Happy International Women’s Day…Help Us Help a Future Woman Leader!

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. In honor of this day, I would like to say THANK YOU to the incredible women who have inspired me, helped me along the way, brought us all up from infants to (hopefully) mature adults, and paved the way for the success of all women.

As the next generation of women come forward in this world, break barriers, and again pave the way for others to follow, I would like to introduce you all to a very special young woman, Gifte, one of our incredible sponsorship recipients.

Gifte is a 13-year-old young lady from the village of Tengeru, Tanzania. She is the third child of her family, which consists of an older sister, Upendo — now a teacher; an older brother, Freddie — now in secondary school; and a younger sister, Carol, who is just starting primary school.

I met Gifte during my first trip to Tanzania. She was the neighbor of Mama Gladness (our volunteer “mother”) and the “helper” around our volunteer house. Gifte would come to the house after school to have tea, practice her English, and generally teach us all what it was really like to grow up in Tanzania. When I met Gifte, she was not quite 10 years old. Now, a flowering teenager, Gifte has far exceeded any aspirations I may have had for her. For the three years that followed my initial meeting with this amazing child, Gifte continued to welcome volunteers from around the world to the house, she took advantage of the opportunity to speak a second language with the visiting volunteers, and this past summer, she became my computer student and learned to type, surf, and edit faster than I thought could even be possible. Near the end of my last visit to Tanzania, Gifte presented me a request: Would it be possible to help her obtain a good education?

I struggled with this request for several weeks before coming to a resolution. My focus with Jenga Jumuiya was to be “the building of schools”…but then I thought, why not also “the building of leaders”? Not only is Gifte a talented, intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful girl, she had the drive, the knowledge, the confidence, and the bravery to ask me for this request. I truly believe that education is the key to helping those less fortunate help themselves out of poverty. So, I decided this, too, could be one of the focuses of Jenga Jumuiya.

The school Gifte chose to attend is one of the top private (non-government funded) secondary schools in the area. Although Gifte knew she had done well on her Standard 7 exams (the tests that allow one to continue on to secondary school), she also knew she would need to pass a separate, more rigorous exam for the school of her choice. Think of finishing middle school and having to apply to high school as if it were college…that is what this amazing young girl was up against.

In true Gifte fashion, she aced the second exam, charmed the admissions counselor, and won her place in secondary school. For these accomplishments, I am incredibly proud.

Now two months into her formal secondary education, Gifte is doing incredibly well. She has recently needed to get eyeglasses to alleviate the strain on her eyes from reading so much. She is doing very well in her classes, and from all accounts she is happy, healthy, and making great strides in her studies.

Her second term starts very soon, and we are now looking for funds to help continue her education. If you have thought about sponsoring a child’s education in another country, ever felt the need to better someone else’s life, or just have a few extra dollars from your tax return, we could really use the help today for Gifte.

It’s really easy to donate. You can send a check to Jenga Jumuiya at:

Jenga Jumuiya
c/o Matt Henneman
711 Louisana Street, Suite 1800
Houston, TX 70022

Or you can click the Donate Now! link at the top of the page.

Every amount helps — nothing is too small and nothing too big!

On behalf of Gifte and the rest of our future generation of leaders worldwide, I thank and wish you all a very happy International Women’s Day.

All the best,

Heidi Henneman
Jenga Jumuiya — Building Community Through School Building
email: HeidiH@JengaJumuiya.org
tel: +1.646.373.9084


Who We Are…Who We Serve…and What’s Next!

Thank you for your interest in Jenga Jumuiya – Building Community Through School Building.

Our name is derived from the Swahili phrase for “Building Community” and our goal is to build community strength, pride, and leadership through the construction of classrooms, the renovation of school buildings, and the sponsorship of students in developing countries.

We at Jenga Jumuiya believe that education is for everyone and that a solid education is the key to helping those less fortunate help themselves out of poverty. With these beliefs in mind, we work together with local communities, local non-profits, and local vendors to renovate, expand, and build educational facilities for marginalized or rural populations where access to education is less than ideal.

