Spotlight on TDS Volunteer and 2016 Study Abroad Member Jake Swick - October 4th, 2016

photo: DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership

photo: DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership

Participants of the 2016 work study/study abroad trip and regular volunteers will recognize Jake Swick. See what else he’s up to in the DeKalb community in this profile by the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership:

From Bricks to Books, A Public Talk by Fr. Kazeri - October 3rd, 2016

dsc_00031Fr. Kazeri gave a public talk, From Bricks to Books, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on September 13 about the impact that TDS has had improving education and learning for girls and boys in the Nyegina and Bukwaya schools.

Fr. Leo explained to the group why he believes it is necessary for TDS to transition from fundraising for infrastructure development to fundraising to improve educational programs. He recognized the great work TDS has already accomplished by way of generous donors and hard work. Fr. Leo encouraged those gathered to continue supporting TDS because there is still much work to be done.

The evening concluded with a wonderful reception hosted by St. Peter’s, a generous partner dedicated to advancing TDS’s mission.


TDS Trip Alumni Gather to Celebrate Fr. Kazeri - September 29th, 2016


For the first time since Tanzania Development Support led the first Volunteer Work-Study and NIU Study Abroad in 2009, over 50 trip alumni gathered all together to celebrate with Fr. Leo Kazeri. Fr. Leo, a leader in the Nyegina community and long-time partner with TDS is visiting the Northern Illinois/ Southern Wisconsin area to celebrate 40 years of priesthood, and 8 years of engagement with TDS. His two month visit began with a reunion gathering of all TDS’s trip alumni.


The reunion gave trip alumni the opportunity to share their favorite memories of Fr. Leo. Ben Peterson, 2011 Study Abroad student and 2012 Kili Climb volunteer shared his best memory of Fr. Kazeri: “My memorable Kazeri incident occurred during the Rukuba Island trip on the 2011 Study Abroad program. While the rest of the students were admiring the scenic shores of Lake Victoria as we journeyed to the island, I looked towards the back of our boat and saw Father Kazeri and Dr. Thurmaier discussing the dormitory project at the Nyegina Secondary School. Their conversation was probably no different than hundreds they have had over the years about the details of various TDS projects, but for me, something clicked as I watched. “Their friendship is what makes it all possible,” I thought. “Everything that TDS is doing here was ultimately built from this one connection.” And so, watching this conversation take place, I came to understand how much could be accomplished when two people from worlds apart brought their connections and resources together to face a community’s challenges.”

The reunion also gave Fr. Leo the opportunity to thank TDS for the many years of engagement and dedication. He shared with those gathered the great changes he has seen take place in the Nyegina community since NIU students and TDS volunteers began travelling there in 2009.

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Final Days of 2016 NIU Study Abroad/TDS Work Study (June 30-July 1) - July 1st, 2016

Thursday was a fun day for the group, tho not without some educational gains. Our morning was spent touring a Zanzibar spice farm, sniffing pieces of bark, berries, crushed leaves, and such to guess what kind of spice it would become. spiceFarmZanz1Jake Swick, Bernadette Chatman, and Alyssa Rodriguez are guessing the bark will become ________ (hint: used in lots of US baking, some sprinkle on their coffee, good to sprinkle on cereal to lower blood pressure)…Yes! Cinnamon!

The spice tour ended with lunch of spiced rice (pilau), fish, and fruits.

Then off to the Kwenda Beach for an afternoon of swimming in the Indian Ocean. LOTS of fun and sun (no sun burns). It was Leah Nicolini’s birthday, so she chose an excellent Ethiopian restaurant in Stonetown for our farewell meal.

ZanzKazeriFinalWords16aFriday morning’s seminar after breakfast addressed the enduring questions of the study abroad to Tanzania: how do you manage the tension between respecting cultural differences and embracing modernity, esp regarding cultural practices that subjugate girls and women (such as FGM)?
What do you think about the status of women and girls in Tanzania and how does it affect the country’s development? What ought to be the role of NGOs (domestic and international) in the development of Tanzania, accounting for the answers in the first 2 questions?

As is often the case, Fr.Leo Kazeri had the last word at this seminar, thanking the students for their participation in tutoring the teachers on how to access the internet for their teaching, challenging them to continue educating their friends and families about what they had seen and experienced, so people know what is developing in Tanzania. Next stop is the airport for flights home this afternoon to Chicago via Doha!! They are looking forward to the destination, tho not really the 24 hours they are traveling to get home…It’s part of the Tanzania Study Abroad/TDS Work Study experience.


Last Week: from Haki Elimu to Iftar Dinner on Zanzibar (27-28 June) - June 29th, 2016

Monday in Dar included a meeting at Haki Elimu, the premier education policy NGO in Tanzania, and a delicious, relaxing dinner at the home of Judge Steven Bwana and his wife Angelika. Haki Elimu is a prominent voice for education reform in Tanzania, and it has many publications evaluating the progress (or lack there of) in education performance in Tanzania. Director John Kalage and his staff provided background on Haki Elimu and answered lots of questions from the students, including about the challenges of switching languages of instruction from primary to secondary levels. It is a controversial, complicated topic the students have been exploring, and one which Haki has not (yet) taken a position.

The dinner at the Bwana home Monday night has become a regular feature of the NIU Tanzania study abroad program, and the students had a great time, dining under the stars, with great conversations bubbling around the tables because (almost) the entire Bwana family (sons, daughters, brothers) tries to attend, and they all lead very interesting lives in a variety of professions.

Tuesday morning we boarded our bus for the ferry at 5:40 in the morning, amazed to see thousands of people on the streets already scurrying here and there before sunrise (at 6:30). ZanziFerryBoardingDar2016We arrived to the ferry and boarded through the long process of screening bags, checking passports, etc. We are staying at the Zenji Hotel, and the staff welcomed us and got us into our rooms as soon as they were cleaned. After our rooftop lunch, we had an excellent tour of Stonetown with Duad, our guide, and learned quite a lot about Zanzibar’s history and development, more than just about the East Africa slave market and homage to David Livingstone and his abolitionist efforts.

iftarDin2016aThe evening concluded with a delicious Iftar dinner at the home of Abiba and her son Jaffar. The picture shows her answering questions from the students about Iftar meals, life in Stonetown, and other subjects. We toured their home with a peak at what lies behind all of the beautiful Arabic and Indian doors that Zanzibar is famous for. Embracing Ramadan on Zanzibar was a terrific opportunity for all of us to learn more about this important cultural feature of  Zanzibar.



Bagamoyo Slave Port Museum (25June) - June 26th, 2016

Sunday was a leisurely drive north of Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo, the slave port for the East African slave trade, the home of the first Christian church in Tanzania, and the administrative capital of the German colonial occupation. The Catholic Church Museum in Bagamoyo is really excellent, and the students spent a good hour working through the exhibits on the slave trade, the work of missionaries to abolish it, and the rise and fall of Bagamoyo as a town.

BeachVolbalBago1Lunch at the nearby Stella Maris resort took 2 hours to get our food, which was offset by walks at low tide out into the Indian Ocean for shells and to watch a group of fishermen hauling in their net, by hand, standing in the waters.
There was also time to get in a game of beach volleyball with some others at the resort. In the picture, NIU student Lisa Holland prepares to serve as Jake Swick, Bernadette Chatman, Leah Nicolini and U of Dar guest student Sillas (hand raised) prepares for her serve. Great fun!

Travel to Dar and UofDar Student Mixer (25 June) - June 25th, 2016

We had a slow but uneventful check-in at the Mwanza airport, with the extra bags all working as planned on Fastjet. Smooth flight left an hour after Precision Air and landed in Dar before PA did; we were getting our last bags from baggage claim as PA passengers arrived…DSC03687

and it was half the cost (even after paying for checked bags).

Had to say goodbye to Mama Anna (Jeanine Thurmaier) and Mama Dustin (Mary Lenz) as the sisters continued from Dar to their flights home to Chicago on Sunday (via Doha). They promised to let us know how the hotel thing works in Doha when you have 4 hours to sleep…

Student group and remaining volunteers dropped our bags at the Landmark Hotel on Mandela Road (after 1 hour journey through traffic to get there from airport) and headed to U of Dar es Salaam for a mixer with NIU and UDar students, including a brief lecture by Political Science Associate Professor Ernest Mallya on the changes made by Tanzania’s new President Magufuli. The discussion among the students was frank and respectful, covering many aspects of educational systems in both countries, as well as energy policy and other policy topics while enjoying bites and drinks. Long day, and fulfilling…

Mixer of NIU and Saint Augustine Students (24 June) - June 25th, 2016

Our stay in Mwanza was short yet very satisfying. Arriving after noon, we dropped bags at St. Dominic’s hostel on the lake before finding lunch. DSC03664Then we headed to St. Augustine University in Mwanza where we met with a group of students from economics, sociology, and public relations/marketing. We had a lively and engaging discussion comparing US and Tanzanian educational systems, and the implications of each for economic development. We learned much from each other, and students exchanged email and Facebook addresses to remain in contact. We had our farewell dinner with Padri Misana, Jeanine Thurmaier, and Mary Lenz at the lakeside Tilapia Restaurant. We were pleased to be joined by recent NIU graduate Mary Okeyo (M in Ed) and her husband John Ouma. The breeze kept mosquitoes away and the candles were bright enough to light our faces and dinners!

Thursday (23 June): Grand Opening of LCRC - June 23rd, 2016


Children get their first opportunity to read the books in the children’s room of the new Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center (June 24, 2016).

It is hard to capture in words the emotion of stepping into the new Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center in Nyegina at the grand opening after the ribbon was cut and the doors opened. The shelves stocked with books, the children rushing to the children’s room to look at the books, the excitement of the distinguished guests–including the district commissioner–that this is a “world-class” library and community learning center.

JeanineBookGiftMosesEach of the volunteers and students had purchased a Kid’s book in Swahili language to donate to the library for its new collection, and Mama Anna (Jeanine Thurmaier) was pleased to present an English-Swahili dictionary and a reading book (she is pictured reading the title to the crowd at the opening ceremony). DSC02335

All of the tutoring that TDS/NIU volunteers had done with the area high school teachers paid off handsomely. As the district commissioner toured the newly opened facility, teachers were at the computers in the teacher resource room and were showing him how they were accessing the internet to find maps for teaching geography better, soil chemistry worksheets, and much more. He was really impressed, and he was caught by surprise at how comprehensive the LCRC is and how it can serve area students and teachers in many different ways. His speech of nearly an hour had the audience in rapt attention as he pounded away at the theme of information leads to knowledge, and knowledge gives one the power to change his or her situation, the community, and Tanzania.

Madaraka Nyerere, also a guest of honor at the opening ceremony, stressed that Tanzanians needed to be donating their time and talents to the library to make sure it was effective as a learning center, and not just an empty building. This was a theme echoed by Dr. Thurmaier (aka Baba Anna) in his remarks (delivered in terrible Swahili), and in the remarks of the district commissioner. Madaraka also donated Tsh 100,000 to buy new books for the library. The wonderful celebration was concluded with a delicious community meal.

Wednesday (22 June) - June 23rd, 2016

Wednesday morning was freed to have a theory and practice seminar on the assigned readings for the NIU course, serendipitous because the Musoma local government canceled the scheduled seminar at the last minute. One has a sense they don’t like people asking them questions about lack of services or how the Tanzanian government is going to contribute to the library and teacher resource project…. In any case, the student discussion was rich and helped us all process what we have been reading from scholarly literature with what we have been seeing in the field here in rural Tanzania.

After lunch at Rehema Cafe (Anglican Church outreach) we visited the Lake Victoria Disability Center and students and volunteers were amazed at the fast progress that Dennis Maina and his staff have been making at their new campus (after leaving Musoma town center for more space). The number and scope of disabled Tanzanians being served by LVDC continues to expand, and the new dormitories they are building will be another catalyst for growth.

NewTZclothesGroupGiftsPleasant surprise coming back to Epheta was delivery of gifts from our Nyegina hosts: suits and dresses for each member of our group. We are able to wear these to the Grand Opening Ceremony of the library tomorrow in Nyegina.


Tuesday (21 June): Connecting Teachers to the Internet and Beyond - June 21st, 2016

2016 TeacherInternetTrg

We had a terrific 2nd day of NIU students and TDS volunteers training area high school teachers on internet access and other computer skills. Most teachers from the Thursday session were back for further lessons today, and spent time learning EXCEL skills for tracking and computing grades, and Powerpoint for making presentations.








