Betty Muessle, ’63: Connecting Tanzanian Schools to the World
July 29, 2014 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09
Seventeen years ago, after a career that spanned teaching, sales, and social work, Elizabeth “Betty” (Cassidy) Muessle, ’63, decided to take a more “purposeful role” in life. Since then, she and her husband, Stan, have been working to spread computer literacy in Tanzania.
It all began when the Muessle’s daughter, Mary, moved to the East African nation for three years to oversee individuals serving with Global Volunteers, an organization that arranges “volunteer vacations.” When Stan and Betty visited her, they saw that there was a great need for technology in the education system there. Upon their return to their Sarasota, Fla., home, they founded Global Outreach, an NGO dedicated to bringing computers to the Tanzanian schools.
Since then, Stan has gone back to Tanzania each year to establish computer laboratories and train teachers and technicians, starting with the village of Pommern, where Mary had been giving computer classes to the residents, then expanding within the Iringa region.
Meanwhile, Betty supports the fundraising and awareness efforts back in the States, and has made four trips to Tanzania, the most recent a seven-month stay.
While there, in addition to assisting in computer classrooms, Betty taught English to a local pediatrician. When she learned from him that many Tanzanian children suffered from severe malnutrition because their parents did not know how to properly feed them, she launched a nutrition awareness program. Pastors are well-respected in that country and religious services well-attended, so Betty asked pastors of all denominations to share with their congregations a letter she had written that provided detailed information about the nutritional value of common foods. She also encouraged them to emphasize the moral component of caring for their children.
“It’s not just about poverty,” she says. “A lot of the practices people have are because they are not connected with the world.” She notes that Global Outreach now provides Internet education and access to the young Tanzanians, and that this has given them “a whole different vision because they have access to the world base of knowledge.
“It’s about the most empowering thing that you can get someone to do, to hook in and become part of the world community,” she adds.
Betty is not the first member of her family to serve the African people. Her grandfather, for example, supported missions there, and an emergency wing at a Tanzanian hospital is named for a great uncle.
“When you start looking back at your life, you start getting the idea of how providential things are,” she notes.
Providence seemingly has played a key role in the Muessle’s NGO. Their volunteer jobs teaching computer skills to passengers on cruise ships connected them with the president of a computer company, who took an interest in the Muessle’s Tanzanian project and donated “gently used computers” to the cause. When Stan was looking for a place to establish an Internet library, he was offered a room that the Bishop of Iringa was hoping to make into one. Even Betty’s 50th Niagara alumni reunion had a positive impact on the organization after she reconnected with Class of 1963 friends David and Gay (Wind) Campbell. David, who founded All Hands Volunteers in 2005 in response to the tsunami in Thailand, and Gay donated money toward the purchase of a much-needed generator so that Global Outreach could serve areas without electricity.
“It was that Niagara connection, and also the Niagara vision that we are supposed to be doing for others,” Betty notes.
Since its inception, Global Outreach has expanded its programs to include partnerships between supported schools and sister schools in the U.S. to allow videoconference learning, and an internship for college students that enables them to learn how to run a business. Computer literacy, however, remains the primary focus.
“Ultimately, that’s the most empowering thing we see for the future, and even for the present, because connecting these people with the world is what they really need,” Betty says. “We want them to become more aware and help them get in touch with the Internet to access information and to see if what they are thinking is what the rest of the world is thinking so they can make good decisions.”
For more information on Global Outreach, visit www.globaloutreachtanzania.org.
To read Betty’s blog, visit www.bettymuessleblog.wordpress.com.