Recent Graduate Launched Thriving Nonprofit in Home Country of Tanzania During Sophomore Year at Westminster

Although most recent college graduates are just beginning their careers, Fildaross Swai, ’24 IND, had already launched a successful nonprofit two years before receiving her diploma at Westminster College in May.

Swai is the recipient of the College’s coveted Middlebury Projects for Peace Award ― which she won in both 2022 and 2023 ― to help provide school lunches for children in her home country of Tanzania.

A quiet observer of her surroundings, Swai launched Nourished Minds Tanzania not long after a barefoot little boy clutching his shoes in his small hands ran past her during his school lunch break in their hometown of Dar es Salaam.

Swai decided to strike up a conversation.

“It was really hot that day, and I remember saying, ‘Hey, put on your shoes,’ and he said, “I can’t. My shoes are too big, and I won’t have enough time to run home and eat and get back to school in time,” Swai reflects.

The then-19-year-old Westminster student majoring in public health with a concentration in nutrition could not stop thinking about the child’s situation. She decided to conduct some research and discovered none of the public schools in Tanzania provided meals to children.

Fueled with support of her professors and knowledge from her courses, including Introduction to Global Public Health and Community Nutrition, Swai soon developed a proposal that garnered the first of two $10,000 awards from Projects for Peace.

As a result of her hard work, in 2022, children at Bomani Primary School in rural Dar es Salaam began receiving two hot, nutritious meals during the week: porridge for breakfast and a variety of balanced lunches, including a popular favorite of rice and beans each Friday.

Funds initially went to building a kitchen at the school, which is located in a dry, rural area without running water. A local farm initially hauled water to the school.

Since that time, the founder and executive director of Nourished Minds Tanzania has applied for and received other grants to help develop the flourishing meal program that currently serves 300 children.

And water is no longer a problem: Swai’s initiative provided for the community’s first fully equipped, solar-powered well, which is a primary source of clean water for both the school and local community.

Because of these improvements, Swai notes that attendance at Bomani has increased 95% since the implementation of the meal program. The nonprofit has also served more than 200,000 meals since 2022.

The recent graduate is matter of fact about much of her accomplishments taking place between classes, when she poured over reports and corresponded online each day with the program’s project coordinator and others on the 16-person Nourished Minds Tanzania team.

This summer, Swai continues to manage operations from Missouri, where she works as a health equity project specialist through the Department of Health and Senior Services in Jefferson City. She is currently focused on saving money to pursue a master’s degree in public health.

The focused Westminster graduate is determined to turn her non-profit into a national initiative.

“I aspire to develop a school feeding program for Tanzanian public schools through the construction of central kitchens, in collaboration with the government and various education and nutrition stakeholders, to end classroom hunger,” Swai explains, adding, “I envision a world where every child, regardless of their background, has the right to access food while pursuing their education.”

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.