2016 NIU Study Abroad (PSPA 328/628)

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Every even-numbered year TDS, in partnership with Northern Illinois University, provides a study abroad opportunity for 10-15 university students to travel to Tanzania to learn about the role of NGOs in development through experiential learning, supplemented by readings and seminar-style classes. The four-week summer program includes intensive Swahili classes; meetings and visits with indigenous and international NGOs and local officials; bus and air travel throughout the country to Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Arusha, Musoma, Mwanza, the Serengeti, and islands in Lake Victoria; work on a volunteer project; and possible independent research projects. Course credit is granted by Northern Illinois University for 3 or 6 credit hours in a variety of majors. Past credit has been granted in political science, public administration, corporate communications, nutrition and community leadership and civic engagement.

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Students traveling with TDS not only benefit from this unique educational opportunity, but also use their skills, talents, and interests to benefit Tanzanians working to transform their own country. We encourage and work with students to find creative ways to advance development work in Tanzania. Each student becomes a new relationship between Tanzania and the rest of the world. Most importantly, our student volunteers serve to encourage Tanzanian students to remain committed to their own education and the opportunities that come with it.

Watch the Kidogo, Kidogo Dormitory Video to learn more about what we have accomplished and why we do it.

NIU students introducing themselves in Swahili to Nyegina Secondary students

To apply, visit The Role of NGOs (Absent Local Government) in Tanzanian
Development: An Engaged Learning Course
on the NIU Study Abroad website to begin the online application process. Students from other colleges and universities can also join this trip. To get started, contact the NIU Study Abroad Office at 815.753.0700 or niuabroad@niu.edu or the study abroad office at your home college or university.

Details about the trip can be found in NIU’s 2016 study abroad program description.

Learn more about the program through the recruitment presentation.


Latest Travel Updates

Meet the Climbers – Rachel McBride

Meet the Climbers – Rachel McBride

For this spotlight, we are featuring the first of four NIU alumni that will traveling to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with us. Rachel participated in the 2013 TDS Study Abroad trip and worked with Nyegina Secondary School administrators on her service learning project. Her recommendation included rearranging the meals that are given to children so they are consuming higher amounts of protein in the morning, which is great for learning!

Rachel McBride during the 2013 Study Abroad Trip

Q: Who are you?

A: Rachel McBride

Q: What do you do?

A: I serve on the Navajo Nation as a Registered Dietitian for the U.S. Public Health Service by helping people manage their Type 2 Diabetes, among other health issues, with nutrition education and behavior change.

Q: Do you have any hobbies? Of course you do! What are they?

A: Exploring – by foot, by flight or by Jeep! I also enjoy playing organized sports – basketball being a favorite. 

Q: What makes you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

A: The seed to climb Kili was planted while on the 2013 study abroad trip. Since then, I have really enjoyed hiking around the southwest and look forward to summiting the highest peak of Africa while raising funds for the school. 

Q: How are you preparing to hike to the top of a 19,341 footmountain?

A: I am looking forward to a few backpacking trips in Arizona (Havasupai, Navajo Mountain, GC Rim to Rim) prior to the Kili climb and enjoy being active on a daily basis. 

Q: What animal do you want to see on Safari?

A: I’d like to see a leopard – but totally love simba (lion) and tembo (elephant) and twiga (giraffes) too!!

Q: Do you have any past experience with TDS? If yes, please explain. 

A: 2013 study abroad trip 

Q: How important is reading and writing to you on a daily basis?

A: Reading and writing is incredibly important to develop one’s self – to see the world from a different perspect or just to learn something totally new. With long commutes from city to city, I’ve recently developed a love for audiobooks.  

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

Q: What is your favorite memory from school? 

A: Hard to narrow it down…in general it would be the feeling of stepping out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to do things I was uncomfortable or unfamiliar with.  An example would be interning with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Italy in 2015.

Q: What about traveling to Tanzania are you most excited for? What are you most nervous about?

A: I’m excited for each step of the journey,seeing beautiful things and meeting beautiful people. I’m most nervous about – the unpredictable and hanging out at elevation J

Q: Why is it important that your friends, family, or acquaintances donate to your personal fundraising goal?

