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 the final week, enjoy 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 28, 2014 - July 30, 2014
  • July 10, 2014 - August 1, 2014
Students completing grades 9-12
Community Service
Typical Group:
16-18 Students, 2 Leaders
  • 4.5 week(s) (June 28, 2014 - July 30, 2014)
  • 3.5 week(s) (July 10, 2014 - August 1, 2014)


In this, our twentieth 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 African national parks, including the Serengeti Plains, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and Tarangire.

Working with local people on volunteer projects, immerse yourself in village life by helping complete community-initiated projects. You may build a classroom or simple housing for teachers at the school, improve a local water supply system, work on local farms — planting, harvesting, and selling crops at market, or help in an orphanage.  Rise early and spend most of each day in small groups on the project sites.  You also engage in an independent research project in your village.  Possible topics include: how the village political structure functions, 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, and wildlife management. Late afternoons and evenings are usually devoted to group activities with friends in town: dances, soccer games, hikes, and dinner parties.  Weekend excursions include visits to nearby farms and hikes into the surrounding hills. Participants in Putney’s four week program can expect to complete 80 to 100 hours of community service work. Students enrolled in the three week Tanzania program can expect to complete between 60 and 80 hours of community service work.

Volunteers in a community service village in Tanzania, Africa

Local children look forward to our group’s arrival each year.

The communities provide us with simple housing. There are separate areas for boys and girls, with bunk beds. While accommodations are not large, the housing is clean and comfortable. There is no electricity, but we have running water for simple showers. Bathrooms are outdoor latrines. Our groups are cared for by two wonderful, longtime friends of Putney Student Travel, Mama Killerai and Mama Latifa.  “The Mamas,” as they call themselves, along with some of their friends, nurture our groups for the month, shopping for us and cooking our dinners. You rotate periodically through cooking and cleaning crews responsible for preparing breakfast and lunch for the group and assisting the Mamas with dinner.

“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

Spend the final days of the program on a safari organized by close friends of Putney, who introduce you to Tanzania’s fascinating tribal culture, wildlife, and history. The safari on the four week program lasts six days and the safari of the three week program lasts 4 days. Both include a 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. Guides introduce you to Tanzania’s abundant wildlife in Tarangire National Park, where you can view animals up close. The safari continues to Ngorongoro Crater, where guides take you on an expedition into the ten-mile-wide crater. Driving through grassland, swamps, and along lakes and rivers, you safely encounter lions, zebras, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, monkeys, flamingos, wildebeest, jackals, and hyenas.

The program culminates with the presentation of independent projects around the campfire while on safari, and a joyous farewell celebration back in the village, where you join with your new friends to recognize the work accomplished, and to bid farewell.


  • Help build a village classroom that will accommodate fifty 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 a six-day safari.

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 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.



  • $6,890 (June 28, 2014 - July 30, 2014)
  • $5,890 (July 10, 2014 - August 1, 2014)

Putney organizes escorted international flights. Please consult us for fares.


Learn about last year’s program by reading the 2013 Community Service Tanzania Blog.

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

Summer Community Service Projects in Tanzania for Teens

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

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

Weekend Excursions • Take weekend excursions to stay in lodges in the hills near Mt. Kilimanjaro and to a cultural center where friends of Putney Student Travel introduce you to traditional Maasai culture.  Participate in music, dance, batik, beading, and cultural exchange.

“This was a wonderful experience for Andy. He gained a better sense of what life is like in non-Western countries and how nice it can be to live without all of the material possessions we often consider ‘necessities.’ We thank Putney for helping to open his eyes to another part of the world. Andy now thinks he may want to do work in East Africa.”

– Mark and Robin Neumann, parents of Andrew, Owings Mills, MD

Safari • The summer community service program culminates with a six-day 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.

Return • Fly with your group and a leader from 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 programs are independent but the experiences in each of the villages are similar.

Teen Community Service in Tanzania

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

Population  • The  population of Tanzania is approximately 45 million, but most of those people are 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 8,000 people who are spread throughout a large rural area.

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

“We had heard great things about your trips, and we were all, as a family, excited at the thought of Tillie going to a continent none of us had really explored. She had the time of her life and has talked exhaustively about her time there. She loved mixing with the local children, helping maintain their environment, and being part of the village. The visit to the ex-Black Panther’s orphanage and the concluding safari were the icing on the cake.”

– Julian Grant and Peter Lighte, Parents of Tillie, Princeton, NJ

Climate • Tanzania is situated on the equator, and weather conditions do not vary greatly through the year.  During our visit, it is dry (Tanzania has been in a cycle of drought for many years) and comfortable.  The sun is powerful.  Temperatures rise to the 70s during the day, and drop to the 50s at night.  On safari, one or two nights are spent at higher altitude, 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.

Teen Travel Safari in Tanzania

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.

Voltage Electric current is 220V, and plugs are types D and G: large round three-pin and large flat three-pin heads, respectively.  Electricity is scarce in the villages; we rely on the DC outlets in our Land Rover to charge cameras and phones.  Solar chargers and extra batteries are helpful.

Visa • Tanzania requires a tourist visa for entry and students also need a “work permit” to complete community service projects. Putney provides detailed guidelines on obtaining both of these. The combined cost of the documents comes to close to $300. Non U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements.

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The Community Service Tanzania program is directed by Karen Phillips. 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!

Karen Phillips

Karen Phillips: St. Lawrence University, B.A., French. Karen caught the travel bug in high school while on a music tour through Europe, and later studied abroad in Switzerland, France, and Senegal. She has led Putney’s language program in France and community service program in Senegal, and coordinates programs in Europe and Africa. Karen spends her free time volunteering as a labor doula at a local hospital, hiking the ADK High Peaks, doing yoga, and running in and creating adventure races.

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.