Doing Good: Tech for Tanzania

Tech 4 Tanzania

You wake up, reach for your smartphone and check Twitter for overnight news before logging onto Facebook to post obligatory “Happy Birthday” messages. As your Keurig brews your coffee, you ask “Alexa” to play your favorite music. After you remote-start your car to warm up, you turn on the cruise control for your commute with satellite radio playing. Your key fob gets you into your building so that you may turn on your computer and settle in for another day at the office, periodically checking your Fitbit for an update on your steps.

With technology enveloping us, it may be tough to imagine a world without it. Yet far away in Tanzania, East Africa, university students lack even basic desktop computers. Those students have taught a group of midstate volunteers a lesson on giving.

“We are in Tanzania by chance, friendship, the work of others over many years, the call of God,” explains Randy Barr of Tech 4 Tanzania.

Barr and his wife, Anne Reeves, along with a tribe of devotees in York County founded Tech 4 Tanzania after an April 2012 visit from Pastor Amani Mwaijande. Barr and Reeves were both Lutheran pastors at the time, and their community had been helping Tanzanian students. Mwaijande represented a small teacher’s college in Tanzania that was working to become an accredited university.

As Barr, Reeves and friends listened, Mwaijande explained that the school had a total of only three out-of-date computers. School leadership had a goal: obtain 100 computers and hundreds of textbooks.

“At first, dread filled the room,” Barr recalls. “This was way too big for us.”

The dread lasted only momentarily, and soon the group began pondering how to reach the needs of the college.

“Folks in the room started to identify the relationships they had that they would call upon to help with the vision.”

Computer Ministry of Mechanicsburg donated 100 refurbished computers, Mission Central helped store electronics and friends put them in touch with an international shipper. Barr went to Tanzania himself to build relationships and ensure that the shipment could reach the college.

“Friendships expanded. New network connections developed. Enthusiasm to ‘do the impossible’ motivated all of us,” says Barr.

Since that day in 2012 when a few friends wondered how they could help, the help has been magnified.

“People who stand in various faith traditions have caught this vision and joined in to make good things happen,” explains Barr. “Individual contributions of cash and physical resources are combined to organize the needed goods and arrange for repair, short-term storage and shipment to Tanzania.”

That college in Tanzania has been accredited, and Tech 4 Tanzania has expanded its efforts, helping to build the largest library of academic books privately held and free-to-the-public in Tanzania. It provided a diocese with computer equipment while also contributing books, science equipment and other technology to two rural hospitals, a boarding school and a theological school.

“It [Tanzania] seems to be the place and the people with whom we fit for lives of caring service,” says Barr.

Midstate residents can help by donating needed equipment such as computers as well as tractors, treadle sewing machines, woodworking machines, welding equipment and even ambulances. As you can imagine, shipping such items is a monumental task, so monetary donations are cheerfully received as well as help with grant-writing for shipping funds. Volunteers are welcomed who can help find, repair or refurbish equipment.