Champlain College students help kids in Zanzibar

Published: Jul. 14, 2018 at 9:17 AM EDT
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Some Champlain College students were able to go to Zanzibar in January as part of a class.

Zanzibar is a Tanzanian island chain off the coast of East Africa.

The students swam with dolphins, saw a bunch of monkeys, and learned native dances and basket weaving.

But it was the people living in Zanzibar that really made an impact on them.

When Champlain College Junior Anna Matich signed up for a travel course to Zanzibar, she had a lot to learn.

"Didn't know it existed. Didn't know where it was located," Matich said.

She and two of her other classmates, Abbey Barr and Jackie Noborikawa, were impressed by the exotic sights and sounds on the archipelago.

They visited some enthusiastic primary school students on the island of Pemba.

"For me especially, hearing a little girl go 'I want to be a scientist when I grow up or an engineer.' I was like 'I want to help you. That's great.'" Matich said.

Matich and her classmates quickly realized a lack of technology is standing in the way of that success.

"Currently, they just have a textbook. It's a textbook. It's in English. It's a little bit outdated. But it talks about computers. So they're learning from that textbook about computers, but they don't have any actual computers," Matich said.

For Matich, a computer science major, the situation was eye opening.

"They were passionate about it. And personally, I don't think I would have ever been able to get passionate about computers if I was just reading about it," Matich said.

That's why the Champlain College students decided to step in.

They've collected 25 laptops and got funding for solar panels and generators for the school. Now the students are raising money for flights to Zanzibar and shipping costs.

But their professor, Stephen Wehmeyer, says the women are not just throwing money at the problem.

"They're really done their research. They're really engaged with the culture, and they've really made an effort to make sure that they're making the right kind of change," Wehmeyer said.

"We're going to do this. We're going to make this happen," Matich said.

The students hope they can keep this project going, sending more laptops each year.

They're hoping to raise around $5,000 this time around.

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