Mitzvah Corps Tanzania

Live locally, just outside of the town of Arusha. Support community-initiated projects. Immerse in village life and foster lasting friendships. Learn the basics of Swahili. Embark on a multi-day safari and track lions, zebras, elephants, and more in Ngorongoro Crater and Tarangire National Park.

Issue Focus: Rural Education & Wildlife Conservation

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.

Tanzania's well-established democracy and robust political education system, in addition to its extraordinary hospitality, cultural vivacity, and abundant wildlife, make it a nurturing environment to gain perspective on traditional tribal cultures and rural development issues. Mitzvah Corps Tanzania participants have the opportunity to engage with various communities, as well as go on safari, and be immersed in Tanzanian life.

In Partnership With: Putney Student Travel

Mitzvah Corps Tanzania, run in partnership with Putney Student Travel, combines Putney's extensive experience and network in Tanzania with Mitzvah Corps' deeply rooted Reform Jewish values and commitment to engaging participants in meaningful, relevant Jewish experiences. 

Social Justice

Mitzvah Corps is committed to providing sustainable support; all of the direct service projects are initiated by local community members, and relevant context is thoroughly discussed. While specific projects vary, as we work in response to the evolving needs of the community, they typically include:

  • Building a village classroom or teacher housing
  • Working in an after-school program
  • Teaching and tutoring English to children
  • Harvesting local crops

Village Life Immersion

Mitzvah Corps Tanzania participants will be living in a Meru village outside the town of Arusha. They'll stay in a home assisted by a group of wonderful local women, known as the Mamas, who will help the group shop for food and prepare meals. Plenty of time is spent getting to know the community members:

  • Meeting local farmers to learn how coffee is grown
  • Participating in music, dance, batik, and beading
  • Playing soccer with local children
  • Learning Swahili from new friends

Additionally, each teen has the opportunity to engage in a personal project to better understand life in the village, with the option to explore a topic of their choosing. 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. 

Safari & Maasai Tribal Lands

In addition to regular hikes to waterfalls in the local forest reserve near Arusha, the program culminates with a multi-day cultural and wildlife safari in private lands of the Maasai tribe and in Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.

Drive through grassland, swamps, and along lakes and rivers, and safely encounter lions, zebras, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, monkeys, flamingos, wildebeest, jackals, and hyenas!

Stay in tents on traditional hunting lands as guests of the Maasai tribe, complete with a reception by a village elder and a traditional feast held in the group's honor.

Below is our preliminary itinerary. We refine the schedule as we approach each summer to respond to the evolving needs, and take advantage of the most current opportunities, in the local communities. Shabbat will be observed in the local community on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and Havdallah is celebrated on Saturday evening.

Day 1 - Travel to Arusha, Tanzania
The program will commence at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York. Prior to departure, the staff will guide the participants in a series of introductory programs, including getting to know one another, providing relevant background information about Tanzania, and setting expectations for the next few weeks. Then the group will fly together from New York to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha, Tanzania. They'll spend nearly a full day in transit, and our partners in Tanzania will be excited for their arrival!

Days 2-17 - Life in the Meru Village
Over the course of the next few weeks, the group will settle in, getting acquainted with the country and the group, and collaborate with local community members to take on several important projects. Days will include:

  • A direct service component such as building classrooms, teaching English, or working in after school programs
  • Spending time with people in the village, learning how coffee is grown, participating in music and dance, or playing soccer with local children
  • Exploring the nearby waterfalls and forest reserve

Days 18-22 - Wildlife Safari & Maasai Tribal Lands
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 and Ngorongoro Crater.

Day 23 - Return to the United States
The group will fly together back from Kilimanjaro International Airport in Arusha, Tanzania, to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). 

Each Mitzvah Corps international program commences at a U.S. gateway airport. Participants are responsible for their transportation to the gateway city, where they will be greeted by their Mitzvah Corps staff. The entire group will travel together from the gateway airport to their international destination, and return together upon conclusion of the program.

