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Meet Danzler Gladas

Today, we want to thank Danzler Gladas, one of our biggest supporters, who has helped Soma on our journey. Danzler has donated hundreds of books to rural learning centers in Tanzania. She’s been here with us since the beginning. She’s currently 96 years old and met Mohamed Mwinyi, Soma International’s Founder, ten years ago. Mohamed had just moved to Virginia from Tanzania. At the time, many things were different. Mohamed was working as a cashier at Kroger during his time off from attending New River Valley Community College.  As Danzler Gladas said, “When I met him in the grocery store, he just amused me. He had funny stories.”

Danzler lived across the street from Kroger and was a frequent customer of his. They bonded over shared love of funny stories and quick chats as he scanned her food. Over time, they became unlikely friends as they got to know one another better. Their age difference made no difference in their friendship. They understood one another.

Aside from working as  a cashier at Kroger, Mohamed also served as a math tutor for students at NRVCC. As Danzler said during our interview, “I always thought it was so funny, because he had just come over here and he was already tutoring students who grew up here.”

Over time, Mohamed revealed to Danzler a plan that he was working on. He wanted to create Soma International and bring books to Tanzania to create libraries and rural learning centers.

The only thing Mohamed was missing in his plan was: books.

With that, Danzler’s eyes lit up, “If you want books, I have a lot of them; I just want to get rid of them.” Danzler wasn’t joking. Her late husband was interested in geographical analysis while working for the Navy. His old geography books were packed away in her house in Blacksburg. Her late husband’s home library was massive. Mohamed visited Danzler’s house and was shocked by how many books there were.

But at the time, Mohamed had barely begun to start thinking about Soma International. He was piecing together each aspect and figuring out how it would be possible. He certainly didn’t have his own facility yet, and he didn’t have a way to transfer these books to Tanzania. Mohamed said, “This is a lot of books, I have no place I could put them.”

As I followed Mohamed, Soma’s founder, into the room, Danzler said, “I don’t mind. I was going to get rid of them, so I could put them in a storage unit and pay for storage for as long as you need it. I don’t need the books, so I’d like to help somebody else by donating them.” Mohamed agreed, and so they moved the books into a storage unit nearby, in Christiansburg, Virginia. Danzler wrote checks for the storage space for over a year and a half. She stored the books until it was time to ship them to Tanzania. 

Now, Danzler lives outside of Blacksburg, Virginia in a senior’s home filled with plants and suede furniture. As we sit together, the television is playing lightly in the background. Danzler Gladas had a kind face.

Danzler believes wholeheartedly in charity. She always gives a portion of her monthly income to causes she finds important.  We are grateful for what she has done to help us as our journey has progressed. Even at 96, she looks strong and satisfied.

Knowledge Is Boundless.

Soma International Email:

Written by: Sadie Andersen Edited by: M. Cecilia Silva Montoya, Mackenzie Hyde

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