Partners for climate change research in Tanzania
Littered with old National Geographic magazines, a model volcano, and a solar cooker, Bartholomew Meena’s crammed science room in Machame, Tanzania, captured Amy Kaspar’s heart at first glance.
“He created all the science projects we had from our childhood in one room,” recalls Kaspar, a former Rotary Scholar who’s now a member of the Rotary Club of Capital Square in Ohio. Within those projects, she saw Meena’s passion for his environment and a wealth of unexplored opportunities, particularly the chance to collaborate and study the environmental impact of Mount Kilimanjaro’s melting glaciers.
“I had attended several lectures recently at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center,” Kaspar says. “The thought hit me, shouldn’t the people who live around the mountain know about what is happening and prepare for the changes?”
Kaspar spent the next four years connecting Meena with the center, which has been doing cutting edge climate change research. Kaspar’s desire to help Machame matched the center’s goal of providing more research to local communities where it could do more good. And by utilizing Rotary’s network, she was able to bring Rotary members in Ohio and Machame into the collaboration.
Together, they would teach communities at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro how to adapt to the changing temperatures and precipitation patterns.
“Tanzania is an area where we haven’t been able to give back as much,” says Jason Cervenac, educational outreach coordinator for the Byrd center, “and an educational initiative seemed to be an obvious approach.”
The center is also providing Meena with material to write a new curriculum in Swahili, which Rotary members will help publish, distribute, and promote. Additional plans are in the works to use posters to educate the community, hold seminars and community workshops, and fund study exchanges between Tanzania and Ohio.
None of this would have been possible without the Rotary infrastructure, Kaspar says.
“It’s all about the personal relationships you establish,” she adds. “Rotary has changed who I am, and now I want to do what I can to help change the lives of others for the better.”
Kaspar’s path to Rotary began in 1993,when she studied architecture and international development at Oxford Brooks University in Oxford, England, through a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship. There she met her host family, Jane and Peter Jones of the Rotary Club of Haddenham and District.
“Amy arrived in a wheelchair with a bicycle. Need I say more?” says Jane, who with her husband has hosted more than 20 scholars. “We found it difficult to control her exuberance and enthusiasm and keep her plans grounded, but that isn’t a criticism.”
The Jones family invited Kaspar to attend club activities and take part in service projects. A decade later, they put her in touch with Rotary members in Tanzania, where she would go on to work with the relatively new Rotary Club of Machame.
“I’m here today because my host dad in England would never let me off the hook and always made sure I got involved in stuff,” she says. “Service is now a part of who I am. It’s a part of my genetic makeup.”