Getting Close in Tanzania

Mara Huber, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, University at Buffalo

Children from the Kotwo Primary School in Tarime, Tanzania.

To find your impact, you have to get close. This deceivingly simple idea has transported us nearly nine thousand miles away from our homes in Buffalo, New York to the remote region of Mara in northern Tanzania.

Since 2009, more than a dozen groups have made the journey, including students, professors, administrators, and community leaders affiliated with the University at Buffalo, the largest research university in the State University of New York system. Collectively, we have safaried through the Serengeti, climbed the base of Mount Kilamanjaro, and perused the personal book collection of founding president, Julius Nyerere, at his home in Butiama.

2009 BTEP travel team and members of the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa, Nyerere Museum, Butiama, Tanzania.

Certainly, the beauty of Tanzania has been a powerful draw. But ultimately it’s the people that continue to sustain our interest and engagement. Each time we return we are welcomed by old friends and new partners, eager to connect, share, and explore possibilities.

Not surprisingly, our project continues to grow. Started as a focused effort to support an evolving school campus in the village of Kitenga, partnering with a group of African nuns (the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa), our efforts, known informally as BTEP (the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project), have spread. We now connect with community development projects, institutions, and service-minded individuals throughout the surrounding region and beyond.

Girls from Kitenga Village where school is being constructed, 2009 photo by Kevin Crosby.

The impacts of our efforts have been significant and varied, and have included fundraising, water and sanitation projects, solar electrification, and other contributions led by affiliated organizations and individuals. But for me, the most rewarding work has been sharing our relationships and experiences with students.

As future change agents, leaders, and stewards, students are perhaps our best investment for long-term community development. And with each group we bring, our hopes for the future continue to blossom, fed by their compassion, eagerness to learn, and the insights they bring back to their lives and communities.

UB Study Abroad Goes to Tanzania

The video here was produced by a freshman Engineering student, Yasin Perez, who traveled to Tanzania in January 2016 as part of our UB Study Abroad program. In addition to the beauty of the land and the children, Yasin’s video captures the sense of respect and joy that we all experience each time we visit.

Through getting close in Tanzania, we have learned that all things are possible. And as we look forward to the next phase of our engagement, we are excited to formalize a Sister City relationship with Musoma, Tanzania. What better way to cultivate the benefits of international engagement than by celebrating the relationships that have been fostered and the promise of those still yet to come.

To learn more about our efforts, please consider reading and recommending, Finding Your Impact through International Travel: Stories from the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project. Sales support scholarships for girls in the Mara Region.

Dr. Huber currently serves as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning at the University at Buffalo. She can be contacted at mbhuber@buffalo.edu or through her blog at http://marabhuber.com.