The shelves for the main library arrived about 4pm as we were concluding our training sessions, and Mama Anna (aka Jeanine Thurmaier) conferred with the designated Nyegina librarian (Moses teaches at Nyegina Secondary School) about the placement of the shelves in the main hall. Meanwhile, the shelves for the children’s room were getting ready for installation in the library (pictured).


Monday (20 June): HIV and Vulnerable Children and Environmental Education - June 21st, 2016

Monday was focused on vulnerable children and those with HIV. Community Alive has been serving these children for many years, and since children are on school vacation, we were able to mix with them (Bernadette Chatman is pictured).  We also visited Global Alliance-Musoma, on which Madaraka Nyerere serves as a board member, and is acting director at the moment. Global Alliance focuses on vulnerable children and also the environment in which they live. In addition to supporting children with books, clothes, etc., they also drill wells, plant trees and promote intercropping to improve soils and increase land productivity.









Sunday (19 June): Singing and History Lessons - June 20th, 2016

Sunday morning was an enriching experience, as we attended one of two church services officiated by Fr. Kazeri, an 8am at his home parish in Nyegina (with lots of high school students) and anther at 10:15 at Etaro. Many members had never attended a Roman Catholic service, but even those who were Roman Catholic had not experienced a service so full of beautiful, lively and participatory music and dance. There was so much energy in each service. Students and volunteers introduced themselves to the congregations at the end of each service as part of community announcements.

After lunch at Fr. Kazeri’s house, we headed to Butiama, ancestral and retirement home of Mw. President Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania. One of his sons, Madaraka, climbed Kilimanjaro with Kurt and Jeanine Thurmaier in 2012 to raise the first funds that started building the library and community resource center that is opening on Thursday (June 24, 2016). After visiting the President Nyerere Museum, we walked up the hill to have a guided tour by Madaraka of the former president’s home, which is beautifully built into the side of the mountain, with boulders integrated into the walls and floors, including a sitting room with petroglyphs as part of the ceiling/wall. It was a wonderful day, capped with a stop at a brand new Musoma supermarket that sold ice cream!


Jake Swick speaking with Madaraka in the president’s personal library.

NIU Student Lisa Holland cilmbs the millet bin for inspection as Madaraka Nyerere watches.


New Levels of Poverty: Lake Victoria Islands of Irigia and Rukuba - June 17th, 2016

DSC02585Yesterday we toured the Lake Victoria islands of Irigia and Rukuba. The welcome we received from the core communities on both islands was very warm. They don’t receive many visitors, especially Americans, and they were eager to show their progress. In fact, there are now some permanent structures on Irigia (a few shops and a church), although most housing is still reed walls and plastic roofs.

Catch of the Day, Nile Perch at Irigia IslandThe most startling aspect of the tour for students and volunteers is the level of poverty on the islands. Our seminar discussion in the evening revealed that group members are realizing that there are strata of poverty, even among the bottom billion poorest people. Among those making less than $2/day are families living on much less than $2/day. Another troubling aspect of the visits is that there are so many young children who are living in abject poverty on the islands. Some of the children did not know how old they were (even when asked by Fr. Kazeri, who they know).

We are all challenged to discern how we, as individuals and as a country, can make a difference in the lives of these children and their parents. The solutions are not clear.
Mixing with Irigia Island residents

First Teacher Training at LCRC - June 17th, 2016

DSC02332 We had an absolutely fabulous “beyond expectations” day of NIU students and TDS volunteers training Bukwaya area high school teachers on how to use the Library and Community Resource Center (LCRC) computers to access the internet to improve student learning in their classrooms. We had designed a syllabus for gaining skills over 2 days of training, but most teachers worked through the full syllabus in the 4 hour morning session. After lunch, they were able to demonstrate to their NIU or TDS tutors that they could identify a search topic and execute the search. One physics teacher was excited about finding the Hubble Space Telescope site, another teacher was looking at a site with complex mathematical equations. Geography teachers were identifying sites with specific maps…the list goes on.

DSC02334 We hope to help them train a new group of teachers on the same skills next Tuesday. So we are advancing to the train the trainers step already. We will also have the printers for the Teacher Resource Center room in the LCRC installed by next Tuesday, so we will help them learn that step in the process. The goal is that they can download and print a page or 2 from an internet site to pass one or two copies that illustration or graphic (e.g., a map) around their classroom for a lesson. They are excited to be able to do that.

We note that it is good that the Maevis Beacon typing program has been installed on each of the LCRC computers, since many of the teachers have not had any training typing with a keyboard, so they will need to become proficient with that before they can start moving to more complex IT applications for their classrooms.

We are eager to move our Rotary Club grant application forward for providing more technology and training to teachers who are eager to learn and use it.


Breakfast with Swahili Lessons - June 17th, 2016

Friday morning: we had our last Swahili language lesson with teacher Joyce Masso. Pictured is NIU student Lisa Holland responding to Masso’s request (in Swahili) to please pass the bread (makati). Students and volunteers made rapid progress with daily lessons at breakfast with Mw. Joyce.


Safari through Serengeti - June 17th, 2016


The TDS-NIU group had a terrific safari through the Serengeti with Trek2Kili  on their way to Musoma. We had close encounters with lions, elephants, giraffe, zebra, but few wildebeest until we left the park, when we drove through the migration in the Grumeti Preserve on the way to Isenye. In the park, also had classic viewing of a cheetah atop a termite mound, and a fleeting look at a leopard climbing down its tree into the tall grass. Another excellent safari from Trek2Kili, which has never disappointed NIU or TDS in providing top quality guides/drivers who are fluent in the ways of the animals and environment of the Serengeti National Park.



First Days in Musoma - June 16th, 2016

Tuesday (14 June) was a very enriching day. We had a profitable morning discussion of the proposed governance and operations policies for the Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center (LCRC). Students raised very good questions about access, cost of services, and sustainability. After lunch in Nyegina, we had a chance for first time booting of the computers we will use for training teachers on Thursday. All went smoothly. Then we moved to Etaro to observe elections of community group members to the new UMABU governing board. It was a fascinating look at civil society and grass roots democracy in a rural community of a developing country. We appreciated the women who were willing to stand for election and represent their perspectives on the UMABU board and future development projects.

Wednesday (15 June) began with Kiswahili lessons with Mwalimu Joyce Masso continued in the morning at breakfast, practicing greetings and learning how to ask for utensils and breakfast foods. Main seminar was a visit to FINCA micro finance office in the morning to learn about their process, clients, and training. Following a visit to the Tupendane shop and Musoma market, we headed to Nyegina for lunch with 3 microfinance borrowers from Etaro village who discussed their perspectives on microfinance. It was a very enriching discussion; the woman and two men who shared their business practice with us are also leaders in their community, and we could see their strategic thinking at work in their business and community perspectives.

Bernadette Chatman is tasting her ugali dipped in sauce as Lisa Holland rolls her ugali in her hand before dipping in the sauce

Bernadette Chatman is tasting her ugali dipped in sauce as Lisa Holland rolls her ugali in her hand before dipping in the sauce

Special Dinner Guest, Fr. Kazeri, lectured on cultural importance  of ugali (Tanzanian traditional dinner starch) and showed everyone how to eat ugali and students and volunteers practiced eating ugali by hand.

The evening seminar discussion focused on most important experiences and observations so far in the program, and most important questions to be answered by end of program. Great discussion.


Journey Across Northern Tanzania - June 14th, 2016

The NIU-TDS group visited the famous site where Mary Leakey discovered Australopithecus …on to Serengeti.

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They Made it to Arusha! - June 10th, 2016

We have successfully arrived in Arusha! Enjoying dinner at Hotel Pepe, just up the street from our hostel. Long journey to get here, and everyone happy to meet Fr. Kazeri at the airport.

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Students and Volunteers Arrive in Doha Safely - June 9th, 2016

We have made it to Doha, Qatar, after a very long flight (7200 miles, 12+ hours). At 11th hour, Jill and Cindy were still smiling on the plane!

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Dinner at the Horizon Manor hotel in Doha filled student stomachs after a swim in the rooftop pool. Wake up call is 5am tomorrow, for 6am shuttle to airport, for 8:30 flight to Tanzania! People are tired…and EXCITED!


Getting Ready with Swahili Lessons - June 8th, 2016

The 2016 TDS Work-Study/NIU Study Abroad to Tanzania got started this year with 2 Saturdays filled with Swahili language and culture lessons with Dr. Selena Mushi, from Northeastern Illinois University.

NIU student Leah Nicolini gets advice on her personal introduction she is writing in Swahili.

NIU student Leah Nicolini gets advice on her personal introduction she is writing in Swahili.

Focus has been on gathering vocabulary and grammar so that each volunteer and student can introduce themselves in Swahili at the grand opening ceremony of the Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center in Nyegina. They will also be able to use their introductions when they meet their group of high school teachers who will be learning from NIU students and TDS volunteers how to access the internet to find teaching materials for their classrooms to improve student learning.

This blog will be the best place to follow the group’s progress as we leave the US on June 8 and head to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania. Donations to help buy the computer equipment needed for the teachers to access the internet at the LCRC are much appreciated. Donate now with this link to the Tanzania Development Support webpage.

Kili Climb 2016 Reflections by Baba Anna/Dr. Kurt - February 8th, 2016

[These remarks were given by Dr. Thurmaier as part of the ceremony presenting the Nyegina community with the funds raised by the 2016 Kilimanjaro Climb.]

There are few privileges that are above watching the sun rise from the top of the world’s highest free-standing mountain and Africa’s highest peak. This group of volunteers experienced this amazing sight the morning of Saturday, 30 January, 2016, and we reached Uhuru [Independence] Peak together at 7:45 AM.


Sunrise over Africa on way to Kilimanjaro Summit

Sunrise over Africa on way to Kilimanjaro Summit

We were crying and hugging each other—words were few for a moment—because the emotion of the moment was so high.

You need to understand that this exhilarating moment in each of our lives, and in our life together as a family, came after much, much hard work by each person on the amazing climb from Moshi Town to 5895 meters high atop Mt. Kilimanjaro. Each of us had to prepare ourselves physically—and mentally—to achieve the goal of reaching Uhuru Peak. The most difficult part of climbing Kilimanjaro is actually the need for each one climbing to be totally committed to reaching that goal, because there are many opportunities to say, “It is too hard. I am too tired. I don’t have the energy to continue.”

There are times, especially after you have been climbing step by step, pole pole [slowly], kidogo kidogo [little by little]—for six hours starting at midnight in very very cold air…and you cannot see the top yet and there is still at least an hour more of pole pole, kidogo kidogo, step by step toward that goal of reaching Uhuru Peak. And you have hours to ask yourself: “Is this really an important goal? Do I really need to keep doing this?”

But do you know why we didn’t stop, why we didn’t turn around?

Because we were not alone.

We began our trek at midnight with Mwalimu [teacher] Luzangi leading us in a short prayer asking God to bless us with a safe and successful climb. And he began by saying, “We come together from many faiths, but a prayer is a prayer.” And most of us did not what Mwalimu prayed because it was in Kiswahili, but it didn’t matter, because God was with us.

Second, before we even started climbing this mountain we had a whole crew of guides, porters, cooks, and others who were preparing our tents, food and other important—vital—items to keep us safe, to nourish us along the way, and to guide us to our goal of reaching Uhuru Peak. Without this team to support us, we would never have reached our goal.

Every morning as we began to climb ever higher on the Lemosho Route, the porters and guides would gather and sing fun and encouraging songs to motivate us to focus on our goal and not quit—pole pole, kidogo kidogo, step by step. And they kept referring to us as a family.

Even the last climb, starting at midnight, the guides were calling out to us, each climber by name: Kathy, Natalie, Madonna, Benjamin, Mark, Leslie, Christina, Nicodemus, Mwalimu, Caroline, Matthew, Baba Anna. “How are you? Kazi kizuri [good job]. Don’t sleep, keep walking.”

And they would sing those same songs we had heard every morning—now a familiar inspiration from familiar voices. They sang and called to us for seven and a half hours! Never giving up on us, never doubting that we would reach our goal together as a family—the volunteers, guides and porters.

That’s why we were crying and hugging each other the morning of Saturday, 30 January, 2016, because we not only had achieved this goal as individuals—we had achieved this goal together—as family. And we could share the joy of the moment together–as family.

