Winnifrida Leonard

Date of Birth: November 12, 2003

Year in School: First year of university

Cost per Year: $1,700

Location:  Mbeya, Tanzania

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​Winnifrida Leonard (Winnie to her friends) lives at the Kilimanjaro Orphanage in Moshi, Tanzania. She has jumped forward in her classes recently, and is currently making a run for the top position in class. Winnie is quiet and a little shy, but her friends know her as something of a practical joker and she is very popular with the other children. She has been at the orphanage since 2009, after her parents died, probably from complications of HIV. She was living with an elderly grandmother who was unable to provide for her. She has no siblings and she has never had visitors since coming to the orphanage. According to the folks at the orphanage,  she was one of the bravest children when they had to take a number of them to the dentist for dental fillings. Winnie also wants to be a doctor and help children in orphanages like she has been helped. She’s been helping the doctor at the orphanage with testing another student’s glucose levels to get her ready for a medical career.

At the end of the 2012 school year, Winnie did really well, ranking 43 out of 104, with a very solid B average. We’re very proud of her and hopes she continues to do well and enjoy school!

Winni sent us a 2012 Christmas letter which you can read.



Winnie is at the university! She is studying at the same university as Jeni Anselm, but Winnie is studying business administration and marketing, with the hope of perhaps one day becoming a lawyer. She sent us a letter and some great photos—she’s all grown up, but you can tell she’s still Winnie. That spunk is still in her eyes. We’ve attached her letter for you to read. It sounds like she is enjoying herself, feeling challenged, but also feeling incredibly proud of herself. That’s understandable, and we are, too!


October 2022

Shannon visited Winnie at her school and was able to talk with her for a while and hear about her life. Winnie is doing really well, and enjoying school, although she looks forward to her last year and leaving secondary school. She ultimately wants to study law, but says that she may go into the police force first. Shannon says this is not necessarily a bad idea, since “veterans” (people who’ve served in the military or the police) are often given preferential treatment for school and even work. So we will see what happens over the next year, but it sounds like—at least right now—Winnie has some solid plans for her future. We are certain she will make whatever she wants to come true!

July and August 2022

Winnie is still in Arusha and studying Form 5. The most recent news from Shannon’s visit to Tanzania is that Winnie now says she wants to join the police force or the army. This is a new development, and we’ll see where it goes. Winnie is a sassy young lady, and can do anything she wants to, we have no doubt. According to Shannon, Winnie told her teacher at her boarding school that she can’t take her math class because of “colonialism.” So she may not do so well in a situation where she isn’t in charge, like the army! But we are certain she’ll find her way. She’ll be heading to Form 6 soon, her last year, so then she’ll have to decide. Something tells us that her ideas may change a few more times before she has to make that decision!

January 2022

We hear from Shannon and Greg that Winnie is excelling in her classes and that her new school in Arusha for Form 5 and 6 is absolutely the best place for her to be. It’s very exciting to hear this; Winnie is a smart and capable young woman and she will be successful in anything she chooses to do.


September 2021

Winnie will start Form 5 at a school in Arusha. She wants to study on a path to a law career, which we think she will excel at. She’s smart, takes no grief from people, and stands her ground! She will be a formidable opponent in the courtroom, and if she chooses to stay in the law office, she will be an excellent researcher. We are excited to watch her progress!

January 2021

Winnie received the results of her Form 4 exams, and she got good enough results to place into Division Two! This means she is in the top 10% of all the students in Tanzania, and she will have many avenues open to her. She is currently studying “bridge” classes in between school years, to keep her busy and prepare for the upcoming year. They will begin applying to different programs in March and April and at that point she will be making decisions about which direction she wants to go. We are so very proud of her and all her hard work, congratulations, Winnie!


February 2020

Since Winnie is attending school in Kenya, we don’t hear as much about and from her as we’d like. Luckily, Shannon was able to visit this past January and February, and was able to get in some time with her. Winnie is doing well in school, and she has just entered Form 4. After this year, she will take a national exam, and we have high hopes that she’ll pass in good form and continue on to Form 5 and Form 6. In the meantime, she’s as sassy and clever as ever, and we hope we see her soon!


December 2018

Winnie turned 15 this year, and she is doing well in her school in Kenya. Although her practice exam scores for her Form 2 national exam weren’t as high as we’d hoped, she did much better in the actual exam, and she was placed in Division 1, which is the highest ranking! We’re so proud of her. It really puts her in about the top 1% of the country’s students, and it allows for so many more opportunities in the future. Congratulations, Winnie!

February 2018

Winnie is doing well in school and, as ever, keeps everyone around her laughing and on their toes. You can still see that special Winnie spark in her eyes.


March 2017

When Shannon visited Winnie at her new school, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Winnie was doing very well, and really enjoying herself. She’s there with a few of the other girls from the orphanage, so it feels a little bit familiar. This is the best school in the area, so we are really excited to see how Winnie does. We really have no doubt she’ll do great!


December 2016

Winnie has been charging ahead in typical Winnie fashion. She passed her exams to enter Form 1 in grand style, and will be entering the best school in the area, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It’s a girl’s boarding school in the town of Mwanza, about 90 minutes from Moshi. Winnie went to live with her relatives after leaving the orphanage and, although she didn’t like it, she did great in school and really moved forward.

For her year-end letter to us, she talked about a gift or skill she has that she can offer to the world. Winnie tells us she is a comedian and she can make people laugh. Well, we knew that! You keep making people laugh, Winnie. That’s one of the best skills anyone can have!

May 2016

We received a couple of letters from Winnie finally; although our contacts there in Tanzania sent some last year, they got lost in the mail, which is unsurprising! So we were delighted to hear a little from Winnie, who we hear has been struggling a bit (along with all the other older children at the orphanage), due to the upheavals in leadership at the center. Knowing Winnie, she will persevere!


January 2014

December 2014

Winni is a character from start to finish! She’s a little shorter than some of her friends, and just a little bit chubby, with a megawatt smile. She’s simply beautiful, and very funny, kind of a class clown in a way. She was one of the original children at the orphanage, and everyone really loves her. Now, sometimes Winni alienates the other kids because she wants things done her way. She sometimes has a hard time sharing, and as a result, occasionally doesn’t feel like she’s a part of the “gang.” She is very sweet, and I think she feels bad about not fitting in. We wandered around the neighborhood one day and had a talk about it. I told her that I used to feel the same way sometimes. We talked about learning to share a bit, and letting other students have their way at times. She was very open to our conversation, and it was really nice to be able to share that with her.

Winni is really good with English, and speaks quite well, although sometimes she does like to mess with you by speaking Kiswahili when she could be speaking English! Winni helps at a local pre-school by going and doing some teaching with them, and she says that she’d like to be a teacher. We’ll see. We think that with Winni’s independence and self-determination, she could do a lot of different things. She did pretty well in her final grades for fifth grade, and passed into sixth easily. Now we have to see where she goes!

During one of my visits to the orphanage, Winni grabbed my phone and began filming the center. She made a better video of the orphanage than I ever could have, so here it is! I love her opinions about the two famous soccer players, Messi and Ronaldo. Their images are painted on the shower building at the orphanage.

With the help of our friend and contact Shannon, I was able to interview the girls about their lives and school. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to get the audio to work on the first half of the video, so here’s the second half! Even without the first half of the video, you can see their personalities shining through, and see how much their English has improved. When they started at St. Louis English Medium School, they hardly spoke any English at all. They are a little shy about it, but once you get them going, they are pretty irrepressible—Winni especially!


August 2013

November 2013

December 2013 Letter to Sharon and the Foundation