President’s newsletter: UMABU melts change into tradition

From the President’s Desk…

Americans are geared toward efficiency in almost everything we do, and we want things done fast. After all, we created an industry of “fast food” so we could have meals handed to us through a car window in five minutes or less.

We also carry these core social values into most aspects of our lives. When we donate money to charities, we want quick results and efficient work. Our core social values do not drive other cultures, according to Sarah Lanier, whose excellent book Foreign to Familiar explains how “hot climate” cultures differ from “cold climate” cultures in many important ways, including:

  • Relationship versus task orientation
  • Different concepts of time and planning
  • Direct versus indirect communication
  • Individualism versus group identity
  • Inclusion versus privacy

Tanzania Development Support (TDS) was founded to help our friends in Tanzania accomplish their goals and fulfill their aspirations to alleviate poverty with emphasis on educating their girls and boys. When our partners needed a dormitory for girls, our generous donors raised the funds to build a facility. When they needed a library, teacher resource center, and computer lab, our donors raised money for its construction, too.

This has been a transition year for our main Tanzanian partner organization UMABU. They went through an extensive process of rewriting their constitution to create a diverse governing board that includes minimum quotas of women and youth and represent a wide range of community interests in the Nyegina/Bukwaya area. Lanier’s book explains why it can take “hot climate” cultures longer to make changes; they are very focused on relationships over tasks, carefully holding numerous discussions in the member villages so men and women, young people and old, can voice their opinions about the new and improved UMABU. Their culture of indirect communication requires long hours of meetings whereas Americans would have tried to finish in 60 minutes or less!

The good news is UMABU has a new set of leaders, many of them young and eager to move forward with the economic development of their villages, especially the education of their children. With the new executive board in place, they can appoint a permanent steering committee for the Nyerere Library and Community Resource Center and finalize their priorities for the types of books TDS will purchase for the library and neighboring schools.

TDS also has been making changes while we awaited UMABU’s new governance team. We bade goodbye to our Master of Public Administration intern Taylor Adolphson, who graduated from NIU in May. We also welcomed Leah Nicolini, a 2016 NIU study abroad participant, as our new volunteer newsletter editor.

Asante sana tena. Thank you again for your continued support and patience towards TDS projects that will help lift Tanzanian girls and boys out of poverty with a better education than they could ever have imagined.


Dr. Kurt Thurmaier, President



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