To date, our work has focused on the Oldonyo Sambu Primary School in the Arumeru district of rural Tanzania. This school enrolls nearly 1050 children in what was a seven-classroom, heavily overcrowded, and structurally dilapidated facility. With the help of our wonderful donors, Jenga Jumuiya has been able to expand the classroom count at this school to nine classrooms and add an additional teacher’s office.

The village of Oldonyo Sambu is located approximately 1 1/2 hours outside of Arusha, Tanzania, on what we call the “dry” side of Mt. Meru. The students at the Oldonyo Sambu Primary School are primarily members of the  Maasai tribe. The Maasai are known for their animal husbandry (they believe they are the chosen protectors of animals, especially cattle), their bright traditional costumes and jewelry, their tall stature, and their ability to survive for long periods of time without water (historically, they drank milk and other fluids derived from their livestock when water was scarce). The majority of the families in the region live well below the poverty line (less than $1/day). The families live in mud huts called “bomas.” Their diet consists of porridge, rice, meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Water is scarce in the region, and dust storms often occur, especially during the “dry season”. Our students walk to and from school each day for up to eight miles each way. They pack themselves into classrooms of more than 150 students per and share desks with two to four other students. Pencils, paper, even textbooks are a luxury to these children. Even with these challenges, the students are determined to learn, and each day, face their difficult circumstances with a spirit of hope and anticipation. We are so proud and excited for the future of these children, and we know that many are great leaders in the making.

As our name implies, Jenga Jumuiya (Swahili  for “Building Community”) is focused on community building – not only erecting physical structures, but also building strength, pride, and leadership in the populations we serve. Therefore our intent is to involve the local community in all aspects of our project so that they are not merely recipients of charity, but active participants in creating educational opportunities for their families and themselves. We work in close cooperation with the community leaders, school boards, and district councils of our focus areas to identify and create a “community” project plan, whereby the community works with us to provide a portion of funding, materials, and/or labor.

In the case of the Oldonyo Sambu Primary School Project, we collaborated with the community to create a plan by which we built two classrooms and a teacher’s office using part of an existing structure that had been funded previously by the community. The families of our students also provided all of the sand and gravel needed for the construction. Our supplies were purchased through local vendors and our contractors also had ties to the community.

While we are thrilled with what we have been able to accomplish thus far at the Oldonyo Sambu Primary School, we know that more than 1050 children in even nine classrooms does not allow for the individualized and quality learning atmosphere that these children deserve. So we must do more!

Here’s where you come in. With your help, we are working to raise funds for our next expansion project at this school, for the renovation of existing classrooms, for the provision of school supplies, and for the sponsorship of school fees and uniforms for the most needy of the students. We also hope to expand our efforts to other needy schools in Tanzania and throughout the world. In addition to building learning facilities for these incredible students, we have also created a scholarship fund to help those children whose families cannot afford the cost of school fees, uniforms, and other essentials.

Every amount raised makes a difference and can help us build a physical foundation for learning – including desks, ceilings, floors, blackboards, doors and windows – so that these amazing kids will have a safe place to expand their minds. Please give if you can!


Checks should be made out to Jenga Jumuiya and sent to the following address:
Jenga Jumuiya
c/o: Matt Henneman
711 Louisiana Street, Suite 1800
Houston, TX 77002
(This is our preferred method.)

If you would like to transfer money directly to our account, please contact me at the number or email below so that I may provide the bank details.

Our Paypal link (“Donate Now!” link to the right) has also been updated.

On behalf of the many, many children and families your donations will help, I would like to thank you in advance for your kind and generous contribution!

Asante sana! (Kiswahili) Ashe oleng! (Kimaasai) Thank you!


Heidi Henneman
Jenga Jumuiya
US: +1.646.373.9084



Thank you and Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I would like to take this occasion to THANK YOU — all of my friends, family, and supporters  — for encouraging me to follow my dream of working in Africa this year. And what a year it has been!