Domestic Travel to New York City

Mitzvah Corps Tanzania will commence at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) outside New York, New York.

Participants are responsible for their own transportation from their home to the airport. Travel parameters are provided upon registration; once confirmed, participants will submit their domestic travel plans to Mitzvah Corps. 

The cost of domestic travel is not included in tuition, nor does Mitzvah Corps make arrangements for any domestic travel.

Domestic carriers have varying regulations regarding unaccompanied minors (read specific policies and fees of major domestic carriers Southwest, United, Delta, American, and JetBlue). Please refer to the protocol of the chosen airline, and notify Mitzvah Corps in advance of the program so that we can provide the contact information for the staff member who will greet the teen upon their arrival, and coordinate a smooth travel experience. 

International Travel to Tanzania

Participants and staff on Mitzvah Corps Tanzania will depart together from JFK Airport, and return there when the program concludes. All participants must travel with the group.

The cost of this round-trip airfare is estimated to be about $2,400 and is not included in the program tuition. 

Mitzvah Corps handles booking and purchasing seats for each participant on the group flight. When the seat is ticketed in the spring and the cost is finalized, that charge will be added to your Mitzvah Corps bill, and you will be required to pay it in full by April 1st.

If you have access to points or miles that you'd prefer to use instead of dollars, and there is reward availability on the group flight, that method of booking may be available. Please contact us to discuss this option.

Obtaining a Tourist Visa

U.S. citizens must obtain a tourist visa to enter Tanzania. The cost of the visa is $100, and is not included in the program fee. This visa must be obtained by each participant; we provide detailed information about applying for the visa. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.

Because we complete service work, we also arrange a work permit on behalf of each participant at an additional cost of $200, which is not included in the program fee. While participants do not need to take any action to arrange the work permit, this charge will be added to your Mitzvah Corps bill, and you will be required to pay it in full by April 1st.

Global Traveler's Insurance

Traveler's insurance is included in Mitzvah Corps tuition; policy details are available upon request. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions about international travel!

What are the housing accommodations like?
Group accommodations are carefully selected to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. The living accommodations in Tanzania are very simple. Participants and staff sleep in sleeping bags on bunk beds in a village house, with self-identified girls and boys in separate rooms.

There is no electricity, but there are solar lanterns for light. Bathrooms are outhouses and basins are used for simple showers. Cooking is done on a gas stove. During the safari portion of the program, the group will stay in tents provided by our local outfitter. The staff reside together with the participants.

What are the physical requirements for participation on this program?
Mitzvah Corps Tanzania engages in volunteering projects that require moderate to intensive physical labor (digging, building, harvesting, etc) outdoors in summer heat and humidity. The status of local infrastructure and simple accommodations also require the ability to navigate uneven surfaces. As with all Mitzvah Corps programs, participants are expected to be independent and not require consistent one-on-one care. This program is not ADA compliant; Mitzvah Corps offers wheelchair accessibility on our Civil Rights Journey, as well as in ChicagoNew Orleans and the Pacific Northwest.

Will participants receive documentation of community service?
Yes! Mitzvah Corps awards 80 hours of community service for participants on the Tanzania program. Please note that this number is inclusive of all social justice community engagement; participants who are looking to document specific, traditional direct service hours should contact Mitzvah Corps in advance with any questions.

What kind of clothing should participants pack?
Mitzvah Corps Tanzania participants should pack casual, comfortable clothes, including outfits that can be worn and dirtied while working on labor intensive projects. Closed-toed shoes and hats are a must. As there are no formal laundry facilities, participants should pack quick-drying clothing for easy wash.

Tanzania lies just south of the Equator, and weather conditions do not vary greatly throughout the year. July is the dry season, and 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. Participants should pack layers.

What is NOT included in the program tuition?
International airfare from New York to Tanzania (approximately $2,400), a work permit (approximately $200), and a tourist visa (approximately $100) are not included in program tuition.

