Tanzania Host Community

Global Volunteers' long-time host partner in Tanzania is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT). Our main contact is Bishop Owdenberg Mdegella, who invited Global Volunteers to provide development assistance to communities in the Iringa Diocese in 1986.

Born in 1951, the ninth child in a family of 16, the future bishop was a shepherd until age 12. He grew up in the highland village of Ipalamwa in the Iringa District where his mother was a farmer and his father, a logger. Having earned degrees in both Theology and Divinity, Bishop Mdegella was the youngest Lutheran Bishop in the world when he was ordained in 1987. He speaks five foreign languages and six African dialects fluently, and is a lecturer and teacher on the topics of spirituality and development. He is married and father to six children. Bishop Mdegella frequently travels to the U.S. - primarily Minnesota and California, where he completed his PhD studies. He has participated in training sessions in Minnesota, and serves on our International Advisory Committee, directing team leaders in effective team management in Tanzania.

Tanzania's history includes maritime rivalry between Portuguese and Arab traders as well as various European powers. Tanzania was an exotic destination for famous British explorers and later German industrialization as the Germans took Tanzania as a colony. German occupation lasted until the end of World War I when the British stepped in to take over. Tanzania smoothly became independent in 1961 with no tribal conflicts or linguistic divisions to slow the process.

Today, Tanzania is a country of 20 million with more than 100 tribal groups, mostly of Bantu origin. The Arab influence on Zanzibar and Pemba islands is evident in the people, who are a mix of Shirazia (from Persia), Arabs, Comorians (from the Comoros Islands) and Bantu from the mainland. The major non-Bantu people in the Iringa area are the Maasai who inhabit the north-eastern section of the country. Read more about our host community people and culture.