The first time Libertyville resident Terry Mulligan set foot abroad was in 2010, when became the first-grade teacher for a newly built school in Tanzania.
Mulligan says that after graduating with a major in elementary education at University of Missouri, he had two very different options for his next move. Either he could return to Libertyville where he could be close to his best friends since elementary school, or he could go teach in the Mailisita community, which sits at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Moshi, Tanzania.
“It was after one of those perfect days student-teaching that I thought, ‘How cool would it be to have that same feeling but be doing it in Tanzania, in Africa, for orphaned children?’ ” Mulligan said.
The 25-year-old taught the inaugural first-grade class of 44 students at Mailisita Education Center, which provides free English elementary education to disadvantaged children. Many of the students at Mailisita are children who have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.
Falling in Love with Tanzania
Mulligan contracted malaria during his time teaching in the Mailisita community, but that did not diminish his love for the area.
“I love to teach, I enjoy the moment when kids are learning and the excitement they have, and I love their perspectives on things,” Mulligan said. “I know my efforts are going to be very small, I’m not going to change Tanzania, or change the world or anything. But if I can just help a few kids, that’s amazing.”
Mulligan recalls a time when a visitor tested his student’s English ability by asking who her father was. The little girl grabbed Mulligan’s hand and replied, “Mr. Terry is my father.”
“For me that was when my family grew and my responsibilities changed,” he said. “I never thought of myself in that role.”
Those words put things into perspective for Mulligan.
“I realized then that my goal of making the kids smile and help them feel loved, that I kind of met that — at least with this child — she did feel love from me,” he said.
Apart from that, Mulligan says his biggest goal teaching in Tanzania is to provide English education for children who may not be able to afford it. Students typically receive education in Kiswahili, and English education typically is available only in elite private schools, even though it is a requirement for entry into high school and beyond.
“The only way they can break the bonds of poverty is through education,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have kids that will graduate from college, get these great jobs and then be able to support their families and provide them with opportunities that they would otherwise have not had.”
Returning to Mailisita in June 2012
In 2011, Mulligan returned to Libertyville and taught first grade at St. Joseph Elementary School. But he plans to return in June and spend two years teaching at Mailisita Education Center.
“When I go back, my first-graders will now be big third-graders,” Mulligan said.
Mailisita Education Center started with one grade and 44 students in 2010, but it has grown to 120 students in first through third grades. Mailisita Foundation used to fund the school, but starting this year, the hope is a newly built guesthouse will generate revenue to support the school.
The Stella Maris Executive Lodge opened in February 2012 and upon his return, Mulligan plans not only to teach, but also to volunteer as an assistant manager at the guesthouse.
Fundraising to Volunteer for Two Years
To support his two years of volunteering in Mailisita, Mulligan will host a fundraiser at 6 p.m. May 10 at Mickey Finn’s Brewery & Pub in Libertyville.
“My goal is to raise $24,000 for the two years,” Mulligan said. “The only way I would be comfortable raising all this money is if it went back to the school, so I’ll be staying at the guesthouse.”
Mulligan says nearly 50 percent of children between 5 and 14 years old do not attend school in Tanzania.
“There’s definitely a need for more schools and for good schools,” he said. “If my money was able to hold out for longer, I would stay for longer. It’s something where the need is there, and I won’t ever feel like my work is done.”
For more information about Mulligan’s work or the fundraiser, email Terry.Mulligan24@gmail.com.
Donations can be sent to: Mailisita Foundation, 31475 N. Reigate Lane, Libertyville 60048. Checks can be made out to Mailisita Foundation with “Mailisita Ambassador” written in the memo line.
For more photos of Mulligan teaching in Mailisita, visit our Facebook page.