Had I, Baba Anna, tried to climb Kilimanjaro alone, it would not have been the same experience. I probably would not have made it even half way. I would have missed the support crew, the motivation, the emotional strength that comes from achieving a high goal together—as family.

Dear [primary and high school] students, I challenge you to set a high goal for your life—a goal as high as Uhuru Peak. Set a goal that might be very difficult to achieve. Become a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a professor. Start a business like a hotel, or a water filter factory to create clean safe water, or an ITC company to bring internet and computer access to students, teachers, and families in Mara [region].

And when you have moments when you want to quit, when you are too tired to study, when you question whether you can ever reach that goal, when you become frustrated with kidogo kidogo, pole pole,

Know two things:

  1. God is with you. You are not alone.
  2. You have a whole family of parents, teachers, wazee [wise elders], and many others who want you to succeed, who can guide you to reach your goal, who can nourish you along your journey to reach your goal, not only with the food for your body, but also the food to nourish your soul, to encourage you to reach your Uhuru Peak.


You can see before you Christina and Nicodemus—two students from Nyegina Secondary School. They were able to climb to the top of Africa, Uhuru Peak. They have great determination, great strength of will, and they work as hard at their studies as they did to reach the top of Kilimanjaro.

Because their Uhuru Peak is not jut 5895 meters high. Their real Uhuru Peak is what they will become when they graduate from Nyegina Secondary and from university. Maybe they will be scientists or doctors, or open a business. I don’t know what they will become, but I know who they are. They are strong of will and determination, and they know that they cannot achieve their goal, they cannot achieve their Uhuru Peak, alone. They need their parents, teaches, wazee, and many other people to help them succeed.

We gather here this morning as part of a family that will support Nico and Christina, and each one of you students, as you pursue your goals. You are not alone—we are with you on your great journey.

We gather here this morning as a family, coming together from Nyegina, Etaro, and other villages, and from different cities in the US. We have worked together as a family—UMABU, Tanzania Development Support, Northern Illinois University, Nyegina Secondary, and many other partners to build a modern dormitory for girls, and to build this library and community resource center—named for Madaraka Nyerere who led me and Mama Anna and many other volunteers to the top of Kilimanjaro in 2012. The goal of that climb was to raise the funds to build the library’s main buildings. We have almost achieved this goal and we will open in June 2016.

We also gather here today to celebrate the achievement of the 12 volunteers who just climbed to Uhuru Peak. And we also gather to celebrate the other goal of this long trek—to raise money we need to start building the computer wing of the library. This money was raised by the US volunteers here with me this morning. They asked their friends and family members to donate money to help build the computer laboratories.

We are pleased to present UMABU with a cheque for $55,000 [about 120 million Tsh].

In conclusion, I hope to return to Nyegina in June with my students from NIU to begin helping teachers learn how to use the internet to help students learn better their geography, physics, and other subjects. When we work together as a family, TDS, UMABU, NIU, and each of you here today, we will certainly achieve our goal of graduating our students in Nyegina and other schools with very high exam scores, making our schools served by the Madaraka Nyerere Library the very best in Tanzania. Together, we will reach our Uhuru Peak.


Baba Anna/Dr. Kurt Thurmaier
President, Tanzania Development Support

Presidential Engagement Professor and Chair
Department of Public Administration
School of Public & Global Affairs
Northern Illinois University

Overwhelming Welcome in Nyegina! - February 4th, 2016

This excerpt is from Mark Biernacki’s journal about February 3, 2016:

We leave our Musoma hostel and approach Nyegina village on the one lane dirt road into town. Thousands of school children and villagers line the road and crowd around our vehicles. We can no longer move so we exit and walk the remaining way. We are mobbed by the people. Drums and bongos are thrumming at a steady beat. People are singing and clapping. Leis are placed around our necks. Hands are shook and backs are patted. We are being treated like returning heroes after conquering far away lands.
Schoolmates of Nicodemus’s and Christina’s, our student climbers, are in awe of what their classmates have accomplished. They receive the loudest and most heartfelt welcome. The rest of us get a lot of attention, but not like the attention they are getting. The admiration they receive will last a lifetime. They will always be remembered in their village as the “ones that climbed Kilimanjaro.” 
The scope and size of this reception is overwhelming. It is entirely unanticipated. Many of my fellow climbers are as overwhelmed and emotional as I am. I wipe away the tears in my eyes with one hand while trying to video the proceedings with the other. 
This continues for another 10 to 15 minutes. The village is genuinely thankful for our efforts in climbing Kilimanjaro and raising funds to further the educational standards  of their community. 

We have been rewarded in the way in that we have tested ourselves and passed the self-imposed exam of scaling one of the world’s highest mountains. But, more importantly, we have been rewarded  with the knowledge that we have made a difference, largely due to our donors who have so generously given. What we and our donors have done will have real and tangible meaning for the people of Nyegina and northwest Tanzania.

February 2nd: Safari through Serengeti via Old Dupai Gorge - February 2nd, 2016

The sunrise at the Ngorongoro Crater’s rim was beautiful, ending a peaceful night of camping in a nice campground looking into the crater. The sounds of lions “talking” in the night were far enough away, and the warm “pies” left as calling cards between tents in the campground confirmed that several animals had been through the campground grazing on the.grass during the night.

The first stop after leaving camp heading west was Old Dupai Gorge where Mary Leakey discovered “Lucy” or Australopithecus. The ODG curator (Jackson) was very good and his lecture set the background for a visit to the actual site of discovery (pictured).

Christina Joseph takes notes as ODG curator Jakson explains the site where Mary Leaky discovered "Lucy."

Christina Joseph takes notes as ODG curator Jakson explains the site where Mary Leaky discovered “Lucy.”

Then heading west toward Musoma and Lake Victoria, we were submerged in the annual wildebeest migration, with a 360 degree view of nothing but the gnu as far as the horizon. Further into the Serengeti, the zebra migration was smaller but equally amazing, stretching for miles and miles. Viewing a cheetah, did-dirk, and Impala were highlights, but the pair of lions at the side of the road was exciting, especially when it brushed one of our cars of TDS volunteers!

Don't reach out and touch that cat! Matt Thurmaier and Ben Peterson try to snap a shot as this big boy brushes the car and heads into the grass.

Don’t reach out and touch that cat! Matt Thurmaier and Ben Peterson try to snap a shot as this big boy brushes the car and heads into the grass.

Ngorongoro Crater Safari is first reward after successful Kili Climb! - February 2nd, 2016

The 1st of February brought us into the Ngorongoro Crater (a World Heritage Site) for a wonderful tour of this ecosystem. The high point of  seeing 4 rhinoceros had stiff competition with lions, elephants, zebra and many other animal sightings. We camped on the crater’s rim at a nice campground, and the Trek2Kili chefs outdid themselves with a delicious meal that included backed Lake Victoria tilapia and veggies. Heard lions “talking” in the night, and several animals grazed through the campground that night, leaving calling cards (pies?) between some of the tents, confirming what many of us heard outside our tent doors in the middle of the night. A relaxing reward after a strenuous week climbing Kili.

2 gnu graze in Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania) as rain shaft with rainbow approaches slowly.

2 gnu graze in Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania) as rain shaft with rainbow approaches slowly.

They’re Back! - January 31st, 2016


Everyone has returned and were greeted by singing porters and guides at the end of the trail. Lots of smiles, along with sore knees and sweaty hugs. They arrived at Mweka Gate at about 1:45PM (4:45 AM Chicago time).

Everyone reached the summit - January 30th, 2016

Our climbers have arrived at Millennium Camp where they will spend the night. They had left Barafu Hut at 12:15 AM and arrived at Uhuru Peak at about 7:45 AM. The guides serenaded the group all the way up to keep everyone awake and moving. The singing was awesome. The sunrise over Africa and the glaciers was spectacular. Everyone was and is healthy and safe during and after the climb but admittedly exhausted.

Christina kept her promise to make it to the top.

Last Rest Before Final Ascent - January 29th, 2016

As of 6 PM on Friday our climbers were at Barafu Hut (14,930 feet) which is the base camp for the final ascent. They just finished a briefing with the guides for the ascent climb. Following supper they all will rest until 11 PM. After consuming tea and snacks they will hit the trails. They will leave at midnight for a six hour climb to Stella Point and ultimately to Uhuru Peak at 5,895 meters or 19,340 feet.

Everyone is in good health and in good spirits. Madonna promises “We will do our best to make you proud.”

Happy Birthday Kurt! - January 28th, 2016

Unbelievable!! The cooks at Trek 2 Kili made Kurt a birthday cake at over 13,000 feet and the porters sang Happy Birthday as they passed around the cake. Kurt says, “An amazing 59th birthday!” Photos to follow.

Day 4 of Climbing - January 28th, 2016

Everyone is still doing well.

Today after breakfast our climbers successfully climbed the Barranco Wall. They went up 1000 feet using their hands to crawl through and over rocks. Surprise! There were 2 more steep hikes up other walls in the same 5 hours. Madonna noted “These details were not in the publicity!”

The camp overnight is at Karanga Camp where it rained during lunch and is cold and misty. The agenda in the evening will include introductions between the climbers and the porters and Happy Birthday wishes for Kurt.

Tomorrow morning our climbers will head to the ascend base camp. With utmost determination Nyegina Secondary student Christina says, “I will make it to the top.”

From those of us who are on the ground, our thoughts and prayers and good wishes are with our climbers.

Climbers Cover Nearly 8 Miles Today! - January 27th, 2016

“Everyone is generally fine” is the latest word from Kurt. Some headaches but that’s normal. “A long hard day.” They got as high as 15,000 feet then descended down to the Barranco Camp which is at 13,000 feet. They climbed for 9 hours today and covered a total of 7.8 miles in rain and sleet!

Tomorrow will be a short day – about 3 hours of hiking along the Barranco wall and celebrating Kurt’s birthday! It’s about 1000 feet of climbing using their hands and heading to the Karanga Camp. Happy Birthday Kurt!

Everyone is in a good mood, heart rates are normal and they have good oxygen supply to the blood.

Current time in Tanzania is 8:50pm.

First Contact Since Climb Began - January 27th, 2016

Text message received from Kurt on Tuesday around midday said that they had reached Camp 2 and everyone is “healthy and strong”. We’re awaiting more information. Stay tuned!

The Climb Begins - January 26th, 2016

Our climbers were packed and out the hotel door by about 8:30 AM on Monday morning with all their gear and a little apprehension. First stop was a rendezvous with the porters who loaded and strapped an abundance of equipment and supplies onto the roof of the bus. There are 3 porters to every 1 climber!! After a 2 hour ride the bus pulled into the first gate of the Kilimanjaro National Park where our climbers registered and ate lunch. Then they strapped on their gaters, took a few photos and boarded the bus again for the final 45 minute ride to the starting point. The porters gave final instructions, Father Leo blessed the group and at 2:10 PM they were on their way.

Father Leo blessed our climbers.

Father Leo blessed our climbers.

Leopard Hotel Room with a View - January 24th, 2016

Here is the morning view out the window of the room Mark Biernacki and I are sharing.  We’ll be up there soon enough…after a long walk…

Kili Summit from our Leopard Hotel window

Kili Summit from our Leopard Hotel window

Kili Volunteers Learn about Mwangaza Center Programs - January 23rd, 2016

imageTDS Kili Climb volunteers (R-L) Mark Biernacki, Natalie Hoffman, and Tricia DeBoo, listen as one of the Mwangaza Center managers, Salome, explains programming to improve teacher education. John Kavishe, also a center manager, listens (left). The Mwangaza Center in Arusha is pioneering continuing education for Tanzanian teachers. TDS and UMABU are working with Mwangaza to develop collaborations that can include the teacher resource center in the Nyegina Library and Community Resource Center. The computer lab wing that will be built with the Kili Climb donations is an essential step to providing this programming. Thank you John and Salome for taking Saturday afternoon to brief the TDS volunteers about your wonderful work.

First Night In Moshi - January 23rd, 2016

Kurt, Mark, Madonna, Kathy, Caroline, Leslie, Natalie and Tricia arrived at the Leopard Hotel in Moshi about 11 PM local time last night. Everyone slept very well and have a beautiful view of Kili from their rooms.


