Tanzania | Community Service

Immerse yourself in village life as you join local people to volunteer on community-initiated projects on this summer community service program in Tanzania, East Africa. During your final week, venture out on a specially designed safari that combines world-class wildlife viewing in Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park with a stay at a remote Maasai village.

  • June 27, 2016  –  July 29, 2016
  • July 10, 2016  –  August 1, 2016
Students completing grades 9 – 12
Community Service
Typical Group:
15 – 17 students, 2 leaders
  • 33 days (June 27 – July 29)
  • 23 days (July 10 – August 1)


  • Help build a village classroom that accommodates 50 students.
  • Join Tanzanian families as they plant and harvest their crops.
  • Volunteer at a local orphanage.
  • Explore the ten-mile-wide Ngorongoro Crater.
  • Spot lions, monkeys, and elephants and stay in a Maasai village on safari.


Village Life and Service

In this, our twenty-second summer in Tanzania, two separate volunteer projects will take place in agricultural villages outside the northern town of Arusha. Situated on the slopes of Mt. Meru, approximately 80 kilometers west of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the fertile Arusha area is well-suited to agricultural production. The towns are close to many of the country’s wildlife parks, including the Serengeti Plains, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire.

Work with local people and immerse yourself in village life by helping complete community-initiated projects. You may build a classroom or simple housing for school teachers, teach math or English to local children, improve the village water supply system, help in an orphanage, or work on local farms planting, harvesting, and selling crops at market.  Rise early and spend most of each day in small groups on the project sites. Late afternoons and evenings are usually devoted to group activities with our Tanzanian friends: dances, soccer games, hikes, or dinner parties.  Weekend excursions include visits to nearby farms and hikes into the surrounding hills. Participants of the 33-day program can expect to complete between 80-100 hours of community service. Students enrolled in the 23-day program can expect to complete between 60-80 hours of community service.

We are cared for by a group of local women who are wonderful, longtime friends of Putney Student Travel. “The Mamas,” as they call themselves, nurture us during our time in the village, shopping for us, and cooking our dinners. We rotate periodically through cooking and cleaning crews responsible for preparing breakfast and lunch for the group and assisting the Mamas with dinner.

The 33-day program has a farewell celebration back in the host village after safari, where we reunite with our new friends to recognize the work accomplished. The 23-day program bids farewell to the host village before heading out on safari.

Immerse yourself in a rural Tanzanian village with a group of like-minded students.

Immerse yourself in a rural Tanzanian village with a group of like-minded students.

Independent Projects

Engage in an independent research project to better understand life in your village.  Possible topics include: the function of the local political structure, the role of music and dance in Tanzania, how ujamaa (villagization) shapes community interdependence, the role of women as the primary agricultural producers, tourism and the economy, or wildlife management. Both programs culminate with the presentation of independent projects around the campfire while on safari.

“The Tanzania program met all our expectations, which were high to begin with since our son Matt had participated in the Ecuador Community Service program last summer and had a terrific experience. I think Lauren learned quickly that she was able to manage quite happily without many of the comforts in life that we are accustomed to. Her perspective on life and those around her has broadened and her self-confidence has been boosted by the experience.”

— Tim and Lynne Menzie, parents of Lauren Menzie, Pingree School, North Reading, MA

Final Aventure

Spend the final days of the program on a safari organized by close friends of Putney, who introduce us to Tanzania’s fascinating tribal culture, wildlife, and history. Stay in traditional hunting lands as guests of the Maasai tribe, complete with a reception by a village elder and a traditional feast held in our group’s honor. Explore Tanzania’s abundant wildlife in Tarangire National Park, where we view animals up close. The safari continues to Ngorongoro Crater, where guides take us on an expedition into the ten-mile-wide caldera. Driving through grassland, swamps, and along lakes and rivers, safely encounter lions, zebras, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, monkeys, flamingos, wildebeest, jackals, and hyenas.


Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. Our living accommodations in Tanzania are very simple. We sleep in sleeping bags on bunk beds in a village house, with girls and boys in separate rooms. There is no electricity, but we have running water for simple showers in a building across a courtyard. Bathrooms are outhouses. We cook on a gas stove. During the safari portion of the program, we stay in tents provided by our local outfitter. The leaders reside together with the students.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are active. Days are filled with movement — working on community service projects, playing with local children, exploring our host community on foot, going on a hike, or preparing our group’s meals. Pick-up games of frisbee or soccer with our new friends can be organized by leaders and students.

