La Salle professor gives back to his home in Tanzania with community library

February 16, 2022

Connelly Library

“It’s truly a community effort”: The community library in Tanzania spearheaded by La Salle’s professor is an incredible educational resource.

From an early age, Richard Mshomba, Ph.D., ’85, saw the value in education.

Mshomba moved to the U.S. from his village in Sinon, Arusha, Tanzania, to attend La Salle University on scholarship. The experience opened a world of opportunities for Mshomba, who today serves as a professor of economics at La Salle.

When Mshomba met his wife, Elaine, in graduate school and the two later married, they brainstormed how they could give back to his home community. The support started in 1991 with the couple independently assisting students financially to help them complete their education. They continue doing so, supporting seven to 10 students a year.

But the Mshombas knew also that they could do more to help the whole community. In 2016, the couple, working with dedicated volunteers in Tanzania, opened a free library for the Sinon village. They formed a non-governmental organization, Madecha Education Association, registered in Tanzania, to operate the library. Housing primarily textbooks and children’s books, the library is a space in which students can advance their education through primary, secondary, and high school, all the way to college. The library serves students from more than 15 schools.

“The education system in Tanzania is different from that in the U.S.,” Richard Mshomba said, as students must pass national exams and be selected to continue to the next level of schooling.

The effects of the library, he said, have been far reaching since its opening, as it offers educational resources, laptops, internet, access to old exams, and a safe, quiet place for students to work.

The name of the library, Durning-O’Halloran Community Library, is a tribute to Richard’s American host family and Elaine’s parents. Collectively, they helped make the library a reality. La Salle students have also helped with the library’s success as the Enactus organization, a group focused on teaching its members about philanthropic entrepreneurship, fundraised, and donated to help complete the building’s construction. (Enactus is currently inactive on La Salle’s campus, but eligible for future activity.)

The library was expanded in 2019, doubling its size. The expansion was made possible by funds raised by Matthew Hladczuk who was at the time a student at La Salle College High School in Philadelphia. In addition, there are many friends and relatives who have been supporting the Mshombas with this project.

“It’s truly a community effort,” Mshomba said. “It is amazing what can be accomplished when people work together for the common. To provide additional educational opportunities for the young people in the community, a long-term goal is to build a facility for vocational training.”

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— Meg Ryan