Read the rest of this entry »

We’re OFF! - January 21st, 2016

Most of the Kili Climb 2016 group is departing the US for Tanzania today. Please with them well and keep us all in your prayers and thoughts as we travel over 24 hours to get to our hotel bed in Moshi, Tanzania.

Safari Njema Team!

Countdown to Kili Climb 2016 Departures - January 19th, 2016

The countdown to the 2016 Kili Climb is fast approaching Thursday morning’s departures to Tanzania (via Amsterdam). We are enjoying our last nights in our own comfortable beds before we spend a week in tents at higher and higher altitudes.



This blog will record our adventure and report progress to family and friends–and all of the wonderful donors who are helping us exceed our goal of raising $50,000 to build the computer lab wing of the M.Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center in Nyegina, Tanzania.

Zanzibar Spice! - June 28th, 2015

NIU Study Abroad 2015 Tanzania concluded with a spice farm tour and afternoon on a beautiful Zanzibar beach. Watch our farewell post here!



Empowering Women in Zanzibar - June 26th, 2015


Mrs. Ume Kufum (center) was the guest speaker for the Wednesday morning seminar. Dr. Thurmaier (left) and Fr. Leo Kazeri (right) guided the conversation with the students.

Mrs. Ume Kufum (center) was the guest speaker for the Wednesday morning seminar. Dr. Thurmaier (left) and Fr. Leo Kazeri (right) guided the conversation with the students.

Our penultimate NGO seminar in the 2015 NIU Study Abroad and TDS Work-Study Program was a discussion with Mrs. Ume Kufum, the secretary at Catalyst for Women Empowerment in Zanzibar (COWPZ), who spoke with NIU students on Wednesday. The students were very appreciative of her time, and her personal story was inspiring to all of us. It is a testament to the power of lifting women into positions of self-direction, raising their level of self-confidence, and watching their lives transformed.

Days in Dar End with Delightful Dinner - June 22nd, 2015

The NIU students and TDS board member Cynthia Nelson spent Sunday visiting Bagamoyo, the port for the East African Slave Trade, and today (Monday) we visited Haki Elimu (Tanzania’s premier education policy NGO) and the national library. We concluded our days in Dar with a delightful dinner hosted by Judge Steven Bwana and his family. Tomorrow we sail by ferry to Zanzibar!

In the beginning….then today! - June 18th, 2015

TZ15picsKT_044 The 2015 Tanzania Study Abroad class at NIU has come a long way since we first landed in Tanzania in May. This pic of Tiffany Powell introducing herself in Kiswahili language at Parents Day for Nyegina Secondary School on June 6 doesn’t convey the stress the students felt standing in front of over 500 parents and students to describe their families and studies at Northern Illinois University. On her left, Emily Stevens and Cody Sheriff are relieved they are done with this “examination” while on her right, Dillon Domke is intently trying to mentally recite his words since he is next.

Today is the last day in Musoma, and students are spending the day in final meetings with NGO stakeholders to finish their service projects and prepare to present their findings and options to various NGOs in Musoma and Mara Region at the Farewell Dinner tonight. That is their last course exam here, and they are busily working to make sure they pass with flying colors. The ambitious plans of eager students have been tempered by the realities of development work in real time, in the field. Their understanding of the role of NGOs in developing countries has deepened, and they have quickly realized how hard development work is, and why it takes dedication and commitment to find success.

We were blessed with a delicious dinner of Indian food cooked by Liz Mach, RN, who has dedicated her life to development in Tanzania, and who focuses on healthcare for women and children, fighting FGM, early marriages of girls, and other health problems. She is a role model for all of us, and with nearly 40 years of experience, she has taught us much in a short time. Thank you, Liz, for your hard work and dedication and service to humanity.

The Stratifications and Competition in Microfinance - June 10th, 2015

Wednesday, June 10, focused on the stratifications and competition in microfinance for small business development in the Musoma area. We visited three microfinance lenders in the morning: FINCA (a pioneering international nonprofit), Tujijenge (recent for-profit microfinance lender partnered with, and Musoma SACCOS (a Tanzanian credit union with offices nationwide). We were able to compare the different types of clients and loans across the platforms and see how competition among the lenders is benefitting borrowers. For example, FINCA has moved from weekly payback to monthly payback periods to allow borrowers more time to use the funds to purchase goods and then resell with profit to repay the loan. In the afternoon we met with 4 different borrowers in the Nyegina area who borrowed from AFREDA (another lender in Musoma area) and Musome SACCOS. They are using the loans to buy in bulk at wholesale prices and sell at retail to make profits that cover loan repayments and pay school fees. They look forward to further business management training from the new Madaraka Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center in Nyegina, which will be easier to access for many people than going all the way to Musoma.

Project Day for NIU Students - June 10th, 2015

Tuesday, June 9, the NIU students scattered to work on different service projects. Three students are working with Jipe Moyo to help them evaluate their programming for street children who now have shelters, 4 students are working with the Musoma Chamber of Commerce to improve its efficacy and promote economic development, 3 are working with a group of women in Mugango to help them develop a business and marketing plan for the new water filter manufacturing shop that NIU Emeritus Professor Manny Hernandez is helping build, another student is interviewing women and men about how UMABU can more effectively involve and promote women in community leadership, and another is documenting the projects and to develop marketing materials for UMABU, Nyegina Secondary, and TDS. The TDS board members and volunteers joined the Mugango group to observe the project developments.  The day was very rewarding and satisfying for all.

UMABU and Nyegina Secondary School Boards meet with NIU Students and TDS Volunteers - June 10th, 2015

UMABU Board School Board

Monday, June 8,  NIU students and TDS Board members and volunteers engaged in conversations with the UMABU Board and Nyegina Secondary School Board, discussing issues of sustainability and mission drift. The students enjoyed having the opportunity to gain perspective and insight into development and the education system in Musoma. The day ended with the students reflecting on the cultural challenges of development.

TDS Volunteers Arrive in Musoma-Epheta - June 7th, 2015

TDS volunteers had a delayed flight from Arusha on (Im)Precision Air (its earned new title after Mary Okeyo also suffered from a canceled flight on her journey home to Mwanza!), but they made it to Mwanza and Fr. Kazeri and I met them and brought them safely to Musoma and they have moved into Epheta!  Big day today (Monday) as we meet the UMABU board, the Nyegina Secondary School Board, and the Library Steering Committee to discuss progress and future plans!  And the students get to introduce themselves again….in Swahili of course!

This is NIU Study Abroad at Makoko Language School, Musoma, Tanzania - June 3rd, 2015

This video was taken this morning while we were on our tea break from Swahili classes. Enjoy!


Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti - June 2nd, 2015

As the Northern Illinois Study Abroad students made their way to Musoma on Sunday afternoon, part of the 13-hour journey took them through Serengeti National Park. Because of the late rains in Tanzania this year, students witnessed the great migration of wildebeest heading north towards Kenya. Nearly 1.5 million wildebeest and about 400,000 zebras migrate annually following the rains in search of green vegetation and fresh water. The two cars of students, Dr. Thurmaier and Fa. Leo Kazeri were stopped by the migration just long enough to take a couple photos and videos.

NIU Study Abroad Arrives at Musoma via Old Dupai and Serengeti…13 hours. - June 1st, 2015

NIU@OldDupaiGorge1The 11 Tanzania Study Abroad students from Northern Illinois University landed in Arusha on Friday, May 29. They spent Saturday in Arusha at East Africa Ceramics (which is assisting TDS with a similar initiative for a women-owned business in Mugango), and at the Mwangaza Center for Teaching in Stop at Old Dupai Gorge for lunch was well worth it. Students liked the tour and the site. The picture shows the guide on far left and Fr. Leo Kazeri, our UMABU host and study abroad partner, on far right. Professor Thurmaier is taking the picture at the site where (in 1959) Mary Leakey discovered remains of the robust australopithecine Zinjanthropus boisei (now known as Paranthropus boisei). The specimen’s age of 1.75 million years radically altered the accepted ideas about the time scale of human evolution.

Had some thrills going through Serengeti National Park. First, we had to push our way through the great wildebeest and zebra migration….very cool; then 6 lions in a tree near the road, with a lioness crossing the road and walking next to the car before turning to go to the tree. Stop at Issenye with Fr. Kennedy Garusya was great food break. Finally arrived at Epheta Retreat Hostel about 9:15PM (13 hour trip). Students loved it, and are eager to start language training.

Tanzania in Retrospect-Mark Biernacki’s Journey to Tanzania, Part I - December 6th, 2013

Journey to Tanzania – Friday/Saturday, July 5/6, 2013

A seven hour flight to Amsterdam along with a five hour layover kicked things off. From there, a jammed packed plane took us to Nairobi for yet another seven hour flight. The international flavor was all around me as I sat squeezed in the plane’s coach section. Across the aisle sat a French woman who was thankful one of the flight attendants spoke her language. Next to me in the center seat was an elderly Kenyan man who wore a baseball cap with the word “Texas” embroidered on the front and a replica of the Kenyan flag on the bill.

I’m still getting to know my travel partners, all of whom are volunteers for this TDS adventure (the students left with Dr. Thurmaier one week earlier). There’s Dan who will be my roommate once we reach our final destination. Jeanine is Dr. T’s wife and has done this trip before. Tricia is another returning volunteer having last been to Tanzania several years ago. Heidi is one of the architects who designed the library we will be building. Carol and Helen, both from Wisconsin and long time acquaintances of the Thurmaiers’, round out the group. Except for Heidi, we’re all in the 50 years plus age bracket.

Mr. MooshThe Nairobi airport is what one would imagine. Our layover here was only for 2 or so hours but they ended up having the most strict of security details. A small pair of scissors that made it all of the way from Chicago undetected was picked out by the one lone guy at the X-ray machine in the boarding area for our flight to Kilimanjaro. A problem with the plane’s paperwork delayed our departure from Nairobi, making the late hour even later. Finally, we made it into the airport in Arusha, Tanzania. This airport made Nairobi’s look plush and modern. We met our driver, Mr. Moosh, who took us to our hotel for the evening while playing and singing to the country and western music on the van’s radio. On Saturday morning, the wake up call came right on schedule. Our journey and our transit was to continue. I was feeling as if we’ve already been on an adventure with just the travels we have done so far. Yet, there are more travels to come before we start on the tasks we originally came for.

Mr. Moosh took us back to the Kilimanjaro Airport for our flight to Mwanza. Another travel snafu greeted us at the baggage check counter. For domestic flights in Tanzania, we each were limited to one checked bag. Of course, we each had two checked bags, most of which carried the school supplies and other donation items for those that live and go to school in the Musoma and Nyegina area that would be our final destination. The extra charge came in at $500 USD! Jeanine was ever the trooper, refused to pay a penny more when asked to, and then dug deep into her bags to fork over the cash. Most definitely this was an unanticipated expense not a part of the original budget and expense planning.

Father Leo KazeriFather Leo Kazeri, one of the head priests at the Catholic Church and the parish that covers Musoma area, greeted us at the airport in Mwanza. Again, with each successive airport, the facilities and services became more and more primitive. This one in Mwanza was definitely at the bottom end of any that I have been to. But, what is one to expect? I think it is a great experience to see these types of places and what people deal with.

Fixing a flat tireOne van was used for our luggage, the other was for us volunteers. First, we had lunch at a very nice place on the lakeshore. Then off on a long and dusty 4 hour ride north to Musoma. Many people walking along the road, donkeys, goats and cattle all over the place, bicycles, screaming trucks and vans rushing by each other with only inches to spare, wildebeests off in the distance as we traveled along the western edge of the Serengeti, women and young girls with large water containers or bundles of wood on their heads, people washing themselves and their clothes in whatever puddle or pond they can find, basic living conditions with homes made of mud brick with thatched roofs, and trash and garbage strewn everywhere. We blew a tire about halfway through the ride. Our driver worked effortlessly to change it out while the rest of us stood in the shade of a nearby acacia tree while watching a young boy shepherd a herd of cattle in the nearby fields.

Side of the roadFishingCarrying

Into MusomaFinally into Musoma and to the Epheta Retreat Center that is located right on the shores of Lake Victoria. We arrived right at dusk so weren’t able to see everything about the place just yet. The staff fed us a simple meal of rice, fish and beef along with some pineapple and legumes. We were soon dead asleep exhausted after our long journey.

What a whirlwind of the past two days! An adventure was already had, yet we haven’t even begun the real adventure and purpose of our trip.
—Mark B.