A: To help advance the education of children in Tanzania.

You can support Rachel’s fundraising goal by visiting her 2019 Kilimanjaro Climb profile. You can also keep up with Rachel on her adventure by regularly checking our blog between May 31 and June 15, or following Tanzania Development Support on Facebook.

Meet the Climbers – Jonathan Justice

Meet the Climbers – Jonathan Justice

With a little more than 50 days until our 2019 Kilimanjaro Climb gets underway, we are featuring climber Jonathan Justice. To support Jonathan’s fundraising goal and learn more about where the funds that we are raising will be going, visit his personal fundraising page.

Q: Who are you?

A: Jonathan Justice

Q: What do you do?

A: I’m a professor in the (newly named) Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy & Administration at the University of Delaware, where I study and teach public budgeting and finance (guess how I know Kurt!), policy analysis, urban affairs, and local economic development.

Q: Do you have any hobbies? Of course you do! What are they?

A: I’m an avid (but slow) recreational cyclist and concertgoer (mostly jazz, opera, and the extraordinary Philadelphia Orchestra. I also spend a lot of time walking a personable standard poodle around our quaint village in downtown New Castle, Delaware, where I am a member of the City Planning Commission. And of course, when I can, I love to read for pleasure, completely unrelated to my work.

Q: What makes you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

A: Actually, I have wanted to do this since I was a child. The exact reasons are lost to the mists of time (50 years or more), but probably I saw a TV show about Kilimanjaro or the Leakey family’s work. This is in fact the #1 item on my “bucket list.” Plus a memorably excellent former student lives and works in Arusha, and I hope to visit briefly with him while I’m there. So when Kurt said TDS was going to climb the mountain again this year, I knew I had to get into it.

Q: How are you preparing to hike to the top of a 19,341 foot mountain?

A: Cycling for an hour, two-four times per week is my normal aerobic routine. Just to be sure, I asked at my annual physical exam. The doctor recommended a treadmill stress test, just to be absolutely certain I wouldn’t be a danger to myself or others, and I passed with flying colors. And I walk the dog two hours per day. He’s old and slow now, but at least I can get my brand-new (I’m going to REI to buy a pair as soon as I finish this questionnaire) hiking boots broken in that way. And maybe this will give me an excuse to visit my parents in Santa Fe (elev. 6000 ft.) during spring break, and go for some vigorous walks there. And of course I’m reading up (I AM a professor, you know) in travel guides, a beautiful National-Geographic coffee-table book about Kilimanjaro, and on the web. I’ll probably quiz my former student by email, too.

Q: What animal do you want to see on Safari?

A: Yes! Meaning: All of them. But if I had to choose a most-wanted, it would be a boringly familiar choice: elephants. Yes, I’ve seen them in zoos and circuses, and yes I know they can be dangerous in the wild, but they are somehow utterly fascinating to me for their physical grandeur, psychology and intellect, and family and social arrangements.

Q: Do you have any past experience with TDS? If yes, please explain.

A: Only as a donor. I wanted to go to Kilimanjaro with TDS a few years back, but couldn’t make it work schedule-wise, so I just sent a check. This year, I just felt I had to make it work.

Q: How important is reading and writing to you on a daily basis?

A: Well, at one level, it’s what I do every day as a professor to put food on the table. So I value it as a way to earn a living. On another level, it’s how I keep informed about the world around me – via the internet and (I know, what a dinosaur this shows me to be) printed newspapers and books – both to satisfy my curiosity and to get the information I need to navigate life and be an informed citizen of a democracy, and how I share relevant factual knowledge with others. But most fundamentally it’s been my portal to the world for a lifetime: a way to gain access to the world beyond my immediate sight and to communicate in thoughtful ways (I think writing gives us time to think more deeply about what we want to say, and gives us more time to edit and refine our thinking before we share it with others). Reading brings me the whole universe of human and natural-world information, as well as the deep intellectual and emotional experiences of fiction and poetry (I’m pretty wide-ranging in my tastes: I still love science/speculative fiction, popular fiction, and literary fiction from the ancients to the 21c.) Besides those instrumental values for reading and writing, I have to say that I also just enjoy reading and writing as pleasures in and of themselves. I don’t have a way to justify that for any skeptics out there, but it’s nevertheless a fact that I just plain enjoy writing and reading, in spite of Socrates’s complaint that by inventing writing the Egyptians destroyed our ability to memorize information. (Of course, I know of Socrates from reading his comments in one of Plato’s Dialogues! I can find out which Dialogue if that matters.)

