According to UNICEF, 66 percent of children in Zanzibar, Tanzania experience multidimensional poverty and do not have access to education, health, housing, nutrition, sanitation, or water. Soon after graduating from Regis’ Master of Social Work (MSW) program, Francine Abdalla ‘21 founded Nitasimama Foundation, an organization that works to support children and families in Zanzibar.
Partnering with local schools and non-government organizations (NGOs), the Nitasimama Foundation provides services such as tutoring support, counseling and medical support, empowerment services, and basic needs assistance to help improve academic, health, and behavioral outcomes for children and families in the region.
“When a child and their family walk through our doors, we create a space where they can feel safe, unashamed, loved and cared for,” said Abdalla, who is currently working as project manager and social worker at the foundation. “The foundation creates and implements programs that are highly specialized in meeting each child where they are, ensuring that no child is left behind.”
One of Regis’ core values is to provide love and service of the Dear Neighbor without distinction. Through the university’s online MSW program, Regis has created an accessible degree program that empowers social workers to advance their careers and make a greater impact serving vulnerable populations and advancing economic and social justice in their communities.
Abdalla says that Regis has provided her with a foundation of knowledge that informs her current work with clients.
“Regis taught me many theories that help me to understand human behavior, physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. In all my classes at Regis, I had the opportunity to learn about myself and my world views, and how to effectively work with my clients in a non-judgmental way,” said Abdalla.
Abdalla’s work has had a noticeable impact on the lives of children and families in Zanzibar.
“One of my greatest accomplishments is seeing lives being transformed with the support they have received at Nitasimama Foundation,” she said. “For example, many of the children had one to two meals per day and in many cases, no food. The families at Nitasimama now receive weekly groceries, and children can now eat three healthy meals per day.”
In summer 2024, Regis MSW faculty Lisa A. Gray, PhD, LCSW and Ruth Gerritsen-McKane, PhD, LCSW hope to travel to Zanzibar to help Abdalla with research and to explore establishing a field placement partnership at Nitasimama Foundation.
“Both as a student, and now as a graduate, Francine exemplifies the mission of the MSW program and the values of the Sisters of St. Joseph through her commitment towards social justice and towards improving the lives of others,” said Gray. “She took every learning experience she had at Regis and applied it towards developing her own organization.”
For individuals interested in pursuing a career in social work, Abdalla encourages them to follow their calling.
“Sometimes the road seems rocky, but if you know in your heart that you are called for a specific career purpose, keep going, because there is light at the end of the tunnel.”