Project Tanzania: Brother Albin’s story
Brother Albin with school children in Tanzania.
How did a Polish religious brother with no college degree end up turning heads in Marquette’s master’s program in computer science ó and then use that knowledge to transform the lives of hundreds in Tanzania? (Read the full feature story.)
Marquette alumni Eric and Karine Boos first met Brother Albin Laga, S.D.S., at the Salvatorian Institute in Tanzania, where Brother Albin was the technical plant supervisor. “He is like the Mozart of electronics,” Eric says. “He can do anything with any machine.” It was Brother Albin who created the entire infrastructure for the college’s $25 million campus, installing the phone, computer, water filtration and solar energy systems.
But as a young boy growing up in communist Poland, he scored poorly on an aptitude test because of an eye problem. Deprived of education, he turned to the Catholic Church, joined the Salvatorian order as a religious brother and was able to receive vocational training. He moved to Morogoro, Tanzania, in 1989 and began teaching himself computers a few years later. He fell in love with designing and developing database systems.
“It came time when learning everything by myself became quite hard,” Brother Albin says. “It was then that I expressed my desire to Eric and Karine to increase my computer knowledge in a professional way. At that time Eric and Karine proposed Marquette to me.”
And so Eric and Karine persuaded Brother Albin’s religious superiors to give him a sabbatical in 2004. With the help of scholarships and benefactors, they got him into Marquette, where he started auditing classes in computer science. Marquette quickly bumped him up to regular master’s student status, despite the fact that he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree.
“At the beginning I was very afraid. That is why I joined MU not for a degree program, but for a professional improvement program,” Brother Albin explains. “When I began to attend the classes, I learned that it was exactly what I was looking for.”
He graduated with his master’s in 2006 and returned to Tanzania to put what he learned into practice. His latest project is developing a nationwide network for the Catholic radio stations of Tanzania.
“Some people find joy and happiness when they can do something for others, simply be useful,” Brother Albin says. “In Tanzania, there are many such opportunities on many different fields. Most of the poor people can pay you back joy and peace, which actually is more than enough of what we need when doing charitable work with Christ. I think that I belong to that group of people.”