City woman plans return to Tanzania

June 12, 1997


Staff Writer

The first month in Tanzania was an eye-opener for Shannon Cianelli, who admits she often was ready to return home on the next plane.

But once the Hagerstown woman got used to the weather and the people, she discovered her calling.

"I was going to begin my doctoral studies but now I want to go back to Tanzania as soon as I can,'' said Cianelli, 24.

For someone who had not been out of the United States before, Tanzania was a big first step.

"When I arrived the first of March, it was the dry season - no water and no electricity,'' Cianelli said. Soon the rainy season arrived and dust was replaced by flood waters.


Cianelli, who was taking part in a three-month project called "Roots and Shoots,'' found that the rewards were many.

Begun six years ago by anthropologist Jane Goodall, Roots and Shoots is an environmental education and humanitarian program for Tanzanian youth on Africa's east coast.

The program promotes environmental and community service projects that focus on hands-on learning, global networking and constructive action.

Young people in schools and community groups in 28 states and 30 other countries are members, Cianelli said.

"I tutored English every day,'' Cianelli said. "They were so enthusiastic, so thirsty for knowledge.''

Crowded into tiny rooms where they sat shoulder to shoulder, the students were grateful for any chance to learn, she said.

"I just got a letter from Yussuph, one of my students, when I got back home,'' Cianelli said. "He asked me to come back, not to leave them in such pain.''

Those words were Yussuph's way of expressing how important learning is to him, Cianelli said.

In addition to her teaching, Cianelli and other program participants organized a plastic recycling program during Earth Week.

Cianelli became interested in Roots and Shoots while working with chimpanzees and sign language at Central Washington University. She earned a master's degree there.

Cianelli, the daughter of Susan and Jerry Cianelli, believes she is suited for the community-service aspect of Roots and Shoots.

A graduate of Smithsburg High School, she attended Salisbury State University where she earned her bachelor's degree. She then began her master's program at Central Washington University, completing the psychology curriculum.

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