About Us

Operation Bootstrap Africa (OBA) partners with Africans to strengthen their future through education, healthcare, agriculture, and other long-term development projects.

 

We are a qualified 501(c)3 grassroots organization that supports a broad range of projects for some of the world’s poorest in Tanzania, Madagascar and Kenya.  

Founded in 1965 by Lutheran missionary Rev. J. David Simonson, Operation Bootstrap Africa (OBA) has been serving Africans for over 50 years. The organization is rooted in a “bootstrap” philosophy of helping people help themselves. Truly no person can pick themselves up by their own bootstraps–it is a physical impossibility. OBA strives to create opportunities and empower people to advance their own lives and communities through improved access to education, healthcare, sustainable agriculture, and more. We partner with local communities and use local resources to help people meet their needs, according to their priorities.

In the early days of Tanzania’s independence, David Simonson and his young family lived among the Maasai people as missionaries, and eventually developed such strong relationships with them that David was made an official elder of the tribe. At that time, Tanzania was starting to embrace the importance of education, but lacked the resources to build and staff schools, especially in rural areas. David began making trips back to the United States to speak with friends, family, churches, and anyone else who would listen–raising money for school construction. He would then return to Tanzania, buy the necessary supplies, and rally the parents in a village to build a school for their children. Meanwhile, his wife Eunice, who was a nurse, began treating patients out of their home. The need became clear for greater access to medical care, and so David began fundraising for clinics as well. Communities came together to shape bricks with their hands and feet, and together have assembled over 3,000 schools and clinics in Tanzania.

In 1995, seeing that girls’ education was still lacking, particularly at the secondary school level, David partnered with local leaders to create a first-of-its-kind residential school to fill this need. Students at the MaaSAE Girls Lutheran Secondary School (MGLSS)-academically gifted young women who would otherwise be unable to afford an education–are sponsored by generous, kind-hearted people in the West. Today, over 800 students have graduated from MGLSS and most have gone on to achieve a college education, surpassing the educational level of 97% of Tanzanians.

Around that same time, OBA partnered with the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre (ALMC), and Selian Hospital–an underfunded government facility–to provide greater access to and quality of healthcare for the people of northern Tanzania. Later ALMC started a school of nursing to help fill the ever-growing need for qualified medical professionals in the country, which OBA supports through scholarships and special projects.

Today OBA works with a variety of primary and secondary schools throughout Tanzania, Kenya, and Madagascar, as well as fostering tomorrow’s leaders through college and university scholarships. We support people with special needs through educational opportunities and job-training programs. We also partner with ALMC, Selian, the ALMC School of Nursing, Plaster House–a rehabilitation center for children who have undergone surgical procedures–and other healthcare projects. Strengthened by our incredible project partners in Africa and the benevolent spirit of our donors, our work and our impact continues to grow.

Rooted in our history as a grassroots effort, OBA remains primarily funded by a community of generous individuals–our OBA Family. Almost 70% of donor support is from individuals, with another 25% from faith-based communities. For over 50 years, our success has solely relied on this support. Donors like you are creating opportunities, hope, and change where it is needed most. Thank you for your support of OBA and our partners in Africa!