Melanie Berte-Hickey

Melanie's journey to Mbuguni, Tanzania, unfolded with a blend of compassion, cultural immersion, and new experiences. Melanie's second trip to Africa, where she, alongside a group of Briar Cliff students and faculty, engaged in service learning with STEMM (Siouxland Tanzania Educational Medical Ministries). 


The preparations for the trip were fueled by a grant from the Sisters of Saint Francis, aligning with Melanie's commitment to supporting STEMM and Charity Tanzania. Stemming from her consultations with Tanzanian social workers since 2018, Melanie aimed to provide her students with opportunities to grow, learn, and contribute to global social work. Throughout their trip, they learned more about the exploration of cultural sensitivity, macro-level social work, and had the chance for the participants to step out of their comfort zones. 


Upon arriving in Tanzania, jet lag was a common struggle for the group, but they quickly immersed themselves in the local culture. Their itinerary included visits to hospitals, agricultural areas, a leprosy colony, and organizations promoting employment for individuals with disabilities. Melanie emphasized the importance of understanding the local medical facilities, considering her role as a social worker. 


The group also attended services at local churches with multiple students, actively participating in readings, praise music, and lectures. Melanie highlighted the significance of these experiences, especially in a different cultural and religious context. They witnessed the challenges and triumphs of communities, discovering the tangible impact of Enactus projects, like the canal that transformed agricultural practices and brought positive change to families. 


One highlight was Davess Verdugo preaching to the congregation at the Maasai church. Melanie's decision to encourage students like Davess to speak reflects her commitment to fostering growth and pushing individuals beyond their comfort zones.  


The impact of the trip became evident when Melanie revisited the families she had previously assisted. The gratitude expressed by the locals, especially the children whose lives were changed, left a lasting impression. Melanie emphasized the importance of empathy in social work, underscoring the trip's broader purpose. 



Melanie expressed her desire to stay actively involved in the Tanzanian community, collaborating with local organizations and fostering relationships that extend beyond the duration of the trip. She’s also incredibly thankful to the Sisters of St. Francis to help make this happen. Her dedication to service learning as a transformative force resonates, encapsulating the spirit of the journey to Mbuguni, Tanzania.