Tanzania in Retrospect- Brandi - October 7th, 2013

Tanzania, in retrospect: Part I

TZ Collage_1

June 26th, the day before we left for Tanzania.

For the previous two weeks, I had been finishing last-minute tasks as the management intern for TDS. Working with our Tanzanian partner UMABU to confirm the hostel accommodations, travel arrangements, and the schedule changes had proved to be an exhausting, yet rewarding, exercise in inter-organizational relations across borders.

I stayed awake until 1AM the day of our departure, emailing last minute scheduling changes and documents and putting my hair into small twists for the month ahead. I was bone tired and fell into a restless sleep. I awoke at 6AM feeling as though I had never slept. It took me another two hours to finish twisting the last of my hair and I purposely made the twists tighter than usual so that they would last the entire month without needing to be redone.

Once I finished my hair, my thoughts turned to packing. I had already decided to take just one large suitcase and my backpack. My previous travel had always been for long stretches of time (at least 8 months) and I was used to my two large suitcases, backpack, and carry-on. Tanzania was different though; one month meant I needed to pack far fewer clothing and other miscellaneous items. However, as I started to pack, I realized that I’d need more room. Even though I intended to give away roughly 70% of my clothing, I wanted to leave room for any gifts and cloth I meant to purchase. With thoughts of colorful (cheap) kanga material firmly in mind, I dug out my carry-on. This proved to be a wise decision later on.

I packed in a hurry, splitting my belonging between the three bags. A last minute search for two missing SD cards and my cheap European cell phone put me behind schedule. Further setting me back was the unexpected failure of my tablet. It was meant to be my electronic companion overseas—an inexpensive substitute for the expensive MacBook I couldn’t afford to lose or replace. In its place, I took my mother’s tablet and the transferring of files for school and work, as well as large media files literally took hours to complete.

I rushed out the door and carried my bags to the car one by one. Afternoon rush hour was just beginning in Chicago and I was late leaving home. I jumped in the van, set up the GPS to guide me to O’Hare and drove away. I stopped at the stop sign and it hit me. I didn’t have my passport! I put the car in reverse back to my front door and jumped out. I rushed into the house and ran straight to my mother’s room, grabbed my passport and Yellow Card from her filing cabinet. Out the house I ran, jumped into the car, buckled my seatbelt, and took off. Traffic was lighter than expected and we reached O’Hare in less than 90 minutes. Preparing to leave had completely robbed me of my anxiety of the long travel days ahead. That anxiety returned as I found my seat on our first flight to Amsterdam.

—Brandi S.

Everyone Home Safely - July 29th, 2013

Good news! Everyone is home safely and WITH ALL THE BAGGAGE! Which means everyone gets the gifts that were purchased in the last month.

One more flight to go! - July 27th, 2013

We are now waiting at Amsterdam airport to board our last flight home to the US. Students took a trip into Amsterdam city for breakfast at a cafe and walk around, while Prof. Thurmaier met an old friend (from 5th grade) and sipped coffee on their balcony overlooking the river. Had to work through some frustrating ticket and boarding pass issues, but everyone now looking forward to being home, telling stories, presenting gifts, and showing pictures. Next post will be confirmation we are home.

Reflections on Culture and Influence - July 25th, 2013

Our Tuesday meeting with HakiElimu staff to discuss education policy reform in Tanzania

Our Tuesday meeting with HakiElimu staff to discuss education policy reform in Tanzania. HakiElimu will be providing books for the Nyegina Library and Community Resource Center.

Wednesday’s seminars included reflections on how and when we as outsiders 1. confront culture, 2. embrace culture, 3. try to influence culture in Tanzania. It is more content than a blog post can manage, but suffice it to say it was an excellent assessment of our month of observations. We agreed that it was worth our effort to confront female genital mutilation (FGM) and that we embraced the family and community culture that is so strong here in Tanzania. The afternoon seminar with Nazar Sola, an expert on local government decentralization reform, was excellent as well.

Second Day in Dar - July 24th, 2013

Study Trip with the Tanzanian Attorney General
We are in 2nd day in Dar. We had great meeting this morning with HakiElimu (a Tanzanian nonprofit that made a pledge of books for the library once there is a place for them) and now we are at U of Dar es Salaam with a student mixer. Tonight we dine as guests of the Tanzanian Attorney General at his home.

Rest & Relaxation - July 22nd, 2013

Spice Farm Group Shot

After 3 intensive weeks of long days and good works, Sunday has been a day of rest and relaxation, with a spice farm tour and time at a private beach (essential during Ramadan in Zanzibar). We were pure tourists. Nelisha tried out natural lipstick, Rachel (left) and Kate tried out spicy new shades, and the group was willing to look goofy for a day with accessories made from palm leaves and banana leaves. A well deserved break as we start our last 5 days of study.

Nelisha Trying Out Natural Lipstick on the Spice TourRachel and Kate Get New Glasses on the Spice Tour

Zanzibar Tour, Women’s Progress Discussion - July 21st, 2013

A beautiful day in Zanzibar! We had a very fine tour of Stone Town from our guide, Mohammed Kombo. It was the best tour I’ve had (of 4). Especially fun was watching the auction at the fish market. The afternoon seminar was with the leaders of COWPZ (Catalyst Organization for Women Progress in Zanzibar. They are energetically promoting women’s rights in Zanzibar and Tanzania. The conversation became even more lively when Fr. Kazeri asked the US women what they were doing for women’s progress in the USA. Among other comments, some noted that we had candidates for US Senate absurdly claiming that women’s bodies shut down and prevent pregnancy after rape, and we have legislatures ruled by men making reproductive health decisions for all women in their states. The students voiced concern that women in USA were too complacent and took their rights for granted, and that was a mistake. The exchange of ideas was rich and engagement was great. Hard to ask for any more from a seminar.

Volunteers Depart, Students to Zanzibar - July 20th, 2013

Friday was a long travel day for us, though successful. We had a french toast breakfast at 6:30 and gave the cooks at Epheta our thank you gift for being very creative at giving us tasty food for 3 weeks. They have been so responsive to our requests for variety and more fruits and vegetables.

We loaded the cars to carry luggage and boarded the bus. We were already behind scheduled 7:30 departure, but then someone forgot her phone and we had to turn around (only 2 minutes out, fortunately). (We’re not mentioning Rachel’s name though.) Then we had to stop to pick up Br. Masini at his school (he is going to Zanzibar with us). Now we are 1/2 hour late departing. Ahhhh, this is classic Tanzania, and we just needed to “go with the flow” as we say in the states.

We arrived in good time for the volunteers to go through security and check bags, with farewells said outside the airport. By the time the student group got through security and baggage check, the volunteers were already out the door and on their plane. We watched their plane heading for Kilimanjaro airport and on to Nairobi, wishing the Njema Safari! (a good journey).

The rest of us flew to Dar es Salaam. It was a bumpy takeoff—too much excitement for Nelisha’s first small prop flight! We finally landed in Zanzibar, and had our first meal at the outdoor food bazaar, aggressively courted by each of the food stands to try their kabobs of fish, chicken, somosas, etc. The last group got to bed about 10:45. A long and happy day indeed.

Quick Update - July 19th, 2013

We had a fine last day in Musoma. Met with local government officials in the morning seminar, and faith-based NGOs in the afternoon. We had last minute shopping and a farewell dinner at the Afrilux Hotel.

Next up, volunteers headed home, student group to Zanzibar!

2013 Serengeti Safari - July 17th, 2013

A lion and cubs during the 2013 Serengeti Safari.

A game drive doesn’t get much better than:

  • Seeing a leopard with 2 babies in a tree.
  • Watching a cheetah catch a baby gazelle, then not kill it but give it to her baby cheetah to play “catch the gazelle!” It was amazing to watch. Every few minutes the baby cheetah would let the gazelle loose; it would run away and the baby cheetah would easily catch and release again. Gazelle games!
  • Looking at a 2 week old baby giraffe hop around and nurse.
  • Watching a mother and 2 lion cubs casually stroll past the car (not quite in touching distance, but very close!) and meander off toward a group of Thompson’s gazelles (an enticing breakfast).


When we returned to the campsite for breakfast (about 9am), we discovered that a pride of lions had caught a Cape Buffalo just next to our campsite while we were off watching the other lions, cheetahs, and leopards! It is such an amazing experience; no wonder the Serengeti is called one of the 7 Wonders of the World.

Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

30th Wedding Anniversary - July 15th, 2013

Sunday was for celebrating the 30th wedding anniversary of Kurt and Jeanine/Baba na Mama Anna. There was the 2 hour special Mass (9-11am) presided by Bishop Michael, followed by gift giving, choir performance, and lunch. Gifts to the happy couple included 2 live hens, which Jeanine graciously held for the couple. (They were donated to Epheta, which has many hen houses for eggs and dinners!) Then evening special party with other guests, complete with more gift giving, dancing, and dinner. We managed to get home by just after 11pm…..long day before the safari. (Still looking for a picture of the hen gifts to post….check back to this post for an update….;) Tomorrow is the Serengeti camping safari.

Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

Work Day and Volunteer Island Visit - July 13th, 2013

Lindsay and Nelisha practicing masonry at the Nyegina Library site.Lindsay and Nelisha practicing masonry at the Nyegina Library site.

Today’s project work was a half day. We spent about an hour helping to construct the sign announcing the project (financing, contractor, etc) with each student pounding some nails, then erecting the sign. Later we were passing more sand with students, UMABU board members moving rocks, and NIU students Nelisha Gray and Lindsay Schoeder practicing masonry (pictured). The TDS volunteers spent the day visiting Rukuba and Irigia islands (which the students visited the weekend before). The island visit is an unforgettable experience, as one sees abject poverty at a level that is difficult to imagine and comprehend.

Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

Burgers in Musoma - July 12th, 2013

The cross cultural training sometimes goes from US to Tanzania! We discovered the wonderful cafe behind the Anglican Church that actually serves hamburgers…on a bun….and they taste great! They have food for all kinds of other tasty food too (we have 3 vegetarians in our group). Burude Ndago, our principal logistics manager, had never tasted a burger before. He liked it! (So did our bus driver, Deo, who also tasted his first hamburger.) Our grateful thanks to the Anglicans for having the Rehema Cafe. 21 pairs of thumbs up!

Microfinance around Musoma - July 11th, 2013

One of the 19 women who belong to microfinance borrowing groups in the Bukwaya area presents information on her group borrowing to students and volunteers in an afternoon seminar.

One of the 19 women who belong to microfinance borrowing groups in the Bukwaya area presents information on her group borrowing to students and volunteers in an afternoon seminar.

The 2nd seminar day was focused on microfinance as a development tool. We visited three microfinance NGOs in the morning: FINCA, AFREDA, and SACCOS Musoma. We learned how they work and who are their clientele. In the afternoon, we met with 19 women from various microfinance groups that work with AFREDA and UMABU to develop their businesses. The women own restaurants, sell vegetables, and cereals, and run shops. What we learned from the women is that they struggle very hard to pay back the 36-60% APY interest rates (this is not a misprint). The default rate is amazingly low because the group members have to make the loan repayment for a member who is sick or is away for a funeral and cannot make her payment. Still, they manage to make a profit even after paying back the loans. Some groups have moved past AFREDA loans and now have their own internal lending program. The picture above captures the presentation of one borrower explaining her circumstances to the NIU students and TDS volunteers.

First Work Day - July 10th, 2013

Cory shoveling mixed concrete into buckets for the Nyegina Library and Community Resource Center

This was our first work day, and we spent most of the time moving sand from piles into the floor frame. By Thursday we will probably be pouring cement around the rocks that the workers will place on the sand base we laid today. We passed the sand by shovels dropped in cement bags and passed along a line of hands, each taking and passing to the next, until the end of the line where they sand was spilled onto the ground.

We were joined by boys and girls at the school, community volunteers, and a few teachers who were not in class or grading exams. Cory was dedicated to shoveling mixed concrete into buckets that were then carried by students to the new foundations for the walls. Cory, who is visually impaired, was redefining “impaired” in Tanzania for the Nyegina Secondary students.

