• Soma International

Mohamed’s Unique Educational History

Mohamed Mwinyi is the founder and president of Soma International. He is currently a Ph.D. student studying Agricultural Leadership and Community Education at Virginia Tech. We want to share with you his unique educational history, as well as how his gifts have enabled him to create Soma International and to share it with you all.

First, Mohamed grew up in Tanzania, where he attended Boko Primary School and then Tegeta Secondary School. Some of you may be able to relate to his education in Tanzania, which pushed him to want to pursue an education in a developed country. As a child to a young adult, the resources of educational supplies were scarcely limited. Text books if available, were limited to one per class room. In a classroom you will find a chalkboard and kids writing down notes. Mohamed will say, one thing every student will have is good handwriting because all they did was write notes. Today, if you have been able to see Mohamed’s handwriting, you will agree that it indeed looks impeccable. In order for him to reach a public library, he mentioned that a few bus rides would make the trip. One issue Mohamed always found when arriving was not being able to take the resources with him as we do here in the United States.

Mohamed wanted to come to the United States to pursue his college education. His aunt had already been there for more than 20 years. So, he asked her to help him travel to the United States to study. After all, he knew the U.S. had always been the land of opportunity for those who dared to push their limits. Mohamed wanted to learn about new cultures and utilize the abundance of opportunities that he had always heard about. He began by attending New River Community College in Dublin, Virginia. This is where he met his good friend Danzler, whom you can read about here. Even when he first moved to Virginia, Mohamed knew he was passionate about making a difference in youth development and education. Even entering Virginia Tech in 2012, he knew that his long-term goal was to increase vocational skills and literacy in Tanzania.

Mohamed began to broaden his knowledge while studying Geography and Environmental Analysis. He was introduced to a deeper learning about the Earth, its atmosphere and how this affects human activity. Mohamed was fascinated by the intersection of the physical features of the Earth, human activities, resources and land use. Geographically, Tanzania is a country touching the waters of the Indian Ocean. It is surrounded by six landlocked countries that depend on Tanzania for the import and export of goods. Tanzania has always had a peaceful transition of power unlike most of its neighboring countries. With no internal turmoil, we can say that Tanzania is a stable country. However, it is a developing economy with enough natural resources which are yet to be tapped into. Mohamed believes that of all resources Tanzania has available, the most valuable one is human resources. For Tanzania to be fully sustainable they have to utilize its resources and invest in its own people through education and training. Give women and men equal educational opportunities.

At Virginia Tech, Mohamed met his future co-founder, Cecilia, at a research meeting for the Center of Applied Behavior Systems at Virginia Tech. A year later, Mohamed met his second co-founder, Pranay, at the student organization “Actively Caring for People.". Even then, Mohamed was writing and speaking about bettering educational opportunities for Tanzanian children. Both Cecilia and Pranay became inspired and motivated by his ideas, and joined him as co-founders on his eight-year-long journey in starting the nonprofit, Soma International! In this time as an undergraduate, Mohamed also founded the Virginia Tech club, Soma International. Mohamed was also awarded the “Aspire! Award for Community Service,” given to a student who displays extraordinary skills in serving their community. Here, Mohamed was recognized for living a life of integrity and embodying Ut Prosim.

Since we are all living on one Earth, Mohamed thought it was imperative to study Governance and International Affairs for his master’s degree. The skills he obtained in these studies allowed him to continue establishing Soma International to support the youth and women of his country with resources to enact great change upon the world. During this time, he also continued developing the Soma International student organization chapter at Virginia Tech. Mohamed also became the only student representative for the Mozaiko International Living-Learning Community, and received a scholarship for his work on Mozaiko. He completed his bachelor’s degree in 2015, followed by his Masters degree in 2017.

From 2019 to today, Mohamed has been getting his Ph.D. in Agricultural Leadership and Community Education, as well as Youth Development. Within this field, he is able to study how to enact social change to foster community education. Mohamed hopes to use this experience to improve our rural learning centers to create a more influential experience for students. His Ph.D. studies have provided him with the knowledge and insight to achieve his vision of Soma International as public nonprofit. Soma International exists to contribute to the education of the people of rural areas in terms of agricultural training, youth leadership and gender inclusion. Mohamed learned that to know where to go, you need to know where you are first. This notion is geographical, however, it also suggests that the more resources that you have, the more knowledge needed, the more physical is required, and so forth. Mohamed’s vision for the Soma learning centers is for them to help people determine where they are in life, what resources they possess and what knowledge they need to fuel sustainable change.

Mohamed’s mind and ability to recognize hidden potential where others may not recognize it, has enabled him to make a positive change in his community. We are grateful to have him as our founder. Cheers! He is the heart and soul of this organization. We hope you are inspired by his experience. If you believe it is possible, you can always make a difference in your community!

Soma International

Knowledge is boundless

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Writer: Sadie Andersen, Mohamed Mwinyi

Editors: M. Cecilia Silva Montoya, Mackenzie Hyde

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