Every Service Matters: Volunteering During the Pandemic
Zinat A. Kemper was nominated for 2022 SOSA award from the Africa Bureau for her dedicated work supporting her community in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania during the pandemic. There were eight nominations in the AF Bureau (the most of any bureau), and at least four, including Zinat’s, were recognized by the selection committee (representatives from the AF Bureau, from GCLO, and from AAFSW) as deserving of a SOSA Award. Zinat is an Eligible Family Member (EFM) working under a Family Member Appointment (FMA) in the Executive Office of USAID/Tanzania. She and her family have been living in Tanzania since August 2019. During the past three years she has undertaken several initiatives to support various beneficiaries, including a local school, an orphanage, and a small NGO, all of which had been suffering funding crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soon after arriving in Dar, in November 2019, she organized her first fundraising event to support a local school at Pugu Kajiungeni in Ilala district that provides education to children with special needs. In early 2020, just a week before the first COVID case was diagnosed in Tanzania, she organized a large fundraising event with the Diplomatic Spouses Association to support an orphanage located in Morogoro. She raised almost $400, which provided funding for the orphanage to procure groceries for their 40 children for one month.
Zinat has been involved with Women Empowering and Entrepreneurship Development Organization (WEEDO), a small Tanzanian NGO, since December 2020. WEEDO started operating in 2019 to provide English education, HIV prevention awareness, and tailoring training for adolescent girls and young women aged 13 to 22 in Kigamboni, a small rural town south of Dar es Salaam. WEEDO relies on volunteers and individual donations to support its program but lost all financial support when the corona pandemic started. Zinat learned about the NGO, their work, their funding crisis, and decided to help. In early 2021 she began a series of small fundraising efforts to help WEEDO to purchase educational materials and sewing machines. In 2021, during the height of the pandemic, she offered a virtual dinner delivery where meals were delivered to supporters’ homes.
That same year she applied for a J. Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust Grant to support WEEDO. In June 2021, Zinat learned that her grant application was selected for funding trust. Her support of WEEDO and the grant funding are helping to ensure that the organization can continue its interventions to provide education and livelihoods for adolescent girls. WEEDO purchased educational materials, such as beginner ESL and advanced English grammar books and other classroom materials, as well as vocational training materials, such as industrial and regular sewing machines, fabric, and other inputs. This support has ensured WEEDO’s ability to avoid a possible shutdown of total intervention due to a severe funding crisis.
In January 2022, she organized a used clothing and toy drive within the post USG community and brought warm clothing and toys for an orphanage near Mwanza, in northern Tanzania where temperatures get much colder. As a Muslim, Zinat mobilizes a global charity campaign every year during Ramadan through her network of relatives, friends, and friends of friends to raise funds and provide food packages to low-income families. In March 2022, she raised over $2,000 through a social media campaign which was enough to provide three weeks’ worth of nonperishable food items for 108 families. In April 2022, she delivered food packages to 20 families in Dar es Salaam at the beginning of Ramadan while the remainder were given to female-headed households and single parents in Bangladesh, her home country.
Zinat is a dedicated philanthropist who looks for opportunities to help those in need wherever she lives. After moving overseas she realized the expat communities are the most privileged community in a developing country and they can be a great resource to mobilize to support any good cause. Her extraordinary social skills always help her to connect with expatriates outside the USG community. Before coming to Tanzania, Zinat’s family was posted in Pristina, Kosovo. At the Embassy there, Zinat also worked under an FMA in the Regional Security Office. Apart from her Embassy employment, she also served on the executive board of the International Women’s Club of Pristina (IWCP). During her tenure, she led fundraising events that raised more than €1,100 to support fire wood distribution among the poor during winter. With the help of the U.S. Embassy community in Pristina, she coordinated two additional volunteer efforts, coordinating a cookbook sale to support children with cancer and organizing a used clothing and toy drive for a children’s shelter in Pristina.
In recognition of Zinat’s volunteer work for her host country, U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania Donald Wright sent her a personal note where he commended her as a United States Ambassador to Tanzania.
Zinat’s family will depart Tanzania in summer 2023. She wishes to see her fellow Americans at post to carry forward the work she started. There are several areas where volunteers can support young children and women to improve their quality of life. Organizations like J Kirby Simon Foreign Service Trust will be willing to provide financial assistance to any volunteer work. If any volunteer is interested to learn more about the JKSFST grant, they are welcome to reach out to Zinat.