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: Whichever one I read last. At the moment, that’s V.S. Naipaul’s A House for Mr. Biswas. It was a remarkably powerful account of a fictional but apparently much like Naipaul himself protagonist who was deeply human, utterly flawed, and perhaps not even very likeable. But the writing was so direct and so real that somehow Mohun Biswas demanded my sympathy even when he was behaving badly or making self-defeating decisions. And the book transported me to a new time and place – mid-20c. Trinidad – and into the lives of people unlike myself as they lived experiences I have never had. The obituaries of Naipaul said this was his best book, and I definitely found it to be a very rewarding read. I broadened my horizons and got a lot of direct pleasure from the story and characters. Actually, this is a book that will be a favorite for years to come, I think, even when other books become my most-recent reads.

In terms of what books do I tend to read and reread, number one is Homer’s Odyssey in the original (back when I could still read ancient Greek, Homer’s Doric Greek was my favorite dialect) and in translation. Every time a new translation comes out, I read it. And I have read Robert Fitzgerald’s translation a half-dozen times, including once during a “blue voyage” of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast – very near the places that are the settings for the poem’s events. Interestingly, one pretty good translation of the Odyssey is the one by T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Q: What is your favorite memory from school?

A: That’s a hard one, just because there are so many good memories for me from many years of school (over 20 and counting, excluding my time on the teacher side of the room). I have been privileged to attend excellent schools from kindergarten through a Ph.D. Wonderful memories include brilliant lectures by teachers, interactions with teachers and schoolmates in classroom and non-classroom settings, and moments when teachers or classmates found something I said or did or wrote to be especially valuable or noteworthy. My time at high school was especially joyful for me, but the part that stands out is basically all of it. It was a residential school, so we were immersed in learning 24/7. Even leisure activities often involved our teachers, so we could learn from them (and from each other) in unstructured time as well as in the classroom.

I almost feel that by singling out particular memories or teachers I’d be unfairly ignoring others. So maybe I can highlight the pleasure of free reading time in school libraries. I love libraries as places to do research, but I also love just finding a secluded chair in a library where I can settle in with a book – maybe one I’ve brought with me, or have just sought out, or maybe one I’ve just happened across by accident (I have a thing for open-stacks libraries, even though I’m told they’re going the way of the dodo bird, at least in academia).

OK. Here’s a pair of favorite memories from a college seminar devoted to reading Homer (in Greek). One was when I went to class incompletely prepared, but somehow managed to deliver an excellent translation of a difficult passage on the spot. Another was a particularly good extended argument – this time I prepared scrupulously in advance – about the ethics of a particular passage in the Iliad.

Q: What about traveling to Tanzania are you most excited for? What are you most nervous about?

A: Most excited about – probably the mountain and the natural setting, just because that’s been on my mind for 50+ years. But I’m also very excited to contribute to the work of LCRC and TDS, and to experience the people and culture of Tanzania. I’m also really looking forward to seeing a new country – actually a whole new continent for me, since I’ve never been to any place in Africa before – and visiting my former student.

Most nervous: maybe the climb itself. I haven’t been camping for over 40 years, and I know that the high altitude is very challenging for even physically fit people. And of course there’s always the general nervousness of making a very long journey to a new and unfamiliar place: did I pack everything I’ll need? Am I going to be able to act appropriately? Will I get lost? Will I get some annoying travelers’ disease and be a nuisance to myself and the others? But all of this can be mitigated by preparation, and I know I’m traveling with an experienced and well prepared group!

Q: Why is it important that your friends, family, or acquaintances donate to your personal fundraising goal?