A Typical Day

7 a.m. — Breakfast
8 a.m.–12 p.m. — Work
12 p.m.–2 p.m. — Lunch and Rest
2 p.m.–4 p.m. — Work
4 p.m.–6 p.m. — Help prepare dinner, play soccer, relax
6 p.m. — Dinner
8 p.m. — Group Meeting and/or group activity

During the week, we wake up between 6 – 7am, eat breakfast together as a group, and then head to the work site from 8am – 12pm. Work may include mixing cement, painting, participating in a local harvest, or teaching local kids. We’ll break for a long lunch and rest time, then return to work for a few hours in the afternoon. After work, relax, play soccer with local friends, help cook dinner, or pursue independent research. After a group dinner together, participate in a meeting to discuss the day, plan for upcoming excursions, or simply play a game together. Weekends are a time to explore. Hike to a nearby waterfall, explore a local forest preserve, or visit a community market.

What to Expect

For most of each weekday, we are actively involved in community service work.  This work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be demanding and you can expect to spend most of each day outside.  Everyone participates in all of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup.   Since we live in our village as the local people do, accommodations are very simple, with separate space for boys and girls, and basic bathroom facilities.  You should come to the program with an open-mind, eager to participate in new experiences and interested in exploring another culture and way of life.

At Putney we take pride in our reputation for careful, thorough planning and attention to detail. The descriptions of our high school summer travel programs are based on our experiences in previous summers and our plans for this summer. It is inevitable that some things described here will not happen exactly as presented. To get the most out of the Putney experience, participants need to be flexible in responding to unforeseen situations, and creative in taking advantage of unexpected opportunities. We expect Putney participants to share responsibility for the success of their experience. Rules that provide a safe and structured environment, set curfews, and prohibit the use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are in place and enforced. We expect you to behave in a mature and productive way at all times.


  • $7,290 plus airfare (June 27 - July 29)
  • $6,290 plus airfare (July 10 - August 1)


Putney organizes and reserves seats for students on a round-trip group flight from a gateway U.S. airport to your program destination. One or more of your group leaders will be at the airport to welcome you and to fly with the group on both departure and return. Please consult us for fares.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2015 Community Service Tanzania Blog.

This program begins and ends at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York City.

This itinerary represents a general description of the group’s travels in Tanzania, but exact itineraries vary by unit.  Putney groups live and partner with different host villages and do not meet during the program.

Departure • Join the group as you begin a month or three weeks of village-based community service in rural northern Tanzania.  The group flight departs from New York, where you meet one of your leaders and fly to Kilimanjaro International Airport outside Arusha, Tanzania.

Work alongside local people on important projects identified by the community.

Work alongside local people on important projects identified by the community.

Host Village • Travel a short distance by bus to our host village in the foothills of Mt. Meru.  Live together as a group as we collaborate with local people and undertake several important service projects.

Weekend Excursions • Stay in community-based lodges in the hills near Mt. Kilimanjaro, learn about coffee production from local farmers, and participate in music, dance, batik, beading, and cultural exchange.

“I expected a fun, culturally rich, and eye-opening experience. The program was beyond anything I could have wished for. It was absolutely amazing and life changing.”

— Rayna Erasmus, Westfield High School, Westfield, NJ

Safari • The program culminates with a cultural and wildlife safari in private lands of the Maasai tribe and in national parks that are world-renowned for their wildlife:  Tarangire, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro Crater. The safari on the 33-day program lasts six days and on the 23-day program, five days.

Return • Fly with your group and a leader from Kilimanjaro International Airport outside Arusha, Tanzania to New York and continue on to your final destination.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule.  However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.


Background • Tanzania’s welcoming people, cultural vitality, and extraordinary natural beauty make it a favorite destination for travelers.  A well-established democratic government and a widely respected system of public education are the keys to Tanzania’s reputation as a stable, safe country.  Comprised of over 120 different ethnic groups, Tanzania’s people rely heavily on agriculture for both subsistence and livelihood.  The country boasts abundant wildlife, and Tanzanians pride themselves on their rich natural resources and peaceful history.  Our Tanzania programs return this year to two villages located on the fertile lower slopes of Mt. Meru, near the safari center of Arusha in Northern Tanzania. Our two Tanzania groups are independent but the experiences in each of the villages are similar.