-Kurt Thurmaier

Kiswahili Introductions at Nyegina - July 9th, 2013

MPA student Matthew Simpson introduces himself in Kiswahili to assembled students at Nyegina Secondary School

MPA student Matthew Simpson introduces himself in Kiswahili to assembled students at Nyegina Secondary School

The premier event of Monday, July 8, was the NIU students introducing themselves in Kiswahili to the assembled students of Nyegina Secondary School. This was courageous, since they only had a week of Kiswahili language training! But they did a fine job. Of course, they had the students howling with laughter, beginning with Brandi’s bio when she mentioned that she had a pet dog with (linguistically anyhow) the same status as her sisters and brothers…and the dog even had a name. This is the most insane idea to a Tanzanian, so they were laughing a lot…especially each time another student would also mention a dog or cat in the same breath as a sister or brother.

It is a great example of a huge cultural difference between Tanzania and the US. Many families don’t have enough food for healthy children in Tanzania, so the thought of a pet dog is crazy to most people here. Still, I am very proud of the students. Each did a fine job. This was an important exercise to break down language barriers between the NIU students and the Nyegina students; the high school students will now feel at ease about trying to speak English—even poorly—because the NIU students were willing to risk embarrassment to speak Kiswahili to them. That’s the building block of cross-cultural engagement—taking risks and building trust to learn more about the other person.

Video by Mark Biernacki

Volunteers Arrived and Islands Visit - July 6th, 2013

Good News! The TDS volunteer group arrived at Epheta in Musoma this evening, about 6pm. All their baggage came with them! They are tired but in good spirits.

The student group spent the day on Lake Victoria, visiting two islands with fishing villages. There are many problems on these islands. One is supposed to be a protected bird sanctuary, but there are about 300 fishing folk living in a settlement with no permanent structures, including no schools, no clinic, no wells, no toilets. The other island has permanent legal residents, yet has enclaves of very poor people with very high HIV+ populations, prostitution, malnourished children, and other issues. There is a school, and there is a new kindergarten (funded by a German foundation), so progress is being made. The church congregation welcomed us warmly and provided a delicious lunch. The leaders introduced themselves, and then the students were challenged to introduce themselves in Kiswahili (as they had practiced in class all week). They need more practice, but they gave it a fine effort and that was what really meant a lot to the congregational leaders who had hosted us so enthusiastically.

Video by Mark Biernacki, Music by African Tribal Orchestra

Last Language Class - July 5th, 2013

TDS Last Day at Makoko Language School 2013

Our last language class ended with students perfecting their introductory paragraphs and learning about the challenges of the Tanzanian education system. Standing next to me is Fr. Ed Gorczaty, director of Makoko Language School. In front of me are teachers Dismas, Daniel, and Sylvester. Left foreground is lead teacher Mw. Magdelena. The midterm exam for this portion of the course will be Monday, when the students must introduce themselves in Kiswahili before the UMABU board and the Nyegina Secondary School Board. They will do a fine job!

-Kurt Thurmaier

Wishing a Safe Journey to the Volunteers - July 4th, 2013

The 4th of July is not an event in Musoma, Tanzania, but we had reason to celebrate anyway. In addition to another beautiful day, and great progress in our language class, TDS Intern Brandi now has her missing luggage with her clothes and other things for a month! Notice the smile on her face!

The TDS volunteers are leaving from O’Hare today, joining us on Saturday afternoon (July 6th). Prayers and thoughts for their safe journey are much appreciated.

We now have updated contact phone numbers for Dr. Thurmaier and Brandi, if you need to contact someone in the student group or volunteer group.

*In Tanzania: Dr. Thurmaier Mobile: 011.255.682.198.561

*In Tanzania: Brandi Smith Mobile: 011.255.688.139.173

Please note the time difference: Musoma is 8 hours AHEAD of Chicago time. So 8am in Chicago is 4pm (afternoon) in Musoma.

Wi-Fi at Epheta - July 4th, 2013

There is now wi-fi at Epheta, Musoma! It was comical watching 6 students try to all get onto the wifi at the same time when we returned from language lessons today about 3:30. Needless to say, wi-fi traffic jam! There are still some kinks to work out, but hopefully fine tuning tomorrow will help.

Once they stopped looking at their screens for an hour, they went back to looking at each other in conversations about this, that, and the other thing. Unplugging was a good experience, but so is getting them back to email, Facebook, etc. Friends and family should expect more emails now.

-Kurt Thurmaier

First trip to Musoma Market - July 2nd, 2013

We had a successful market outing last night (July 1) and several women found skirts and kangas. (Picture to be posted soon!) We have the wireless internet network set up and hope to have use tomorrow when the internet is “turned on” by the internet provider.

Now we are looking for a volunteer who could help Epheta set up a simple website to attract more guests (now that it can offer wi-fi!).

First Musoma Pub. Seminar is tonight at Musoma Club after dinner!

The first day of language lessons - July 1st, 2013

FROM THE STUDENTS: The first day of language lessons was really intense, but fun and interesting. It made us think about our own language and the meaning of certain words, for example, the way we express appreciation. One of the words we learned today was “karibu,” which means welcome. At first, we thought that it meant “you are welcome,” like the direct response to “thank you.” However, karibu is an expression of welcoming into a home or a place. So people always say it first and the reply is “asante” or “thank you.” This changed our perceptions of greetings in the states, and we realized sometimes we forget what a blessing it is to share the company of friends and loved ones. Karibu!

From Arusha to Musoma - June 30th, 2013

TDS Olduvai Gorge 2013

2013 Study Abroad Group at Olduvai Gorge

We had a VERY long drive from Arusha to Musoma today. We left after breakfast (about 8am) from Arusha. We stopped at Old Dupai Gorge for lunch and lecture on Mary Leakey’s discovery of Australopithicus fossil. This picture is taken of the group at the site (with host Fr. Kazeri). We saw lions, Cape Buffalo, elephants, giraffe, lots of zebra, a few wildebeest, a jackal, meercats, and other animals on our fast and VERY bumpy drive across the Serengeti on our way to Musoma. We stopped for drinks and bites hosted by Fr. Garusha at Issenye Parish outside the park (delicious ugali, lamb, fried plantains, and Balimi beer!). Finally got to Epheta, our home for 3 weeks, about 10pm. Everyone is now taking showers and hitting the pillow. We start language lessons at 9am tomorrow!

Update: Brandi’s baggage with clothes is now at Precision Air office in Arusha and we will try to get it on a bus to Musoma on Monday. Prayers and good karma are welcome! Otherwise, we are doing well and students are having a great time already. Stay tuned….


Kurt Thurmaier

Study Abroad Update 1 - June 29th, 2013

The NIU Study Abroad to Tanzania is now safely in Arusha. We had many delays and several miracles, but everyone is here, just missing 4 bags. (We ran out of miracles when they let Whitney into the country without a yellow fever vaccine, because we came through Naiobi (Kenya).

So today we are visiting the CBHCC water works, the Water Filter Factory, and Mwangaza Teaching Center. Then some shopping and changing money, and early to bed (after our first pub administration seminar).

-Kurt Thurmaier

Contact Information - June 26th, 2013

In a little over 24 hours, students will start heading to OHARE International to meet with the study abroad group and catch the first of three flights to Kilimanjaro Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. Below, friends and family can find contact information of key members of the leadership team for the 2013 Experiential Learning with NGOs in Tanzania Program.

We ask that you please be patient with our communications from Tanzania. It is a Third World country, and sometimes the electricity is out, sometimes the server is down, sometimes the phone exchange is overloaded. And sometimes we are just going to be having so much fun that we are not going to pause to tell you what is happening! So……don’t worry if you don’t hear from us every day. We will do our best to post to the Twitter feed and Blog.

Tanzanian mobile numbers will be updated upon arrival in Arusha. Please note the time difference: Musoma is 8 hours AHEAD of Chicago time. So 8am in Chicago is 4pm (afternoon) in Musoma.

KT & Brandi

The Countdown Begins! - June 25th, 2013

The countdown for the 2013 Tanzania Work-Study Program is racing ahead. The NIU and UW-Lacrosse students will leave for Tanzania with Prof. Thurmaier on Thursday, June 27. The students are busy writing their first papers and reflection letters.

The clock is ticking down but the fundraising by the Work-Study volunteers (and a few students!) is ticking up! As of today, their friends and family members have already contributed more than $7000. All of these gifts are applied directly to the library building costs. (The volunteers pay their own way to Tanzania.)

We had the final pre-flight SKYPE session with UMABU staff on Thursday, June 20th and excavation begins on Monday, June 24th! The rock wall that will hold the foundation and floor will be built before the volunteers begin “pouring the floor” on July 9!

Now is a great time for you to visit the Library Build page to meet the volunteers and choose someone to support with a generous donation.

Be sure to bookmark this page to follow the progress of the student and volunteer groups as they work together on the  Library and Community Resource Center.

Letters from Nyegina - February 25th, 2013

Tanzania Development Support has been active in the Nyegina Community for nearly 5 years. During those years we have been lucky enough to establish connections with some of the community’s most inspiring people: its students. This letter from Nyegina is an illustration of the life story of one of Nyegina’s students—an invitation into her world.

16 Year-old Maria Sisso writes of how difficult life has become since her father’s death in 2010.Letter from Maria Sisso

This letter is just a small sampling of the stories waiting to be heard from Nyegina. TDS is striving to create a happier next chapter for these students and their families.

The experience of a lifetime, to provide a lifetime of experiences - July 4th, 2012

There is really no way to capture the enormous sense of accomplishment that we feel as individuals who have climbed to Uhuru Peak, 5895 meters high (19, 341 feet). It has been the experience of a lifetime.

More telling, and more important to each of us who climbed, is that we–and you our supporters–have raised almost $30,000 to begin to build a library and community resource center that will provide a lifetime of experiences to thousands of girls and boys who will be able to read a book, study for exams, and excel as students in the primary and secondary schools in Nyegina and the Bukwaya Region.

Sketch of Nyegina Library and Community Resource Center (designed by Chicago Architecture for Humanity)

This trek to build the library is just beginning. We are on the first leg of a longer journey. We  hope you will join us on this trek: no ropes, spikes, or long hikes required! Please join us as we walk hand in hand with the boys and girls and their teachers who want to reach a new level of educational opportunity. Lucy, Isaac, and Jackson joined us on the trek to Uhuru Peak atop Kilimanjaro. Today they are back in the Nyegina Secondary School but they are still on a long journey to their next summit.

Allow me to share a brief conversation with a Kili climber that brought lumps to my throat. It was dawn on the last day in Musoma, before heading back to the US, and one of the Kili Climbers thanked me for bringing him to Nyegina–and to the school–to see the boys and girls and teachers and parents who are going to benefit from the $30,000 we raised.

To quote him (if not exactly): “I was just coming to climb the mountain,” he said, “that was my goal. But now I have a wholly different appreciation for what I did, what we did. Now I know that I have done something far more  important than climbing a mountain.”

Georgette and Lucy in the Serengeti

His simple statement was for me a morning prayer of thanksgiving that put the last 2 weeks in perfect perspective.

What makes TDS different from other development NGOs is that we go beyond just raising money to help people who have very little.

We bring the donors to Nyegina and we make personal, lasting connections that transform the experience of a lifetime into a legacy that I/you/we have made a difference in this one place in the world, and that has made the world a better place. Asante.


Finally, all of us who volunteer at TDS, and all of us who climbed Kili, once again thank Madaraka Nyerere for his gracious, humble, reassuring leadership on the climb, and his generous heart and willing spirit that allowed us to put this climb together and raise $30,000 for the library. Your generous gift of time and talents will last for a lifetime of experiences in Nyegina and Tanzania. Of that there can be no doubt.  Asante sana.

Last day in Tanzania - June 15th, 2012

Yesterday we had a shopping day at the market and the AIDS/HIV NGO.

Evening was a big birthday bash for Anna and Nadia, with a huge cake and Nyegina School Choir original songs of celebration of their birthdays.

Nyegina Birthday Party (14June2012) Nadia, Bishop Michael, and Anna cut the birthday cake

Bishop Michael attended as well, and gave warm thanks for all of our work and our special relationship of not just giving money, but giving of ourselves by coming to Nyegina to actually work on the projects that we are funding.

This morning we are headed to the airport at Mwanza (a 3 hour car ride) with hops to Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Amsterdam, JFK and TX airports.

Hot showers are a high priority for many, as well as no more runny noses and coughs!

Pictures can be posted later, to go with the blog posts.

—Kurt Thurmaier

Update: It seems as though everyone is home safe and sound and with no missing luggage. Kurt is in Nairobi all week with Obuya Bakaka, a past trip member, and Nadia.