A: Because otherwise I’ll have to make up the difference myself! Seriously, this is an opportunity to share the joy as well as the material advantages of learning, with children who might otherwise have less access to that. I won’t say that this is the only place or the only cause in that place that deserves their support, but I certainly think that it is a good enough cause to be worth supporting. It promotes equality of opportunity, economic development, citizenship and democracy, and all the other personal and social benefits of an educated population. Plus, of course, it’s a chance to share with children the immediate and intrinsic joys of reading, writing, and learning that we enjoyed as children and continue to enjoy as adults. (As an aside, I did check it out with a former student, now a management consultant, because I know he was often critical of well-intentioned but unhelpful American charity efforts in Tanzania. He said this is legit, and I should do it.)

Q: Is there anything else you want TDS followers to know about you?

A: I am grateful to be in a position to participate in this program. It’s a great opportunity to help school-age children enjoy access to the privileges, economic advantages, and sheer joy of knowledge that come from education, reading, and writing. And it’s a great thrill to travel to Tanzania and the mountain. I really appreciate the many privileges that make it possible, and I hope I can contribute in whatever way to making similar privileges available to others.

Meet the Climbers – Denise Weinmann

Meet the Climbers – Denise Weinmann

In just under two months, our group of TDS volunteer climbers will be starting their summit of Mount Kilimanjaro! To get to know our climbers, we asked them to answer a few questions about themselves and what made them want to climb the highest peak in Africa. Introducing our first climber, Denise Weinmann!

Q: Who are you?

A: Denise Weinmann, 58. Proud grandma.

Q: What do you do?

A: Commercial real estate broker.

Q: Do you have any hobbies? Of course you do! What are they?

A: Backpacking, hiking, landscaping, wood carving, furniture building, biking, basically anything outdoors.

Q: What makes you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

A: Bucket list top 5. I have always had a burning desire to go to Africa.

Q: How are you preparing to hike to the top of a 19,341 foot mountain?

A: Stairs, cardio, cycling & weight training.

Q: What animal do you want to see on Safari?

A: Elephants in the wild. Giraffes are a close second. A picture of an elephant in the Serengeti has been hanging on my office wall for the past 15 years.

Q: Do you have any past experience with TDS? If yes, please explain.

A: No, but plan on staying involved going forward.

Q: How important is reading and writing to you on a daily basis?

A: Very important. Reading is the key element in obtaining an education.

Q: What is your favorite book?

A: Undaunted Courage.

Q: What is your favorite memory from school?

A: I always liked Geography.

Q: What about traveling to Tanzania are you most excited for? What are you most nervous about?

A: I am a hands on person, so meeting the Students and Teachers will be a life changing experience.  Hiking Kili and a safari thru the Serengeti are once in a lifetime events.

Altitude sickness.

Q: Why is it important that your friends, family, or acquaintances donate to your personal fundraising goal?

A: I want them to share in my excitement in being able to see first hand how their contribution will help further the efforts of the Tanzania development.  Education is so important.

Q: Is there anything else you want TDS followers to know about you?

A: I am very blessed and excited to be a part of this TEAM.


We are so excited to have Denise joining us on the 2019 Kilimanjaro climb! If you would like to help support Denise’s fundraising goal, visit her fundraising page and make a donation today!

2019 Kilimanjaro Climb Fundraiser Officially Underway!

2019 Kilimanjaro Climb Fundraiser Officially Underway!

This June, TDS will be returning with a group of volunteers to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for education in the Mara region. The 2019 Kilimanjaro Climb will be the third time that TDS will be taking a group to Tanzania to scale the highest peak in Africa, and largest freestanding mountain in the world. It will also be the second time that TDS is joined by Madaraka Nyerere, a group of students and a headmaster from Nyegina who will be leading our group of 13 Americans up the mountain. With about two and a half months until our climbers enter through the gates to Kilimanjaro National Park, our fundraising efforts for the 2019 campaign are officially underway.

Our previous two climbs in 2012 and 2016 were successful fundraising campaigns that raised more than $80,000 that went towards the construction of a Library and Community Resource Center (LCRC) in Nyegina. Officially opened in 2016, the library is now frequently used by both primary and secondary school students in Nyegina and will soon be home to one of the largest collections of books in both Kiswahili and English in the country!

