Release Date: February 27, 2012
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A cooperative effort spearheaded by the University at Buffalo community to improve educational and economic opportunities and health services for girls in Tanzania's remote Mara region continues Friday, March 2, with the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project's second annual fundraiser.
This year's event -- from 6 to 8 p.m. in Allen Hall on UB's Main Street Campus -- will benefit the construction of a dormitory for a secondary school in Kitenga Village where education for these girls often is the difference between opportunity and a life of hardship and struggle.
"As the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project continues to grow and evolve, we are continually reminded of the power of collaboration and the potential that we all have to make a positive difference in the world," says Mara B. Huber, director of the UB Center for Educational Collaboration, whose chance encounter with nuns from the Mara region of Tanzania led to the ambitious project to change the arc of these young girls' lives.
Founded in 2008, Buffalo Tanzania Education Project (BTEP) began as an informal engagement initiative focused on Kitenga Village in the Mara Region of Northern Tanzania. BTEP now includes dozens of UB faculty from various departments, graduate students and staff, as well as members of the broader Western New York community, area colleges and community organizations.
"The more people get engaged in this project and travel to Tanzania (and to other communities in need) to understand the challenges and assets that can be leveraged, the better equipped we will be to partner and work together toward the greater good," Huber says.
Tickets for the fundraiser are $25, $15 for students. All of the proceeds of ticket sales will go toward construction of the dormitory, in partnership with the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI). The event will also feature a basket raffle to support the construction of a play space designed by internationally renowned designer Joe Frost for children of the village that includes a sports field scheduled to be built in July by BTEP members under the direction of a team of architects from TBG Architects of Texas.
The event also includes refreshments, an opportunity to talk to BTEP members from UB and the surrounding community who are leading BTEP projects and/or have traveled to the Tanzania village to work on related initiatives.
The next excursion of the growing team of university and community members trying to address the host of health and educational challenges in this underdeveloped region in Sub-Saharan Africa will be in early July, and led by UB's Katie Biggie, program manager for the Center for Educational Collaboration. This will be the second contingent of UB community members to visit the Mara Region, an area that is scenic as any movie set but struggling with the problems and poverty of a developing country. (The Mara name -- that coincidentally coincides with Huber's first name -- first caught Huber's attention during a serendipitous meeting with nuns from the region at a family gathering.)
Many of those who have visited the region return moved by the reality facing these young women, and the promise that the new school campus will bring. Group members often return with a greater desire to become more involved with the Kitenga community.
Through research, service and engagement projects focused on education, health, infrastructure and economics, BTEP members work to increase opportunities for women, children and their families in this underdeveloped region. Core partners include the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (IHSA), an order of Catholic nuns who run successful schools and health clinics throughout Tanzania.
Members of the IHSA have been studying at D'Youville College. Nuns from that order were those who made the initial contact with Huber and Biggie, who is cofounder of BTEP and working on a dissertation on Tanzania.
Since its beginnings, when a team of UB and community leaders visited the region in 2009, BTEP has made significant contributions. The first blocks of the secondary school and early childhood school are completed (in partnership with the Association for Childhood Education International). A deep well has been dug (through Buffalo Sunrise Rotary club and other contributing rotary clubs in the area), and solar cookers have been delivered (through Solar Liberty Foundation).
New BTEP developments include several graduate students conducting doctoral research around Tanzania and the BTEP project. Jessica Essary, a UB student studying early childhood education, just returned from a three-month trip to Tanzania where she traveled throughout the country studying gender inequity and visiting various schools.
A number of Fullbright scholars and graduate students from Tanzania have become involved in the project, along with Empire State College Professor Dan Nyaronga, PhD, who happens to be from the same region in Tanzania. Students' research interests are cultivated by faculty participating in the project as well as community trips coordinated by Biggie.
Other evolving efforts include a technology committee working on a pilot to bring Internet connectivity and computers to the developing school campus, and an NGO spin-off, the Girls Education Collaborative, looking to expand fundraising efforts for Kitenga Village while supporting capacity-building around girls' education.
Among those who will travel to Tanzania this July are Carole Smith Petro, recently retired associate vice president and general manager of WBFO, Barbara and Wallace Ochterski from the Buffalo Sunrise Rotary, their granddaughter Jennie Ochterski and Lauren Mullen, a Bonner Scholar from Berry College in Georgia, and Biggie.
More information on the ongoing projects can be found by visiting http://kitenga.wikia.com/wiki/Kitenga_Wiki.