Wonderful Day of Presenting Funds - June 14th, 2012

Yesterday we presented the Nyegina Community with a check for $26,000 to kick off the library and community resource center project.

As we arrived by car to Nyegina, we were greeted by primary and secondary school students and teachers lining both sides of the road, singing and dancing and welcoming us to the village. It was simply awesome! If you have ever been greeted by 2000 singing students, you will get the picture!

We are coming home as different people, not just because we managed to climb to the top of the African continent! Delivering the funds we raised to the Nyegina Community directly has been an emotional experience for each of us.

Jack is welcomed by Nyegina Students

Also very emotional to some of us was touring the new girls dormitory. It was so uplifting to see the girls with beaming smiles standing next to their new beds in their new rooms. They are so excited to be in the new dorm.

Today we are touring the Community Alive/Tupendane NGO and the Nyegina market place (gifts for loved ones at home?) and then  will visit Madaraka Nyerere at his home in Butiama.

Tonight we have a huge birthday/farewell bash with the bishop and our partners at UMABU. Friday we head home….

Successful Serengeti Safari! Now in Musoma - June 12th, 2012

Asante sana. Thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers as we climbed Kilimanjaro. We all have many tales to tell.

For now, I want to report that we had a very successful safari through the Serengeti yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday). A highlight was the dawn game drive today (6-9AM), where we saw many lions and a beautiful leopard resting in a tree.

We are now safely in Musoma (on Lake Victoria). We will present a facsimile check tomorrow at the Nyegina School for $26,000 as a down payment for the library and community resource center. We are excited to tour the school, see the new dormitory filled with girls, and meet with the UMABU board and the Nyegina Seconday School board.

The amount of ibuprofen consumed is diminishing each day (not so true for the imodium…). We are all still tired and while it is not even 9pm here, most everyone is already in bed!

Thanks again for all of your support. If I have a chance tomorrow, I will add some pictures to the blog for everyone!


Baba Anna (aka Kurt Thurmaier)

They’re back! - June 10th, 2012

We just returned from picking up the climbers. All arrived at the gate in relatively good shape and most were able to help the local economy by purchasing T-Shirts and art works from the vendors who congregate at the gate. They’re anxious to shower and celebrate. They had amazing success in reaching the summit by using the “Pole Pole” method: Slow, slow.

All are excited to read the Blog comments and eager to add their own personal update to the Blog.

It’s great to have them back!

—Georgette Rocheleau

UPDATES: Here are some pics from Uhuru Peak, the Roof of Africa! We didn’t all make it, and we made it to the peak in twos and threes.

Bruce Rocheleau and Jack VanderZee at Uhuru Peak (09June2012)

Uhuru Peak (about 9:40): Jeanine, Madaraka, Kurt

Uhuru Peak (about 9:30): Anna, Mama Anna, and Baba Anna


We have one group pose with a lot of us, and we are missing a picture of Henry at the top (who made it in only 6.5 hours, WAY ahead of the rest of us!). Most of us made it to Uhuru Peak between 9 and 10am.

Uhuru Peak on June 9, 2012, about 9:45 AM (left to right): [Back row

Then we had a 2 hour hike back down to base camp, a 2 hour rest, a bite to eat, then 4-5 hours of hiking down a dry stream bed “trail” to another camp where there was water. We got into that camp after dark, and exhausted after what amounted to a 20 hour day with a nap!

Update from Springlands Hotel - June 9th, 2012

I’m sorry to report that we had no news from the mountain yesterday. Will let you know if we hear anything today. My understanding is that if the hikers make it to a certain point and cannot go on, they wait at the camp while others go up. They reconnect at the camp when the climbers descend again.

In the meantime, we’ve had excitement at Springlands Hotel and fun in the Moshi environs, in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. Yesterday we went to Huruma Hospital operated by the Sisters of Kilimanjaro Huruma Convent in Moshi. The Hospital was so interesting to see! We were shown around by the head Chaplain who knew both Fr. Kennedy and Fr. Leo. It’s a 300 bed facility, with census of 281 yesterday. 100 of the beds are for Maternity. There is a large Maternity wing where women close to full-term stay and where patients with potential complications may stay for months. Yesterday alone had 94 women expected to deliver!

We also were lucky enough to tour the sisters’ facilities. Two hundred nuns live there in an almost completely self-sustaining situation. They grow coffee and bananas, as well as all their vegetables. They raise sheep, cows, and pigs also. We spent time with two nuns in the sewing room, a large area where clerical vestments are made.

Then we went to Marangu Falls, a tourist attraction at high elevation at the end of another very long unimproved, bumpy road. An interesting legend surrounds the falls. We very much enjoyed our visit there.

We had a special invitation to dinner last night at the home of one of Father Kennedy’s recent parishioners, Ophelia Swai, who worked at a fashionable hotel in the Serengeti and now has her own business, “Come
Walk With Me.” You can learn more about this venture (and join!) on her blog:

Joining us on this visit was Shirley Jahad, a National Public Radio (NPR) journalist who is researching for a piece on the proposed road through the Serengeti from Musoma to Arusha. She heard about Kurt and the TDS initiative and arranged to join us at the Springlands Hotel and travel with the group to the Serengeti and to Musoma. She went with us last night to Ophelia Swai’s house for dinner last night and today interviewed her for the piece. Having worked right in the Serengeti, Ophelia has special insight into the road situation.

Off for more adventures,
—Georgette Rocheleau

Update: Today we went to Arusha where we intended to visit a national park but changed plans when we saw there is a big tourism convention going on this weekend. It was too great an opportunity for Shirley to miss, so
we went there to help her with her research. As usual, we had a great day with surprise adventures.

BUT, no news still from the mountain. We know they expected to start hiking at Midnight and reach the peak for sunrise this morning. We understand it is so cold at the summit one doesn’t stay too long there. By now, 9:20pm [1:20pm U.S. Central Time] on Saturday night, they should be tucked in their sleeping bags at their one and only campsite on the way down the mountain.

We plan to leave the hotel at 9:00am [1:00am U.S. Central Time] on Sunday morning and drive to the gate where they are expected to begin arriving at around 11:00am [3:00am U.S. Central Time]. We have invited Shirley, the NPR journalist, to join our small welcoming committee. Should be another exciting day for the

—Georgette Rocheleau

What questions do you have for Georgette about her visits in northern Tanzania? Post your questions or comments below.

One climber returning early - June 7th, 2012

We had news this morning from the climbers: one is coming down the mountain today, aborting the climb. Staying at the Springlands Hotel turns out to be a very good thing, which Madaraka arranged for us. Springlands is owned and operated by Zara Tours, the outfitter guiding our people on the mountain. So if anyone gets in trouble, we find out quickly. Lucy [one of the Nyegina Secondary students] has been ill on the mountain for 2 days and is being led back down. At 2:00pm Father Leo will go with someone from Zara to one of the mountain gates (a different and closer one than we checked in with) to pick her up. She should be back at the hotel by 5:00pm [9:00am U.S. Central Time], I estimate. Other climbers are reported being very tired with the possibility more will be coming down before they reach the summit.

Leroy and Father Kennedy are off to Arusha to visit the Safe Water Ceramics of East Africa (SWCEA) (also called Safe Water Now) facility where ceramic water filters are made.

—Georgette Rocheleau

Update: The guides are taking Lucy back down using a different route and so will exit through a different gate than the one they started at. They left the hotel at 3:45pm (7:45am U.S. Central Time).

Update: Lucy arrived about 6pm [10am U.S. Central Time] with Fr. Leo. She is with me now. She had a nice big dinner and then used Kurt’s Africa phone to call her mother. Now we are setting up a new email account for her and reading emails. Lucy said she climbed to 5000 meters before coming down. That’s 16,404 feet!

Kurt phoned Fr. Leo to say it is very cold where they are. They can look down and see the lights of Moshi. They are hoping the moon comes from behind the clouds to see more.

—Georgette Rocheleau

From the adventures of Leroy and Georgette - June 6th, 2012

Not all of our volunteers are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Two, Georgette (who you’ve heard from in previous posts) and Leroy are travelling to sites throughout northern Tanzania. If you’ve joined us for past volunteer and study trips, you’ll be familiar with some of these places already.

No calls from the climbers today, Wednesday June 6, but we do have a report from the adventures of Leroy and Georgette. Among the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Father Leroy aranged to visit with them was the Community Based Health Care Council (CBHCC) which he was instrumental in founding. Accompanying Father Leo, Georgette, and Leroy was Father Kennedy.

The small group drove from Moshi where they are staying, to Arusha to visit the headquarters of CBHCC and meet with Engineer Shija Mlingwa who outlined the organization’s goals and accomplishments. One of their main projects is the construction of gravity water supply to seven villages south of Arusha and health, sanitation, and hygiene education to community and schools in those rural communities. The engineer devoted the afternoon to driving us to three villages to view firsthand the completed first phase of the project. We saw the pipes that carry water to large tanks and the central spigots where the women come to buy water for 10 shillings (approx. 1/2 cent) per bucket. In the absence of this water supply, the women would typically walk for hours to a water source of questionable quality.

We also went to a Massai market in one of the villages – quite unlike any market I’ve ever seen!

—Georgette Rocheleau

What would you like to know about life in northern Tanzania? Post your questions or comments below.

An unexpected phone call from Kilimanjaro - June 5th, 2012

Though we were told that phone contact would be unlikely in the first two days of climbing, we were delighted to get a call from Kurt this afternoon. He reported everyone to be in good spirits and good shape on the trail, in spite of a late arrival at camp last night. The last hour before camp was spent hiking in the dark, no small feat according to hikers who have just come down from the mountain. Kurt said they arrived in camp at 8:00pm, settled in, ate dinner and hit the sleeping bags at 10:30pm.

Day 1: We're Off to Climb Kilimanjaro!



Their second day on the trail began at 6:30am; they left the campsite to begin the day’s climb at 8:00am. Let’s hope they reach the next camp before nightfall!

Day 2: lunch break at tree line

—Georgette Rocheleau

Have a question for the climbers? Post them in the comments and we’ll ask the next time we are in touch with them.

First dispatch from the Climb: Rough roads and preparation - June 4th, 2012

The group is comprised of 14 climbers, 10 from the U.S., 2 students and their teacher from the school, and Madaraka Nyerere.

In addition to those 14 climbers, there’s me (Georgette Rocheleau) and Leroy (an Illinois friend of the school). We will be traveling around Arusha and Moshi with Father Leo and Father Kennedy.

We 16 and the two fathers all arrived at the Springlands Hotel in Moshi on Sunday evening (June 3), all having had uneventful, if painfully long, travel. After a short meeting, the 16 retired to their rooms with plans to meet in the dining area for a 6:30am breakfast. A helpful rooster began crowing (or whatever it is roosters do) at 5:00, so few overslept.

Bruce Rocheleau standing next to the guidelines at the starting gate

The outfitter, Zara Tours, provided each hiker with any gear needed for the climb. By 9:00 all duffel bags were carefully placed in large, yellow plastic bags. The 14 Hikers were ready. The 28 guides, porters, cooks, and assistants were on hand or already in place on the mountain, prepared to support the 14 in their quest to be Kiliwarriors and summit the great mountain.
Leroy and I were delighted to be able to accompany the climbers on the trip to the starting off point of their hike along the Lemosho trail. We had different ideas about how close the Springlands Hotel might be to the trailhead, but I don’t think anyone fully expected the adventure we embarked on.

Our first stop was at an equipment shop to pick up a couple of items the students need for the week: sunglasses and a head lamp. Only sunglasses were found there. Farther on we stopped at a grocery store where we purchased 36 1 1/2 liter bottles of water for the hikers’ first day supply. Nearby, headlamps were found.

Then began the RIDE. We were in a vehicle reminiscent of an army transport vehicle outfitted with bus seats. A metal ladder up to the back of the vehicle allowed entry and exit. At first we were on paved roads, happily enjoying the scenery.

Then the roads were unpaved and we talked of bumpiness. Kurt [Thurmaier] poo-pooed our assessment, telling us we didn’t know bumpy roads in Tanzania yet.


Another hour rolled by. We reached the Registration point around Noon, where each hiker, porter, and guide sign-in before the ascent. Boxed lunches were distributed and consumed.

After that point travel became rougher and slower. After another hour of rougher and slower driving, travel again became rougher and slower. Kurt conceded this was indeed the worst road he has been on in Tanzania! At one point our vehicle became stuck in the deep, muddy ruts.

