The SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies in Tanzania is located in the village of Rhotia in Northern Tanzania. Rhotia is a small village and most of the inhabitants are subsistence farmers. Rhotia lacks tourist infrastructure and attractions so it’s an understatement to say that SFS students stick out when they are strolling along the quiet, dusty paths of Rhotia. But, although we may stick out like sore thumbs, the Rhotians have welcomed SFS into their community with open arms. The Rhotians invite the students and SFS staff to join in community soccer games, they open their homes to our students for homestays, they graciously agree to be interviewed for students’ research, and they patiently put up with students’ broken Swahili.
As a small gesture of our appreciation we try to give back to the community through community service. A couple times a month SFS students participate in community service projects such as volunteering at a local orphanage, teaching English at a primary school, painting murals, planting trees, picking up trash in the village, and building new buildings at a nearby school. Working on these projects not only improves the community, but it also gives students an opportunity to work side by side with community members and learn new skills.
SFS students teaching English at a local primary school. All photos courtesy of Becky Gottlieb
Students after a community service session spent painting a newly-constructed classroom at a primary school in Rhotia
The most recent project is to establish a small library in Rhotia. The Center for Wildlife Management Studies partnered with Project Rhotia (a local NGO that promotes computer literacy in Rhotia) to build the library. Since books are not common in most Tanzanian homes, the library will give community members a place to read and learn outside of school. Anyone who visits the library will have access to Kiswahili and English language books, as well as art supplies and educational games.
Construction began in Spring 2016 and the finishing touches are being put on the library now. The Spring 2016, Summer 2016, and now the Fall 2016 students have all been very enthusiastic about helping out with the construction. Hopefully the library will be completed later this semester and we can’t wait to open it up for the community to enjoy!
Students and local construction workers working together to build the foundation of the community library
Students using a “bucket brigade” to carry cement to the library construction site
Students learning how to mix cement by hand while helping out with the library construction