Africa not far from the hearts of Americans



Sister Susana Bosuh of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, director of the Salome Learning Center in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, greets East Longmeadow resident Richard Pelland during a 2008 fact-finding trip. Pelland is founder and president of Project Tanzania Partnership Inc., which recently received its nonprofit status.

By Lori Szepelak
The Reminder Online

It's a half a world away but the people of Tanzania are close to the heart for many individuals in Western Massachusetts.

With the recent establishment of a new nonprofit corporation, Project Tanzania Partnership Inc., the sky's now the limit in terms of how individuals and organizations can make a difference in the lives of others.

During a recent interview with East Longmeadow resident Richard Pelland, founder and president of Project Tanzania Partnership Inc., he spoke passionately about the needs in villages, hospitals and learning centers across the country, and how the new nonprofit hopes to inspire others to offer their time and skills to make a difference in the lives of children and adults. Pelland is joined on the board of directors by Clementina Kakolaki, treasurer, and Linda Healy, clerk.

"It's not just about receiving funds," Pelland said. "I think many people want to belong to something that is larger ... and in my conversations with others, I know there is great interest in Africa."

Pelland added the group's mission is to harness interested community partners in this region and elsewhere to help support and advocate for the "heroic efforts being made by the people providing care on the ground" in Tanzania.

"We believe this provides the best opportunity for major impact and reforms," he said.

Pelland described the nonprofit as a "catalyst" for change, with people coming together -- united by shared values.

There are several projects that members of the Project Tanzania Partnership are especially passionate about -- the Salome Learning Center in Dar es Salaam, the 260-bed Ndolage Hospital, and the Kamachumu Secondary School, both in Bukoba.

The secondary school and the hospital are located in the village of Kamachumu, located in the northwest corner of the country bordering Uganda. Pelland described Kamachumu as rural and mountainous with an elevation of about 4,500 feet above sea level.

"It is rich in vegetation and bananas and because of its elevation the climate is comfortable," he said.

Pelland noted that the Salome Learning Center is located in Tandale Parish, an area that is "quite marginalized" within a larger urban environment, adding that the center is a new program serving young women who did not qualify to enter secondary school after completion of grade seven.

"The young women are poor and in the absence of this program would be relegated to the street without any means of support," Pelland said.

During a trip in 2008 to Tanzania, Pelland and his fellow travelers met with the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa who oversee the center and they in turn introduced their students and the life enrichment skills programs that are offered on a daily basis.

One of the students, Regina, was a standout from all the others.

"Regina completed primary education in 2006 (standard seven) and did not qualify for secondary education," Pelland said. "In 2008, she began at the Salome Learning Center and received tutoring in English and began a vocational course in sewing."

Pelland explained that Regina is the third born of seven children, and her family lives in a rented room that serves as bedroom and living room. Her father is a local trader in the sale of goods on the roadside in a small kiosk, but was recently asked to leave the area as a result of the road being extended as well as the development of a larger store.

"Leaving or moving from this place on the roadside means the loss of customers and income," Pelland added.

He noted that by helping fund the learning center, and by providing students like Regina with tuition and books, more children can seek out a safe haven and benefit from vocational development and training.

"The young women learn sewing and how to make clothes and many of their clothes can be potentially sold to provide some source of income," Pelland said.

As he and his fellow Partnership members gear up for a letter campaign introducing the new nonprofit, they all agree that a small amount of money can have an "incredible impact" on others. However, it's not just about donations it's about people in this country becoming "ambassadors" by visiting and sharing their skills with others.

"These people will inspire you," Pelland added.

In the coming years, the nonprofit will help purchase sewing machines, school supplies and sewing materials for the Salome Learning Center, as well as support the restoration and repair of the hydropower turbines at the hospital which will help meet or exceed its electricity needs. Additionally, the Partnership will support education and school projects at the secondary school.

Pelland noted that his "take away" from every trip to Tanzania is the same "you always feel more inspired," he said, adding the group's next trip is scheduled for this December.

For more information on how to become involved with the new nonprofit, go to