September 28, 2011
|Last summer, current MBA students Allison Crocker (Class of 2010) and Sam Barns (Class of 2010) explored Mkayashi Village.
It seems that often the best ideas are born simply from the right person being in the right place at the right time. Standing at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010, MBA student Sam Barns (Class of 2010) was struck not only by its incredible beauty but also by the strong desire to share this unique destination with other travelers.
And the idea to build an eco-lodge was born. “A lot of people climb Mount Kilimanjaro every year but the only lodging near the mountain now are budget places or expensive big box hotels, neither of which encourage interaction with local people or have much impact on the local economy,” said Barns, who spent three months in Tanzania during the summer of 2010 with fellow Rollins MBA student Allison Crocker (Class of 2010).
“I got the idea to build a lodge that could not only provide hiking tours of and day trips to Mount Kilimanjaro but that would give back to Mkayashi Village, which sits on the mountain about a mile up.” Barns’ plan is for the villagers to learn how to run the lodge and ultimately take it over. “It will eventually be a sustainable source of income for the village,” Barns explained.
This past summer, his first break after he and Crocker began the MBA program at Crummer, Barns returned to Tanzania again to start moving his project forward. He met with Peace House Africa, a Minnesota-based non-profit he’s asked to sponsor the eco-lodge. “Building a new non-profit from scratch requires a huge amount of time and legal fees. We don’t really have either, so a fiscal sponsorship is a great way for us to share resources with another organization in a mutually beneficial way.” said Barns. Peace House Africa will accept donations on behalf of Tuko Tamoja Mkyashi, the name Crocker and Barns gave to the eco-lodge. “It means ‘we are together’,” shared Barns.
Barns has set the hefty goal of raising $50 – $100,000 in the next two years. “The plan is, tentatively, to fundraise this school year and through the summer to raise the money we need. Then I’m hoping to leave again the end of next summer and live there for the next three to seven years.” Crocker will be helping with the administrative and fundraising work and will act as a liaison in the U.S. during the initial phases of building. Barns hopes the first guests will check-in summer 2013.
As he moves forward, Barns wants to make sure people understand that this project is not just about sharing a “destination” but about understanding that Mount Kilimanjaro is much more than the mountain. “It’s a home to thousands of people, and you can’t experience this destination without experiencing the local cultures.”
Barns will be finishing up his MBA in the spring, but in the meantime, he’s soaking up his studies and applying them directly to this endeavor. “This project has helped me frame what I’m learning,” he explained. “Classes in sustainable tourism and entrepreneurism directly apply to what I am creating.” His current graduate assistant position with the Office of Multicultural Affairs is also giving him inter-cultural communication skills which will be vital to the project’s success.
“People always ask me why I want to do this. My first answer is that it sounds a lot more fun than a day job,” said Barns. “But on a more serious level, I see an opportunity to do something with my life that can make a concrete difference. The friends I’ve made in Tanzania have done a lot for me personally. It’s a challenge, an adventure and an opportunity. I’d be crazy to pass it up.”