New Kids on the Block

With the goodbye of our 2014 Education class, we say hello to our four newest members of the USAWA committee! Read on to get to know them all a little bit better!


Chris Valleau


Hi! My name is Chris. I’m from Boston, but these days I live in the Shinyanga district near Mwanza City and Lake Victoria. It’s a desert up there right now but come the rainy season it’s lush and green, with graceful lake birds flying low over the rice paddies that dot the countryside around my village. In my free time I enjoy sipping coffee with the babas (grandfathers) in my village, watching recorded television with my cat, and discussing the turbulent relationship between gender and culture.

I hope this means I’ll fit right in on the USAWA committee! I’m excited about doing gender and sexual/reproductive health education projects at my site, and to help other volunteers incorporate gender and development into work all over the country.

Call it crazy, but I personally feel that someone’s gender shouldn’t determine what opportunities are available to them. I recently did a small project to help some of my young village friends envision what they can accomplish in life. Take a look!


Keirstin Fernandes


Hey guys!! I’m Keirstin, agriculture volunteer up in the Pare Mountains in Kilimanjaro. Karibuni Sambweni! I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to brag about the amazing hiking and wonderful people I am surrounded with up there. When I am not hiking around with my dog, Kili, or joking around with the awesome women in my village that I get to call friends, I love doodling and have recently been spending a lot of time experimenting cooking with cassava flour. You guys. Game changer.

Before coming to Tanzania, I was working as an exhibition designer in Los Angeles, California, but still hiking and doodling whenever I got a chance – I have just traded the dry desert heat in Southern California for the crisp mountain air here in Northern Tanzania.

I am super excited to join USAWA to help begin promoting and expanding programming to engage young men. I feel it is extremely important to have conversations about behavior change and increased responsibility on behalf of the men in Tanzania, as change can only happen when everyone is involved. Addressing issues such as substance abuse, safe/healthy sexual practices, and home responsibilities would offer a perspective that I think many boys have never seen, and help to start the conversation on what it means to be a responsible partner and supportive ally. I am also so looking forward to helping out with the upcoming LEAD conference!


Megan Keil


Hello! My name is Megan Keil and I am an education volunteer (from the Ed ’15 class) down in the Njombe region of the Southern Highlands. I teach Biology to forms three, five, and six at Manyunyu Girls’ Secondary School. I absolutely love my site and all of my students and I am so glad that I was placed at an all-girls school. I feel like it’s the perfect environment to really make a lasting impact on how not only the students, but teachers as well, view strong and independent women.

Back in the states I was working as a zookeeper at a few different zoos across the country. My work with birds has taken me from the city life in the Midwest (the Toledo Zoo), to the island of Maui (through the San Diego Zoo), to the Great Salt Lake (at the Tracy Aviary) in Utah. I’ve been really fortunate to work with some of the most endangered wildlife on the planet.

When I’m not nerding out about birds (or Harry Potter, or Disney, or the Titanic), I’m trying to impress upon my students that they can do anything that they want to and never to let anyone tell them that they can’t do something simply because they are women. For me, USAWA is a perfect fit to be able to reach more than just my students here in Tanzania. As part of the committee, my main jobs are helping out with Maua Mazuri and to help plan the LEAD conference. I might have joined in on this committee a little late, but better late than never, right?!


Mikaela Perry


Hi everyone! My name is Mikaela and I was raised on a small farm in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. In 2010 I began studying Human Ecology at the College of the Atlantic, but after studying abroad in Morocco during the Arab Revolution, transferred to Middlebury College where I earned my B.A. in Political Science and African Studies. I focused heavily on gender throughout my studies, and following graduation moved to the Dominican Republic to teach gardening and nutrition to young, impoverished girls as well as manage donor relations for a girls’ empowerment organization. I’m currently “balls deep” in USAWA and women’s empowerment in general.


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