanian students in Africa.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston-area woman was just a teenager when she first went to Africa and fell in love with the people in Tanzania. While in college, she had the bold idea to help the children there get an education, and more remarkably, with the help of many Houston-area neighbors, she started a school that now supports hundreds of students, even one of whom is now a doctor.

"I believe in the power of one," Stein said. "I also know that I can't do everything, but I can do something."

Mandy Stein lives in Tanzania, but she returns home to Meyerland to visit friends and family and also to garner donations from the community, which has supported her Tanzanian school for more than a decade. This time, she'll fill a container that will ship bikes, books, clothes, and more 8,800 miles away. Perhaps this is an alliance that some might find surprising.

"All of my kids have Longhorn shirts. We've got the whole thing going with every Texas sports team. We've folded quite a few Astro shirts in here," Stein said.

Stein grew up in Houston and was studying social work and African American studies at UT Austin. When she visited Tanzania, she decided to start a non-profit there called Neema. While still in her early twenties and getting her advanced degree at Harvard, she made the unlikely decision to open a preschool and later a primary school, now called Uru Community Pre and Primary School.

She was concerned that corporal punishment was commonplace. In fact, 70% of Tanzanian kids there weren't continuing school beyond age 14, and most students weren't starting school until they were 6 or 7. There are more than 200 students now, and she sponsors graduates after they leave all the way through college if they want to attend.

"So, we started the school," Stein said. "The school grew. That facility is now fully on its own. And I have moved away from that, which was the purpose of getting it to sustain itself. We do a dual-generation approach. Parents and children, or caregiver and child, to make sure that the cycle is fully sustainable."

However, Mandy didn't just fall in love with the country. She also fell in love with a smart Tanzanian boy who had been brought to her school when he was just 10 months old. She was just 23, but she adopted Baraka, who is proud of his mom.

"I think she is a nice woman and that she is really kind and helps people," Baraka said.

While Mandy's commitment and fundraising abilities are central to the school's success, it's important to her that this not be a "Mandy Stein story."

She said Tanzanians were initially suspicious of whether she'd make a long-term commitment but are now fully integrated into the school administration. She also says the Uru community is the key to the future of the schools she founded.

For more on this story, follow Gina Gaston on Facebook, X and Instagram.