A voice to the voiceless

Deb Pangerl reading with students in their African village. Photos supplied Students engaged on a computer. For these teenage girls, of the Maasai tribe in Tanzania, Africa, gaining an education beyond 12 years old is a unique opportunity and definite culture shift. A spacious room of bunkbeds serves as the dormitory for the girls who attend the new high school.
For these teenage girls, of the Maasai tribe in Tanzania, Africa, gaining an education beyond 12 years old is a unique opportunity and definite culture shift.

Debra Pangerl, of Rush City, is giving girls in Tanzania a chance through new secondary school; fundraiser July 18

The girls of an East African tribe are finding a life away from oppression through education, thanks to the leadership of a Rush City woman.

Debra Pangerl, with the help of Tanzanian Phoebe Msigomba, is running a new high school-type education center for girls of the Maasai tribe through what has been coined The IMAGE Project. In a land where 12-year-old girls are often married off by trade or sale to older men, the school marks a culture shift that families there appear to be accepting.

The IMAGE Project is a “for-purpose” organization that is funded by dollars from the local community toward empowering Maasai girls and women in Tanzania through education and economic opportunities, said Pangerl, who is working with people here and Aringa, Africa.

A fundraising event to celebrate the new Namnyaki Girls Secondary School in Tanzania is set from 6-8:30 p.m. Friday, July 18, in The Spare Room at Chucker’s Bowl and Lounge, 1270 W. Third St., Rush City. Tickets are $20 ($10 tax deductible), and complimentary hors d’oeuvres will be served.

The event begins with a social hour and silent auction, followed by a presentation by Pangerl from 7-7:30 p.m. and live auction at 8 p.m. For tickets, call Pangerl at 612-267-5622, or they may be purchased at The Creek’s Edge or Val’s Hair Studio.

The Namnyaki school was built last January in an effort to reach girls before age 12 and particularly since the government stops paying for a child’s education there after seventh grade. Powered by solar energy, the school has 63 young Maasai girls in two classrooms and a dormitory. The students are kept there out of fear they could be traded or sold to an older man who may be willing to offer a cow or other farm animal in the deal, Pangerl said.

Plans are underway to build another classroom by late summer and a dormitory by January 2015.

“Our vision is to have facilities large enough to educate approximately 150 girls,” Pangerl said. “The school operates a chicken and goat project, as well as raises crops, which provide additional business learning opportunities.”

She shares the story of her journey with the project in “A Full Circle: Walking alongside Maasai, Women of Tanzania.” She already has plans and a title picked out for her second book.

“I have learned that it is only in being true to ourselves that we can become who we were meant to be in this world,” she wrote. “What I saw in the lives of the Maasai compelled me to be true to my purpose and do what I could to empower them to change their own lives. It is clear to me that I am to speak for those who have no voice.”




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