Falmouth native building eco-tourism lodge in Tanzania

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FALMOUTH — In the midst of finishing up their master’s degrees in business administration at Rollins College in Florida, Sam Barns and his girlfriend Alli Crocker are building an eco-tourism lodge on the side of Mount Kilamanjaro in Tanzania.

And they’re looking for help to pay for it.

Barns, a 2007 Falmouth High School graduate, became interested in the small town of Mkyashi, Tanzania, after spending the summer of 2010 volunteering there with Crocker. The couple decided to put their newly gained business knowledge to work helping the villagers develop a sustainable business to support local infrastructure.

“A lot of places have to wait for donors, who come in and give them money for a school because the kids have to walk five miles to school. But for them, five miles isn’t that far. What they really want is a library,” Barns said.

So, rather than just make a donation or pay for a school, Barns wants to help the villagers start a business that they can run themselves that will help them pay for the things they think they need and prepare for the future.

Working closely with their friend Simon, a safari tour guide, the couple has secured land on the mountain where they hope to start building an eco-tourism lodge with five huts and a common area. After they build it and get the business going, they’ll turn it over to a nine-member board of directors, made up of people from the village.

For every night a hut is rented, $20 will go into the village fund. From there, Barns said, the villagers are hoping to build a library and fill it with books, install a water cistern to help during the dry season and increase the amount of micro-loans the village-run women’s bank can make available.

“Pretty much all the kids there can read Coca-Cola, but not much else,” Barns said.

A major reason for that, he said, is that there aren’t any books to read, even at the school.

Barns said he hopes the introduction of a business to the area will help the villagers develop language and accounting skills that will serve them in other aspects of their lives.

The couple’s nonprofit, Tuko Pamoja Mkyashi, which means “we are together,” is partnering with Minnesota-based Peace House Africa, which is collecting and managing the organization’s tax-deductible donations. Barns encourages people to check out his website, mkyashi.org, for more information.

They’re hoping to raise $100,000 by September 2012, and to open the lodge to visitors the following summer.

In Tanzania, tourism is the largest industry, and Barns said he hopes this project will help the small village he fell in love with cash in on that opportunity.

“The people there are really excited about it,” he said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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Falmouth native Sam Barns and his Minnesota girlfriend, Alli Crocker, stand with a group of villagers in Mkayshi, Tanzania, at the house where they spent the summer of 2010, and where they returned this year. The couple are planning to build a eco-tourism lodge that they’ll turn over to the villagers to operate.

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