Forming a Foundation, TWU students work in Tanzania

The Global Projects Tanzania Team Members – Dan Fama, Jamie Kopp, Arend Strikwerda, Sara Regehr, Oliver Start & Stelna Roussouw

For most university students, the memories of their summer holidays are fading as fast as their tans. But for a group of Trinity Western University students, their summer experiences have left a distinct mark not just on their own lives but also on Tanga, a city on the east coast of Tanzania. 

Tanga, populated by approximately 300,000 people and situated on the coast of the Indian Ocean, is a port city and railroad terminus bustling with the exports of coffee, tea and cotton. While trade is the backbone of the city, the metropolis lags in education and healthTanzaniaTeam2009-8 care, according to TWU’s Global Projects Team Leader and International Development major Dan Fama. 

This was the second time Fama had been to Tanzania. He traveled with TWU in 2008, and in the summer of 2009 he found himself co-leading the team. Missions is no stranger to Fama. The 21-year-old is a “missionary kid” or MK whose parents worked heavily in Papua New Guinea for over 11 years. When asked what makes a good missionary Fama, with the confidence and experience behind him, says, “Someone who has a heart to serve God in places or in ways that might not be comfortable or easy. In Tanzania you have to be okay with ambiguity and be flexible and be able to adapt to situations. Here (in North America) we are keen on timing, planning and organization, and in other situations in other cultures all your plans are not going to go as smoothly as possible.”

 Trinity Western University has a long history of working in Tanzania, and so it was no surprise that four students chose to go to spend their summer working there. Each student was matched up with a Tanzanian counterpart, and then the teams of two worked on four main projects:  health care, education, municipal government, and in an orphanage.

Arend Strikwerda, a 20-year-old Honours Biology and pre-med student, found himself volunteering in a hospital in Tanga.Paired withDSCF1820 his counterpart, 27-year-old Anthony Hango from Tanga, the two lived in close quarters and taught each other Swahili and English, an experience Strikwerda admits was challenging.

He says, “Without him, I would have been lost, alone and clueless in the middle of Tanga. Through him, I learned about Tanzania and its culture - specifically, what people expected of me, common courtesies - these sorts of things, and I was also able to glean a lot of information regarding our project from him. Obviously, I think it’s really challenging, and so I think working with a counterpart really helped form my character.”

Fama explains the importance of having a counterpart by saying, “Essentially the counterpart bond that is experienced between TWU and the Tanzanians will form the foundation of our partnership. It is hoped that it will foster experienced young people who will continue making changes in their community when weDSCF1826 depart.”

Strikwerda blogged about his experience while he was in Tanzania, sharing the true culture of the city and country and his work in the small hospital called the Tumaini Health Centre. He says, “I worked with the doctors in clinics and in-patient care, but spent the bulk of my time using practical skills that I had learned from university labs in the hospital labs. I was able to learn a variety of tests using basic lab equipment that helped diagnose the common diseases of that area.”

When asked if he would return to Tanga, Strikwerda says, “I would love to. I have friends there, and I can also see that there are things thatTanzaniaTeam2009-4 can be done. I want to return to continue what we have started, especially since the team that is going next summer will be working in areas that I now have experience in. If God is calling me, finances will come - I shouldn't be worried. I guess what lies ahead for me right now is a lot prayer to determine where God is leading me, and if he is leading me there then I should have no fear.”

The Tanzanian Global Projects Team has big goals for what they want to accomplish, and Fama seems confident that they will get it done.In preparation for next year, the project is hoping to find a doctor or a nurse from TWU, and nursing and pre-med students to help Tanzanians in their launch of a Nursing Training School situated in Tanga. TWU is currently seeking to partner with Food for the Hungry Canada’s IMED program (International Medical Equipment Distribution) to ship a container of appropriate, requested medical supplies and equipment to resource the clinic and nursing school. It is hoped that the education gained at this training school will enable local health care workers to provide aid to remote villages and even teach simple ways to avoid common illnesses.

Fama has this advice for those thinking about the mission field. “I would encourage them to pray about it and really consider it. It is life shaping. It will either show them that this is something that they want to do or they will understand that this is not where God is calling them.”

To read about the blog by the TWU Global Projects Team visit

Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C., is a provincially chartered, independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university, enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 42 undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include nursing, counseling psychology, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.


Last Updated: 2009-10-23
Author: Erin Mussolum