We have a unique opportunity to get to know Maasai culture by staying for a night in a Maasai boma.

We have a unique opportunity to get to know Maasai culture by staying for a night in a Maasai boma.

Population  • There are approximately 50 million people living in Tanzania, with most of the population clustered in the capital city of Dar es Salaam, which we do not visit.  Arusha, the largest city near our program villages, has about 1.5 million people. Each of our project villages is small, home to roughly 5,000 people who are spread throughout a large rural area.

Language  • While each of the 120 ethnic groups in the nation has its own dialect, Swahili is the language spoken by the majority of Tanzanians.  The program includes basic instruction in survival Swahili.  Higher education is conducted in English, thus many older people speak English.

“Seeing the work that we had completed at the school and all the projects we finished as a group made me feel an extreme sense of accomplishment. It also made me very proud to realize that I had truly gotten to know and develop personal relationships with the members of my village. I gained a better understanding of myself as a person and a better understanding for what it means to truly immerse one’s self in an entirely different culture.”

– Clara Roth, Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Cambridge, MA

Climate • Tanzania is situated on the Equator, and weather conditions do not vary greatly throughout the year.  During our visit it will be the dry season.  The sun is powerful.  Temperatures rise to the 70s and 80s during the day, and drop to the 50s at night.  On safari, one or two nights are spent at camps where temperatures can drop to the 40s.

Cuisine • Food in Tanzania is varied, with curries, grilled meat, and plenty of tropical fruit and vegetables.  There is an Indian influence, with particular appreciation of breads, like chapati and naan. Western influence is also seen in the availability of pastas and cereals.

End your program with incredible up-close view of wildlife on a safari in Tanzania's world-renowned national parks.

End your program with incredible up-close view of wildlife on a safari in Tanzania’s world-renowned national parks.

Currency • Tanzania uses the Shilling (TZS).  We change money in banks on visits to Arusha.  ATM machines are also available in Arusha.

Visa • U.S. citizens must obtain a visa to enter Tanzania. Since a valid passport is a part of the visa application, it is important to obtain your passport well in advance of departure. Putney Student Travel provides detailed information about how to apply for a visa. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.  


The Community Service Tanzania program is directed by John Linsley. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school summer programs abroad, please get in touch!

John Linsley

John Linsley: St. Lawrence University, B.A., Government; Maxwell School of Syracuse University, M.A., International Relations. John’s love of travel began in high school when he studied in Germany on an exchange program. Since then, he has studied and worked in East and West Africa, Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean. Fluent in Swahili, the regional language of East Africa, John has led Putney’s Mt. Kilimanjaro program and the Community Service Tanzania program for several summers. He currently oversees programming in Tanzania, South Africa, and India. A certified EMT, John is trained in wilderness medicine and is an avid runner, skier, and kayaker.

How To Apply


If you are new to Putney Student Travel, visit our Online Application.  
If you are a Putney Student Travel alumni family, 
use your existing account information to Log In.


You can hold a space in a program by completing the Online Application Form, submitting a signed Agreement Form, and providing the $700 Application Deposit by Mastercard, Visa, or Discover Card through our secure online system or by sending a check to our office. Our admissions staff is also available to take credit card information over the phone.  We will hold a space in a program for a reasonable time, pending completion of the full application process. See Step 3.

After March 15, we will hold a space temporarily as above, but we must receive full payment by check or wire transfer within three days to continue to hold a space in the program.


Before we can make a final admissions decision, an application must be complete.  In addition to the Application Form and Application Deposit described above, a complete application includes:

  • Applicant Statement – Attach a statement explaining why you would like to join a Putney program and what you feel you can contribute to it. Your application cannot be processed without this statement. Approximately 150–300 words is sufficient. Global Action applicants’ statements must be 300-500 words addressing these questions, and detailing their interest and/or experience in the country and issues on which they wish to focus.
  • Two Teacher Reference Forms

These documents are available as part of our Online Application.  We review a completed application within a few days, and notify families of our admissions decision by e-mail.