N.D. values expounded in Africa

I have often contemplated the values I learned while growing up in Minot. As the sixth of eight children with driven and compassionate parents, I learned to work hard for what I believe in and be thankful for my blessings. More importantly, I learned to challenge the status quo and give back where I can. While these values have remained, I was able to put them into action while more than a month in Tanzania this past January to launch the Ikirwa English Primary School. I now know these values have become the fundamental foundation for how I think about the world.

Ikirwa School broke ground in 2011, due to the generous donation and spearheading of an old colleague of mine, Masha Skurkatovskaya. After 10 years of managing World Bank portfolios, Masha was drawn to educational philanthropy and wanted to make a tangible difference in the lives of children. Youth development among other interests was common ground for Masha and me. While at Haas, I was very involved with Young Entrepreneurs in Haas and since graduating have spent many years working with at-risk youth. When Masha told me family obligations would keep her from going to Tanzania for the official launch of the School on January 7, 2013, I quickly volunteered along with my best friend from Minot High School, Kate Jackson, to go and represent the Ikirwa School Project Board of Directors.

Overall the school launch went smoothly, and we currently have 38 full time students. While in Tanzania, with the help of several U.S. volunteers, I oversaw the launch with co-founder Gasper Mbise. In particular, I worked closely with in-country lawyers, accountants and teachers to finalize contracts, as well as to draft and formalize Ikirwa’s official code of conduct, year-end financial statements and internal financial policies and procedures.

I was excited about the contribution I could make thanks to my education. Time spent in the classroom and with the children was truly what made the experience a memorable one. I also had the opportunity to go on a safari and hike Mount Meru. Many say experiences like these change you, and I am now a firm believer. Not only did I get out of my comfort zone, it reminded me of the important things in life and only strengthened my gratitude for my education and for my strong family. I hope all students are fortunate enough or seek out experiences like this, as it only polarizes why it is so important to give back for what we have been given.

Ikirwa is a grassroots organization, which we are working to grow organically. Donations and volunteers are an important part of how we will achieve our long-term mission. We are currently working toward our Ikirwa Project Trans-America Cycling Challenge, where a member from our team will be cycling from Boston to Juneau, Alaska, this summer. He will inevitably be coming through Minot on his way and we hope to see you at our fundraising event while he is there.

If you are interested to learn more or help us in any way, please contact me at, or Kate Jackson at One can also email us at or find more information on our website at (