Teaching in Tanzania

By Abby Wilson ’10 / Photography courtesy of Pattye Snyder, MA '82

TanzaniaWhen PATTYE SNYDER, MA ’82 found out in the late ’90s that she had osteoarthritis, she decided the degenerative joint disease would not prevent her from living a full life. To prove it, she celebrated her 65th birthday three years ago in a small Tanzanian village halfway up Mount Kilimanjaro. She lives at the foot of the mountain for much of the year, volunteering her time with the local people.


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“I refuse to let a diagnosis become a life sentence,” said Snyder. “When I’m in the most pain is when I get up and go do the most for other people. And it lessens what I’m going through.”

For the last three years, the mother of three has traveled annually with organizations that send volunteers around the world to carry out sustainable community initiatives.

During her three extended stays in Tanzania, Snyder has taught young men in prison, helped women with AIDS create and run small businesses, led a Girl Guides troop (the African version of Girl Scouts), and has taken pictures for promotional materials for an orphanage. During her 2010–11 trip, Snyder is working with Give a Heart to Africa, an organization that helps widows and single parents start and maintain businesses.

Lifelong educator

Pattye Snyder

Snyder makes brownies using cocoa for her friend Primo, a cook, when she travels to Tanzania. He keeps her recipe in his kitchen, but only allows Snyder to make the special treat.

Many adults in Africa are told they can’t do things because they’re uneducated, poor, or have AIDS, but Snyder helps them look at things differently.

“I never realized how much I would enjoy working with adults,” said Snyder. “They are so excited, so thrilled, and so appreciative.”

Snyder’s passion for helping others has been evident in her lifelong education career. She has taught most grade levels, earned a master’s degree in education at Bradley, and then taught an undergraduate special education methods course at BU.

Snyder, who has had nine joint replacement surgeries, has encountered some problems in Africa, especially when it comes to transportation. Because cabs are expensive, she has to walk most places, but the deep ruts in the road require her to use a cane. She also has had trouble having medicine shipped to her when she is there for extended periods of time. Snyder has had to learn to rely on the abundant generosity of the people in Kilimanjaro, and they treat her as their own family, calling her “Mama P.”

Pattye Snyder

Snyder was hired to photograph a special women’s celebration for a dignitary who came in to town. About 90 women sang, danced, and clapped as they accompanied the dignitary’s car.

Part-time home

Snyder devotes the few months she spends in the United States to visiting friends and family, attending doctors’ appointments, and running her three small businesses: Pattyecakes, a baking business; Thoroughly Rooted, a landscaping business; and Pattyegraf Concepts, a nature photography business. She uses the profits to fund her trips to her “part-time home” in Africa.

“I know I’m where I want to be. I know I’m where I need to be,” said Snyder, “and I love it. The people here are so supportive. They’ve become my family.”


In addition to her humanitarian work, Snyder ventures out on photograph safaris in Tanzania and the surrounding countries.