Not only did I get the chance to spend some time living overseas in a country I absolutely love, but I was also able to start a non-profit called Jenga Jumuiya (Swahili for “Building Community”) and through that have had the opportunity to accomplish SO many wonderful things:

With your help, we have been able to fund the construction of two classrooms and a teacher’s office at the Oldonyo Sambu Primary School in the Arumeru District of rural Tanzania. The classrooms were dedicated to the school on November 12, 2010, at a ceremony attended by more than 1,000 parents, teachers, children, and local villagers. (Photos of finished building, one of the classrooms, and yours truly with some of the parents below.)

We have also been able to start a sponsorship program for students in the area, and have named our first 3 recipients: Joyce, Loisholu, and Gifte.

Joyce and Loisholu (above left) are a sister and brother from the Oldonyo Sambu area who will be continuing their primary (elementary) school education in January.

Gifte (above right) is a 13-year-old girl from Tengeru who will be attending one of the top secondary (high) schools in the region starting January. We are so proud of her for passing her exams and interview to get into such a prestigious school!

Attached are photos of the children out shopping for their uniforms. Thank you again to our wonderful sponsors of these kids. We still have several opportunities for sponsorships, if you would like to contribute!

We could not have accomplished these incredible feats without your help, so thank you, thank you, and thank you again. We are making plans now for our next “Community Build” which we hope will happen sometime next summer, funds permitting. We hope that you will consider contributing to Jenga Jumuiya in the coming year, as we continue our efforts to work with local communities to provide educational opportunities for children and to help these incredible students gain the skills they need to help themselves and their communities out of poverty.

All the best to you and yours during this holiday season!

Warm regards,

Heidi Henneman

Jenga Jumuiya in the News!

We are so excited to announce that Jenga Jumuiya has made the news!

Two articles were published last week in Tanzania: Arusha Times (Dec. 11) and The Citizen (Dec. 10).

It is so wonderful to get this press exposure and we look forward to much more! Here is the Arusha Times piece for your viewing pleasure: http://www.arushatimes.co.tz/local_news_9.htm (also picked up on AllAfrica.com!) http://allafrica.com/stories/201012130688.html

The Citizen piece is attached as a photo below. 

Another big THANK YOU!!! to all of our amazing and generous donors. We couldn’t have done this work — or continue it! — without your wonderful support.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Best regards,

Heidi Henneman

A Celebration — Maasai-Style!

Wow. What an amazing day! The Maasai sure know how to make a person feel special.

The dedication ceremony was beyond phenomenal. I’m not exactly sure what I thought was going to happen…but it far exceeded my expectations.

The school children (all 1038 of them) and some of their parents, several area dignitaries, village board members, and several of my friends gathered on Friday to help me celebrate the turnover of the Oldonyo Sambu Primary School classrooms to the community.

After a speech by the headmaster, the dancing began. 200+ kids, dressed in traditional Maasai costumes, dancing, singing, and jumping (part of the dancing). While the younger kids gathered around clapping, singing and cheering them on. So cool!

Then, six of the older female students (Grade 6 or 7) came forward and sang a poem they had written for me. If you have ever heard a Maasai woman sing, you will know how beautiful this moment was. So incredible.

I was then asked to step forward and receive some “gifts”…and by gifts, they meant an entirely new wardrobe. I was “dressed” by the Mamas of the village in two Maasai chukas, earrings, necklaces, anklets, and even shoes! Not gonna lie, I loved it! (And I kept it on all day and into the night!).

I gave a short speech as did a few of the other honored guests. Then we did a walkthrough of the GORGEOUS classrooms. Afterward, the entire community sat down with me for lunch. Good times!

I cannot tell you how happy I am with this project. It is really, truly amazing how far we have come from just 6 weeks ago when the structure was still covered in brambles and only half-standing.

I’ve posted a few photos to FB, so please check them out!: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=84340&id=1048689819&l=0bde3a2395

Thank you all again for your continued support and encouragement!

