Victoria Marwa Heilman (Tanzania 2016) is founder of Tanzania Women Architects for Humanity (TAWAH), an all-volunteer, NGO that she established in 2010. She is also the director at VK Green Architects Limited in Dar es Salaam. TAWAH supports inclusion through the design and construction of homes, schools and sanitation facilities that accommodate marginalized groups, including Maasai women and their families. The organization also generates sustainable income projects and engages the community in programs that raise awareness of the discrimination and challenges experienced by marginalized groups. Their vision is to alleviate poverty and provide a path for social acceptance and inclusion.
Marwa-Heilman used her 2016 Eisenhower Fellowship to develop strategies to build up the NGO so that it can expand and improve its work. She looked at ways to incorporate innovative and low-cost building technologies, more effectively engage new volunteers, develop local and international partnerships, and strengthen their board of directors. The organization involves community groups to solve problems with housing, sanitation and educational facilities. The volunteers with the organization bring their expertise in design, engineering, science and finance to support community aspirations and needs. The new board members that Marwa-Heilman recruited includes Tanzanian and American professionals from the development, finance and academic fields, some of whom she met while on fellowship. TAWAH will “expand its reach and impact by pursuing new funding opportunities and growing its portfolio of projects,” Marwa-Heilman said.
After her fellowship, Marwa-Heilman and her NGO partnered with Pongwe Primary School in Tanga, a boarding school that serves many students with visual impairments and albinism. To improve the learning environment, TAWAH proposed a multi-phase project to design and build new classrooms. The group also provided training for the school’s staff, students, and community members on topics such as effective teaching methods for students with special needs, understanding albinism, and the challenges facing youth with special needs in Tanzania.
The first classroom buildings were constructed in early 2018, and used innovative, environmentally-friendly and low-cost technology, which will also serve as a template for future classroom construction at Pongwe and other local schools. The group engaged volunteer female students from Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam and Maawal Secondary School in Tanga on the design and construction of the project, a strategy that she learned more about while on fellowship.
Marwa-Heilman hopes to welcome more volunteer groups from both inside and outside of the country, and sees this as one of the key next steps to increase the organization’s impact.
Interested parties should contact Marwa-Heilman at firstname.lastname@example.org.