For the 2019 Kilimanjaro campaign, we have set an ambitious goal of raising $75,000 that will be used to elevate the LCRC to a true 21st century center for learning for the community. Funds that are raised will be used to purchase computers and tablets, hiring and training personnel to manage the computer lab and large collection of books, and furnishing a kids’ extension of the LCRC so pre-primary children can start their education earlier than ever.

To learn more about our team of volunteers and support our goal of raising $75,000, visit our official 2019 Kilimanjaro Climb fundraising page. Donations can be made towards individual climber’s personal goals or towards the campaign in general. To make a donation to an individual climber’s goal, visit their personal fundraising page and click donate. To make a general donation towards the campaign, click the donate button at the very bottom of the main fundraising page. You can also make donations towards the campaign by mailing a check to 201 Thornbrook Road, DeKalb, IL 60115.

In addition to learning a little bit about our climbers through their fundraising pages, we will also be featuring a spotlight on each of our climbers in the weeks leading up to the climb. So stay tuned to the TDS blog to learn more about the 2019 Kili climb team and follow them along on their adventures in Tanzania.

Last Day, TZ18: Zanzibar Spice Farm and Beach

How hot WAS that pepper hanging on the plant? Jasmine found out in a hurry!

The last day of our 2018 Tanzania Study Abroad still had an educational component. The morning activity was touring a spice farm, a heritage from the days of the Sultan of Oman who ruled Zanzibar for many years because he created vast plantations of spices on the Zanzibar islands. The tour is in a cooperative farm that provides samples of the different spices that were brought to Zanzibar for cultivation, including cloves, cinnamon cardamon, pepper, vanilla, cacao and more. The guide offers samples of each plant and challenges guests to guess which spice it is. Jasmine Carey found out how hot that little green pepper (pilipili) really was…in a really big hurry…OOOweeeEE!

We finished the day at Mwembe Beach swimming in the Indian Ocean, then farewell dinner at the Africa House at seaside in Stonetown. Thursday the students fly back to the US, exhausted, elated, and eager to share their experiences. Family and friends…get ready!

Kayla King (course grad assistant) and Maalkik Phipps (TDS intern) toast the end of the 2018 course with fresh coconut milk.

A to Z with NGOs in Tanzania: Arusha to Zanzibar

Our final stop in our month long safari to learn about the role of NGOs in developing countries is exotic Zanzibar. An early morning (7am!) ferry to Stonetown on Monday (25th June) ended with a docking in pouring rain, walking the 2 blocks to the Zenji Hotel in the rain…then taking naps until lunch time! Then a walking tour with excellent history by our favorite guide, Daud; he gives in-depth and inciteful background on culture and politics as well as history as we walk the winding alleys of Stonetown. Finishing the day wandering and sampling fresh seafood and Zanzibar pancakes in the night market was a fun adventure.

At Chako, a social enterprise workshop in Zanzibar, women cut glass with an etch and candles. Very cool to watch.

Tuesday (26th June) has been the last class day for the course, We visited Chako (Swahili for “yours”) is a recycling social enterprise that reuses all kinds of glass bottles and employs women and youth to turn them into glasses, lamp shades, candle holders and more.

NIU students Jasmine and Jacob, and Chako executive director Christine, discuss Jasmine’s suggestion to use some fresh lemon juice to help remove labels from the recycled bottles.

They are the first business in Zanzibar to be registered as a World Fair Trade organization (in 2017). 



A short walk away is eQuipHub, a Canadian funded NGO that teaches youth (20-25) social entrepreneurship skills. There are so many possibilities for collaborations, and we shared our experiences working on the Career Pathways/4H project in Musoma.

NIU 2018 Tanzania study abroad students finish their last NGO seminar with Christine at eQuipHub, a Canadian funded NGO teaching social entrepreneurship skills to Zanzibar’s youth.



Final event for the day is an iftar dinner at the home of one of Mani’s aunts, which she hosted during Ramadan for the 2016 NIU students. Then the last pub administration seminar for 2018 at the rooftop bar of the Chavda House in Stonetown….big questions to ponder as students finish a month in East Africa. Projects, NGOs, social enterprises, the Serengeti…heads are full to the brim.