Heidi Henneman


Oldonyo Sambu, Arusha, Tanzania — November 12, 2010 –


Two new classrooms and a teachers’ office were dedicated to the community of Oldonyo Sambu on November 12, 2010, by International NGO Jenga Jumuiya, a United States-based non-profit organization working in tandem with Tanzanian Community Development Organization.


The project, begun in July 2010 and completed today, focused not only on building classroom capacity for the rural, heavily overcrowded school, but on encouraging community involvement in the process. To this end, the organization worked closely with the village and school boards to create a partnership by which the project was partially funded by the local community.


The two new classrooms and teachers’ office were erected on the site of, and using the existing concrete blocks from, a formerly built outer structure funded by the community in 2008. In addition, the village and parents of children in attendance at the school provided sand and stone for the construction.


Prior to the completion of these new classrooms, Oldonyo Sambu Primary School taught 1,038 students in a mere seven classrooms during the 2010 school year. The additional building brings the classroom count to nine.


The cost of the construction was approximately $7,000US and took approximately six weeks to complete. All funds were raised through donors in the United States through Jenga Jumuiya, under the direction of Heidi Henneman. Materials and labor were sourced locally in and around Arusha and Oldonyo Sambu in order to create economic stimulus for the area.


A dedication celebration was held to honor the Jenga Jumuiya organization and Ms. Henneman on November 12, 2010. The event featured traditional Maasai dancing and singing by the Oldonyo Sambu school children, speeches by school and community leaders, a poetry reading by several of the upperclass girls, an exchange of gifts, a speech by Ms. Henneman, a walk-through of the completed classrooms and office, and a lunch, served by the parents and teachers. More than 1,000 people were in attendance at the event, including students, teachers, parents, and community members.

Jenga Jumuiya is a United States-based non-profit organization focused on creating community through the building of classrooms, the renovation of existing school buildings, and the sponsorship of students in marginal and under-funded rural schools in developing countries. The organization was founded in 2010 by Heidi Henneman, a journalist and businesswoman who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and a Professional Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.  Ms. Henneman has traveled extensively throughout the world both as a tourist and a volunteer vacationer. She founded Jenga Jumuiya after visiting a cultural tourism program in Tanzania that opened her eyes to the need for education facilities in rural areas of developing countries.


For more information, please contact:

Heidi Henneman


Jenga Jumuiya

US: +1 646 373 9084

TZ: +255 (0)758 306 151




Jenga Jumuiya has finished its first project and WOW! What an amazing experience this has been! Kazi kubwa lakini kazi nzuri, kabisa! (BIG work, but GOOD work, FOR SURE!)

The classrooms are finished. Roofs are on. Ceilings are up. Floors are in. Windows have glass. Walls, ceilings, chalkboards, doors and window frames are all painted. And as a very SPECIAL treat, one of our partner organization, Oikos East Africa installed solar panels so we could have ELECTRICITY in our beautiful new classrooms. Seriously. What a wonderful surprise! (I cannot even believe it!)

Tomorrow, with reporter in tow (thanks, Victor!) , we will be heading out to the school for the dedication ceremony where we will officially be turning over the classrooms to the village, school board, parents, and students. Cannot wait!

It astounds me that this project has actually come together…so wonderfully, so efficiently, in such a very short time. And I could not have done it without the help of my friends, family, co-workers, and even random strangers who have supported and contributed to this!

So, a BIG THANK YOU to all of you for your continued support to this project…and to the many more that will hopefully come in the future. A special and HUGE thank you to my project manager, Thomas Loai, who has been simply incredible; to my family who has been so supportive — especially my big brother Matt who has helped me sort through the maze that is the non-profit registration world and my mom who has helped calm my nerves when the going has gotten a bit rough;  and to my support team here in Arusha: Victor, Chris, Laila, Isaack, Monzoea — your continued friendship, encouraging words, and constant support of this project have made it all possible.

Lots and lots of photos will be coming after tomorrow’s ceremony. I can’t wait for you all to see it — IT IS BEAUTIFUL!!!

Thank you all so very much! — Asante sana! — Ashe Oleng!


Heidi Henneman