Families do not need to take any action to secure international airfare or a work permit. These are obtained by Mitzvah Corps on behalf of all participants, and the charges are added to each family's bill in the spring.

Participants will need to obtain their own visa; detailed instructions will be provided.

Do teens need spending money? Will there be a chance to exchange currency?
All necessary expenses (meals, housing, transportation, etc) are covered by Mitzvah Corps tuition. However, some families may choose to send their teen with extra money in order to purchase snacks, souvenirs, or gifts. The amount varies depending upon each family's budget, but typically $30-$40 per week is sufficient.

There will be opportunities to exchange US dollars to Tanzania shillings upon arrival in Tanzania, and numerous opportunities to withdraw local currency using a debit card throughout the program.

How will laundry get done?
There are no formal laundry facilities available during the trip. Participants will be able to wash clothing by hand, and are encouraged to pack quick-drying fabric for convenience. 

How will teens get to and from Tanzania?
The program will commence at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). From there, the group will fly together with their staff to Tanzania. The cost of the international airfare is not included in tuition; however, Mitzvah Corps makes arrangements on behalf of the participants and passes the true cost on to the families. Please visit our "Travel" tab for more detailed information.

How does Mitzvah Corps handle teens who become ill or injured?
The participants’ health and safety is our primary concern during the summer. In all instances where the health of a teen is in question, parents/guardians will be contacted.

The Mitzvah Corps staff are First Aid/AED and CPR certified, and will carry a variety of supplies and over-the-counter medications at all times; parents/guardians have the option to give permission for the staff to administer these medications while completing the health history forms.

If a teen needs medical attention beyond what can be provided by the staff, or in event of an emergency, the group always has access to quality professional care.

How do meals work?
The group is cared for by several local women who are wonderful, longtime friends of Putney Student Travel. The Mamas, as they call themselves, nurture the group during their time in the village, shopping for them, and cooking their dinners. Participants rotate periodically through cooking and cleaning crews responsible for preparing breakfast and lunch for the group, and assisting the Mamas with dinner.

Are there any additional vaccinations needed for travel to Tanzania?
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control website and consult your doctor for more information about vaccinations that may be applicable for travel to Tanzania.

Additionally, the Union for Reform Judaism requires that all camp and travel program participants, staff and faculty must be immunized. Medical exemptions are granted in rare cases; please contact us regarding any potential exemptions prior to registration. For more information, please refer to the URJ Policy Statement on Vaccine Status.

Is it necessary to purchase a special visa or traveler's insurance?
U.S. citizens must obtain a tourist visa to enter Tanzania. The cost of the visa is $100, and is not included in the program fee. This visa must be obtained by each participant; we provide detailed information about applying for the visa. Non-U.S. citizens must check local visa requirements, including requirements for countries passed through in transit.

Because we complete service work, we also arrange a work permit on behalf of each participant at an additional cost of $200, which is not included in the program fee. While participants do not need to take any action to arrange the work permit, this charge will be added to your Mitzvah Corps bill, and you will be required to pay it in full by April 1st.

Since a valid passport is a part of the visa and work permit applications, it is important to obtain your passport well in advance of departure. 

Traveler's insurance is included in Mitzvah Corps tuition; policy details are available upon request. 

At A Glance

Summer 2018 dates, rates, and online registration will be here soon. To request to be notified when this information becomes available, please contact our office. Thank you!
Dates: July 2-24, 2017
Length: 23 days
Issue Focus: Rural Education & Wildlife Conservation
Community Service Hours: 80
Cost: $6490 + airfare
Mitzvah Corps organizes and reserves seats for participants on a round-trip group flight from a gateway U.S. airport to each international program destination. Program staff will fly with the group on both departure and return. The international airfare is not included in the tuition cost; please refer to the TRAVEL tab for details. 
Register for multiple programs to receive a $100 discount per additional program.
Mitzvah Corps is open to all rising 10th - graduating 12th graders.