Release Date: December 2, 2015
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo community will celebrate the ongoing accomplishments of the university’s Buffalo Tanzania Education Project (BTEP) — including the launch of a new book on the project — at a special event to take place at 5 p.m. Dec. 3 in 100 Allen Hall, South Campus.
The book release party will be an opportunity to honor the work the UB contingent has already done in Tanzania and rally around the work that is continuing. In collaboration with the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa, the Girls Education Collaborative (GEC), the Sunrise Rotary and other groups that have linked into UB’s BTEP initiative, the Kitenga School for Girls, located in the remote area of the Mara region in Tanzania, is expected to open within the year.
“Over the years, the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project has generated many exciting, tangible results, including research projects, courses and contributions to an evolving school for girls scheduled to open this year,” says Mara B. Huber, BTEP co-founder and UB associate dean for undergraduate research and experiential learning.
“The project is built on a simple, yet compelling idea that by framing our engagement around a common vision and focus, we can expand our reach while creating meaningful opportunities for all involved,” Huber says.
Thursday’s celebration, which is open to the public, includes informal presentations from several students who have traveled to Tanzania as part of the UB program. Eight students will go there in January for an intimate look into the challenges and complexities of community development in this remote part of the world, while taking in the beauty of the land and culture.
The event also will give students and faculty a sneak peek at the book Huber wrote with collaborator and trip co-facilitator Dan Nyaronga, professor at Empire State College and a native of the Mara region.
The book, “Finding Your Impact through International Travel: Stories from the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project,” will be available for purchase at the event. It was written for students of all ages, encouraging them to “touch the world through travel and engagement,” Huber says.
“By sharing the stories of BTEP,” she says, “we hope to draw readers into the complexities of community development and international engagement while demonstrating the potential to accomplish great things when we work together and leverage our collective resources.”
All proceeds from sales of the book support scholarships for girls in the Mara region. A $10-per-person donation will be accepted at the door and used to support community development projects in Tanzania to be identified by students during their upcoming visit.
Huber’s commitment and excitement is matched by students, both those who have been on previous trips and those set to make their first visit in January.
“Tanzania is beautiful,” says Tyler Choi, who went there during his freshman and sophomore years. “There are endless savannahs and wild life, and great weather.”
Choi’s thoughtful and poetic observations could fill his own published journal. “Students will realize how incredibly blessed they are,” he writes. “Tanzanians have the kindest souls and the most thankful and happiest life perspectives. The personal relationships will amplify the entire experience and change your life to a degree you didn’t even know was possible.”
Choi founded Hugs for Tanzania in 2014, raising $1,300 and more than 2,000 school supplies. He says “Stories from the Buffalo Tanzania Education Project” is key to the UB Tanzania experience because “hopefully it will help students realize that they have all the potential to accomplish anything that they are passionate toward,” he wrote. “YOU CAN DO IT.”
Amanda Vega is a junior majoring in political science and history. Her best friend went on the Tanzania trip two years ago and frequently told her about the amazing encounters she had. “So I knew this was something I had to be part of,” she says. This will be her first trip.
“Growing up, my parents did their absolute best to give my sister and me an amazing life,” she says. “But when things would get a little rough, they would always remind us that there are children who didn’t even have the basic things we did. So from an early age I was always very interested in community outreach and helping those who didn’t have much.”
Vega joined with Julia Ramirez, a senior majoring in sociology and communication, to create a “gofundme” account. To date, they have raised $2,165.
“We plan to keep on striving for more,” Vega says. “Every time Julia and I get a new donation — even if it’s for $10 — we text each other back and forth about how amazing these people are for donating to us. There have been plenty of instances where people donate to us and I just cry because giving back to those who need it is the most beautiful thing people can do for one another,” she says.
“What I plan to get out of this trip is to simply help in any way I can.”
Huber admits that “sometimes my head spins just thinking about the possibilities. UB students are truly amazing and I couldn’t be more excited to return to Tanzania to continue what we started.”