Good thing that are long hours of plane rides home for processing…and sleep….


Sunday (24 June 2018) we toured the East African slave port of Bagamoyo, also the administrative capitol of Tanganyika under German colonization before WWI. The Catholic museum on the slave trade is really well done, and worth the 2 hour drive north from Dar. We were also treated to the vibrant singing of the congregation during a Mass in the church. After that visit we headed to the nearby resort for a beach side lunch of kingfish, chicken, and vegetarian dishes. Why sit inside when you can eat delicious food at the seawall and enjoy the breeze and the view?

Ann Buchanan and Dr. T enjoy kingfish lunch at the beach wall in Bagamoyo.

Dar es Salaam NGOs and UDar Student Mixer

23 June 2018 Dar es Salaam

NIU students with Demere Kitunga at Soma Cafe.

We visited 2 NGOs on Saturday. The first is the Soma Book Café, a combo book store and NGO that promotes a reading culture, especially among children. We had an inspiring talk with the executive director, Demere Kitunga. Her struggles to succeed once again reveal the power of books as the key to reading; reading as the key to learning, and education as the key to escaping poverty. She will be a great asset in helping TDS purchase the best variety of books in Swahili and English for the Madaraka Nyerere Library in Nyegina.




We also had a chance to meet Consolata Lihepa, executive director of Turn Trash Into Art, an NGO dedicated to increasing reuse and recycling in Tanzania to deal with the overwhelming solid waste problems in the country, including burning trash in yards and along roadsides, and even burning tires to get rid of them…..bad stuff for the environment and the people nearby. Our juggled schedule meant that we ended up with her giving a talk on our tour bus. It was an inspiring and engaging conversation nevertheless, especially for our environmental studies students.

Consolata Lihepa, executive director of Turn Trash Into Art, discusses her project with NIU students on the touring bus in Dar.



We finished the day with a bites and drinks mixer at the University of Dar es Salaam. Hosted by Dr. Ernest Mallya, Department of Political Science, NIU students spent 2 lively hours engaged with graduate students in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Research in Public Policy (MRPP) programs. It could have gone on much longer, but U Dar students are taking exams and needed to get back to their studies.

NIUI students Jasmine Carey (MS ETRA) and Kayla King (MPA) chat with U of Dar students Faith and Rome at the student mixer on Saturday afternoon.

Project Summaries

NIU MPA student Kayla King developed a PPT show for the farewell dinner in Musoma. It has a quick summary of the work of each student group on the TDS projects underway. The link is to the file on Google Drive.

TZ18 Projects Summaries PPT

I don’t know if this link will work, but Kayla also took a video of my microscopes presentations to the secondary schools. She rotated the phone camera so you may need to tilt your device 90 degrees to view the files.

Video A: Microscopes Video A

Video B: Microscopes Video B


Farewells and Reunions

Pooja and Candy get a farewell pic with very friendly Afrilux staff.


Travel Day to Mwanza: after a delayed start and a very slow driver (1 hr longer than normal), we missed our tour of Bugango Hospital. So we spent a leisurely late afternoon and evening at the Tilapia Restaurant in Mwanza, famed for their fish dishes. The highlight, if one can call it that, was when a golden eagle swooped across the table and snatched the fish on Fr. Kazeri’s plate! Buzzed right past Thurmaier’s left ear and it happened in 2 seconds or less! It was quite the excitement. It kept coming back for more! The staff is apparently used to this and waved arms and then burned incense sticks on the railing to the lake, which helped for a while but not entirely.

A bonus was spending time with Mary Okeyo, former NIU Swahili teacher who obtained her MS. In Education from NIU in 2016. The best reunion was that one of her former students, Sierra Turner, is on the study abroad this year, and they were able to catch up after some long hugs!

Happy reunion of Sierra Turner and her NIU Swahili teacher, Mary Okeyo (MSED ’16) who is back in Mwanza with her family.

Also able to spend time with Mw. Boniface Luzangi, former headmaster of Nyegina Secondary, who is defending his master’s thesis today (21st June) about counseling and advising are better interventions for students who are struggling with mental health problems than the standard practice of treating them as discipline problems and using punishments.