After many futile, diesel burning attempts to move forward, the lead guide agreed with our suggestions that we get out.

The Zara guys in our vehicle and another 6-8 guys from the Zara support vehicle behind us laid pine boughs in the ruts for traction enough to allow the driver to plow through. Directions, instructions and advice filled the air


Stuck en route to trailhead to begin the Kili climb.

At 3:30pm the truck reached the Lemosho trailhead and the HIKE began.

—Georgette Rocheleau

Countdown to Kili Climb - June 2nd, 2012

Our group of intrepid volunteers will depart today, June 2, for Tanzania to begin their journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain. They will head to Kilimanjaro International Airport and arrive in Moshi on Sunday evening. The next day, after breakfast on the morning of June 11, they begin their ascent.

Supported by their friends and family, this group has raised over $24,000, which will be used to kick off construction of a Library and Community Resource Center in Nygeina village, Tanzania. This project is a partnership between Tanzania Development Support, Architecture for Humanity Chicago, and UMABU, a Tanzanian grassroots organization.

Meeting the group in Tanzania are Lucy and Isaack, two students from Nyegina Secondary School and one of their teachers. They are also climbing with the group and hope to raise $5,895—one dollar for each meter of the mountain they will climb. So far they’ve raised $2,310.

Be sure to check back with this blog for more updates from the climb.

Mt. Kilimanjaro

Mt. Kilimanjaro

The Dorm is Finished! - April 7th, 2012

The girls’ dormitory is finished.  After three years since the project started, we have raised over $150,000 to build a dorm for 160 girls.  Furnished with 80 metal bunk beds and a sanitation block, which holds the school’s first flush toilets and running showers, we are proud of our achievement.  Having passed the Tanzanian Government inspection, the Form 5 wing is expected to open later this April.


Project Update on Nyegina Girls’ Dormitory - December 21st, 2011

The girls’ dormitory on the Nyegina school campus is nearly complete. Construction began in 2009 on the two-wing structure which will house 160 girls in forms five and six, the U.S. educational equivalent of fourth and fifth year of high school. Graduating from form six will allow students to go directly to teacher training college or university. The dormitory is part of an expansion program that will enable the school to offer education at this advanced level and the program will begin in the spring of 2012. TDS has provided financial support for this project through contributions from our generous donors. In addition, TDS volunteers traveled to Nyegina in 2009 and 2011 to assist with the actual construction.

Study Room in Dormitory

Study Room in Dormitory

Installing Toilets in Sanitation Wing

Installing Toilets in Sanitation Wing

With the girls’ dormitory near completion, we are undertaking another opportunity to support the community’s efforts to create a 21st-century educational facility on the Nyegina School campus. Plans are being drafted for a community library/resource center. Architecture for Humanity Chicago is our newest partner and has agreed to undertake the design of a combined library, teacher enhancement center and computer lab. The facility will serve the Nyegina School, a nearby government primary school and the village of Nyegina. Julie Force and Laura Bowe, architects representing Architecture for Humanity Chicago, were among the volunteers who traveled to Nyegina in July 2011. Julie and Laura surveyed the proposed site at Nyegina School and met with Father Leo Kazeri, UMABU representatives, Nyegina School officials and other stakeholders in the project to develop the plan. This will be only the second library in this district of 2 million inhabitants, and a crucial piece of infrastructure for the schools and the community.

Full View of Dormitory, Sanitation Wing in Foreground

Full View of Dormitory, Sanitation Wing in Foreground

Unforgettable Smiles - October 19th, 2011

New TDS Logo

My trip to Tanzania was an unforgettable experience of contrasts and differences. The people we met were so welcoming that I felt a connection with them almost immediately. The children have an insatiable appetite for learning and are very knowledgeable despite the fact that they don’t own textbooks for school. The local government officials (with whom we met) were obviously reactive rather than proactive and had an attitude of complacency. Consequently, the infrastructure is undeveloped resulting in limited access to clean water, unpaved roads that are almost impassable because of ruts and boulders, a non-existent landline phone system that, among other things, minimizes the effectiveness of any emergency response system that may exist.

The poverty is so extreme and widespread that it is difficult for me to comprehend how people can live that way. The one room huts that dot the roadside at great distances from each other don’t have running water or electricity. The people have to walk long distances to find wood for the stove and water for cooking, bathing and laundry. The only available water often times is dirty and contaminated so it must be boiled before use. The physical labor is assigned to the females and they seemingly assume the role without argument. They walk home carrying five gallon jugs of water or 40 pound bags of grain on their heads because there is no other means of transportation. It’s a very hard life. I don’t know how they continue to hope and cope.

There are people within the community who are educated and aspire to a better way of life for themselves, for the children and for the future of the country. There are civic and social organizations that are making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate, such as the disabled, children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and women and children who have been diagnosed as HIV positive. Many of these organizations receive funding from NGOs in other parts of the world. For example, one of our partner organizations, UMABU, receives financial support from Terre des Hommes, an organization headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

The group of people with whom we (Tanzania Development Support) partner have a clear perspective of what they must do to improve their plight in life. They recognize that education of the children, particularly the girls, is critical to a promising future for all. They are educated and have an unshakable determination to do what needs to be done to change. I was particularly impressed by the women teachers at the school who told me that they must teach the girls to respect themselves and believe that they deserve a life that is far better than fetching wood and water.

While I was there I noted that social behavior was often dictated by cultural beliefs and traditions but I wasn’t there long enough to learn what these beliefs are. Next time I go I hope to get a better understanding of the cultural influences.

I can’t find the words to describe the gentleness and kindness of the people we met. The beauty is in their hearts and souls and is reflected in their eyes and smiles. The smiles are wide white grins that light up their faces and connected to my soul. That’s the picture that comes to mind when I reflect on the experience.

Tricia DeBoo,
TDS Board Member and 2011 Volunteer Trip Member

Too big for our logo: a design for the future of TDS - September 28th, 2011

How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye to your old logo?


Our original logo and visual branding was designed and very generously donated in 2008 by Jarret Byrne and Solvo Media. TDS was a brand-new organization then, with a smaller board of directors and an uncertain future. At that time, this logo and the website it lived on served TDS very well. It even challenged TDS to look toward the future.

Today, TDS has sent two volunteer trips to Tanzania, completed a major construction project, raised and used nearly $150,000, and sends out a quarterly newsletter to 450 supporters. TDS has grown to include the experiences, work, and hopes of hundreds of volunteers, donors, and partners. When board looks at the communications we send to our friends, old and new, something is missing. What’s missing is a visual representation of the richness of experience that TDS now encompasses.

I’ll admit that I fought against a logo re-design for some time, knowing the work it would take to implement it and corollary changes to the visual branding. I think it wasn’t until the summer of 2011, when I saw the pictures coming back from the study trip in Tanzania – the same trip I took in 2009 – that I was convinced that the rich experience I’ve had as a TDS volunteer wasn’t unique to me. The experience of many more volunteers needed to be expressed and celebrated, and the current logo just couldn’t do that. We had surpassed the challenge presented by our first logo.

Our new logo was designed by University of Minnesota student Carlye Kussard and Edgewood College graduate Katrina Ervin, with input on typography selection by graphic designer Victoria Pater. When they volunteered their creativity and experience, I challenged them to express this in the new logo:

“We see TDS as distinctive because it forms very close relationships with other organizations, people, and communities in Tanzania. We see ourselves as partners and are very committed to our partners in Tanzania, working through set-backs as they arise. Our projects are the priorities of communities and organizations in Tanzania. We work from their strategic plans and join in the visions they have for their own communities. We are committed to having our volunteers and donors experience the communities in which we work firsthand, and to form long-term relationships between individuals. We also see our role as informing others through experience and in a nuanced way, which is why we take student and volunteer trips to Tanzania. During these trips, we don’t try to tell people what to think, but provide first-hand information, and ask them to reflect on their experiences and share them with others.”

An impossible assignment, surely!

Over a few months, we went back and forth over symbols, colors, and ideas. The board was originally presented with four initial concepts and selected one to be further developed. The board and other volunteers made further selections on typography, color, and minor style aspects and selected this for the new TDS logo.

New TDS Logo

Communicating a nuanced view of Tanzania is an important challenge. Tanzania is generally not well understood by Americans or Europeans. Because of this, there are few symbols of Tanzania that are easily recognizable to TDS’s donor and volunteer audience. Something that is quite striking throughout Tanzania is color. There are parts of Tanzania that remind me of the foothills of Colorado, where I grew up, but nowhere in Colorado have I ever seen clothing, food, and buildings with such vibrant and memorable colors. Color is how this logo authentically connects Tanzanian experience to a visceral experience for our supporters at home.

We hope you like this new logo to represent the experience that surrounds TDS and our hopeful future. We plan to roll the logo out in our communications towards the end of this year. Since TDS is built on the work, skill, and support of our volunteers, donors, and partners, I welcome all of you to share your feedback on this new logo with me in comments below, on Facebook, Twitter or at

Tracey Swanson, Chair
TDS Volunteer Marketing Committee

$4000 Goal Achieved! - August 6th, 2011

I am so pleased to report that the donations from many friends and family members have helped us reach our goal of raising $4000 to finish buying the materials to finish the girls dormitory. Thank you to all who have contributed to this project! We’ll be posting lots more pictures from the trip in the near future. Stay tuned!

24 Hours Left - July 22nd, 2011

Only 24 hours left until the students leave Tanzania and we only need $700  to reach our goal of $4,000 to finish buying the materials for the dorm. Please help us reach this goal with your donation today.

Bagamoyo was a successful outing!  We ended the day with dinner by the sea side hosted by several professors from Dar University.

Dinner with Justice Bwana - July 22nd, 2011

The students had the chance to have dinner with Tanzania Court of Appeals Justice Steven Bwana last night.  He was gracious to host us as his house for a wonderful meal.  The students enjoyed asking him questions and learning more about Tanzania’s government and politics.

Today we are off to explore Bagamoyo, a historic slave trading town.

Goal in Sight…$3000 Donated! - July 20th, 2011

I am so excited to report that we have reached the $3000 mark toward gathering $4000 in donations by Saturday to buy the materials needed to finish the dormitory for 160 girls at the Nyegina Secondary School. The generous gifts, small and large, are adding up to a wonderful future for girls who are excited about attending 2 more years of school with your help. Please consider helping us reach the final $1000 by Saturday. We are so close!

We are now in Zanzibar, and yesterday we met 2 fantastic NGOs. The first is a group of women who have been an NGO for 20 years, Catalyst for Women Empowerment in Zanzibar. Members of the group, and alumni, include members of parliament in Zanzibar and the Union government, as well as doctors and other professionals. A second group is only 5 months old, a grass-roots, community-based organization (CBO) that is about 62 women and men dedicated to turning their neighborhood in Zanzibar/Stone Town around, fighting school dropouts, drug addiction, and getting their girls to stay in school through secondary school graduation. They were inspiring. Tomorrow we head back to Dar and will spend the evening with a Tanzanian judge who grew up in Etaro, a village neighboring Nyegina; he has recently been appointed to the international criminal court and he wants to say thank you to the students for volunteering to help build the dormitory in Nyegina.

We are making a difference here. Please help us finish this dormitory. It means a whole world of difference to the girls who will live in this dorm for years to come.

Dr. T.

Great Response on $4000 Campaign to Finish Dorm! - July 15th, 2011

We already have over $1500 in donations to finish the last $4000 in materials for the dorm! Thanks to all who have contributed.

Please take a moment to donate toward finishing the dormitory. We only need another $2500 in contributions for this short campaign!

We are working hard today, our last to work on the dorm. We are hauling sand for mixing cement, painting walls, and filling cement around the window frames. We are excited to be seeing progress toward the completion of this dormitory wing.

Thanks for all of your support, spiritual as well as financial! You can use the link below to make a gift online using PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

Dr. T.

Progress on the dorm - July 15th, 2011

Yesterday volunteers and students worked on painting the dorm.

Dan worked on staining some of the dorm’s new chairs.

Finish the Dorm Wing! - July 13th, 2011

We are getting close to finishing the Form 6 wing of the dormitory. We want to raise $4000 in the next 5 days to buy the materials to finish the structure itself. Please be one of the friends and family members who can contribute $40 to help finish this wing. You can donate at and click on contribute. We can do this!