The town of Moshi bustles with tourists who have just come off the mountain, but in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, there’s also activity at a school that’s empowering women to harness the power of the tourism industry, start their own businesses, and change their lives.

It’s graduation day at the Give a Heart to Africa (GHTA) school, which became a Planeterra partner in 2014. The school’s graduates have been providing travellers in Moshi with handicrafts from their cooperative, Moshi Mamas, and spa treatments from their day spa, Lala Salama, ever since.

A women-only school founded by a Czech-Canadian in 2009, GHTA provides classes in business, entrepreneurship, English, and more. It is run solely on donations and fees paid by international volunteers. Graduates from the school have become successful entrepreneurs in Moshi and beyond — and three businesses related to tourism are thriving thanks to the free classes the school offers successful applicants.

“It has helped us a lot,” says GHTA graduate Beatrice, who works at the Moshi Mamas Cooperative. “We didn’t know how to plan or design the things, and now we know. The school helped us to be independent, and to feel how important we are ... as women, to our families.”

On this rainy December day, 34 women are graduating from the GHTA school after a year in the program. One graduate happens to be the daughter of Beatrice, who is one of the handful of ladies running the Moshi Mamas Cooperative.

“I am glad. I feel very happy that my daughter has managed to graduate from this program,” says Beatrice. “I feel like it’s going to help her and improve her life.”

Beatrice, however, will not be in the crowd at the graduation. The cooperative is hosting travellers for a bead-making tour, and the shop is open — it’s the weekend — and travellers are milling about and looking for a reprieve from the rainy weather.

“This kind of business that we’re doing … travellers are so interested and they support us,” Beatrice says, to explain why she’s staying at the cooperative that day. “They create income for us, so we are very thankful.”

G Adventures travellers not only come to visit the cooperative in the town of Moshi — they are also later paid a visit by the women, who present them with their certificates when they return to town after summiting Kilimanjaro. They are able to purchase handicrafts made by the women of the cooperatives, and to book massages with the ladies who work at Lala Salama spa. Both are businesses run entirely by female graduates from GHTA.

It’s not just a monumental day for this year’s graduates: at the same time, GHTA manager Rhiannon Chainey announces a new graduate program, to cheers from the crowd. Rhiannon and the GHTA board have realized the need for a graduate program to support those who move on from the school as they start their own businesses — like the ladies of the cooperative and spa. To ensure they remain successful, sections of the school’s curriculum will be dedicated to helping GHTA graduates to continue using the skills they learned at the school, thus ensuring their success as small business entrepreneurs.

It’s a monumental day for the women who are graduating, and the smiles on their faces never fade — though they listen intently to Rhiannon as she closes off her speech on a profound note that resonates for all.

“Today we are celebrating the people you are," she says. "You are intelligent, kind, caring and capable women. You are beautiful, smart and hardworking. You are full of strength and power. You are role models to your children, your husbands, your friends and your communities. You are particularly impressive role models for our school and the women that will come after you at GHTA. You are our inspiration."

The crowd erupts.


Getting there

Want to visit Moshi to learn more about the Give A Heart to Africa school? G Adventures can get you there. Check out our small group tours to Tanzania here.