Help Keep The Researchers Rest Open

With the massive downturn in tourism, COVID has had a far-reaching impact worldwide.  On the outskirts of Arusha lies a special place, now called the Researchers Rest.  Many of us have fond memories of time spent there at some point during the past 30 years.  Eddie, Helen, Joseph, Ali, and the rest of the team have become friends who we look forward to seeing each visit.

However, the complete standstill in tourism for several months has created a dire situation.  Early on it looked like the crisis could be contained and would have a shorter-term impact, at which time several of us made personal contributions to help cover the costs and salaries, not only to keep the doors open, but to keep food on the table for the 9 employees and their families during this unprecedented time.

The contributions were enough to get through September, which at the time seemed that it was likely there would be some recovery starting to take place with visitors returning to Tanzania.  However, it has been far slower recovery than expected and the funds have run out. 

For the period from January until the end of May, which is typically a slow period anyway, currently there are only a handful of clients reserved for the entire period.  And now that Vaccines are becoming a reality, many people will probably not travel until they can get a vaccine.  While there is light at the end of the tunnel, we need your help to get there.

Everyone has been working hard to cut costs and the Researchers Rest is now running extremely efficiently having cut the fixed month costs by 22%, down to around $1800 a month.  

The Current Monthly Expenses are:
* Salaries = 2,255,000 Tanzanian Shillings (~$975)
* Payroll Taxes and Social Security = 540,000 Tanzania Shillings (~$235)
* Utilities and Security Service = 346,000 Tanzania Shillings (~$150)
* Reduced Rent and Taxes on Rent = 1,000,000 Tanzania Shillings (~$430)
* Misc (Dog Food, Vet, etc) = 50,000 Tanzania Shillings (~$20)

The campaign is reaching out for help to raise $9000 which will cover expenses until June, when there are already a decent number of clients booked. We already have a commitment of additional help totalling $3,000 and need your help to raise the remaining $6,000 that will be used to cover the fixed expenses and ensure that The Researchers Rest can make it through the rest of this challenging time.  

The history of the Researchers Rest

The journey starts when a young Jo Driessen moves from England to start a lifelong adventure in Africa on the eve of many countries gaining their independence.  That is quite a long story so let’s fast forward to when Jo’s journey takes her to Tanzania in the late 80’s.  After several years in Dar es Salaam Jo’s husband, who was a medical doctor teaching at the University, decided it was time to return to Europe, but Jo had fallen in love with Tanzania and decided she was going to make it her final home.  She made her way to the bustling town Arusha which had the perfect climate.  Her first venture was a small secretarial service, but the primary draw for her business was email.  With an old dialup model, she provided the first email service in town.  She would type your email and send it out when she connected the modem which sometimes took days.  And when a response came in, she would print it and put it in your “PO Box”.

This was an essential service for the many wildlife researchers who were constantly in and out of the National Parks office which was just a few doors down.  Jo often heard the horror stories about the challenge to find a decent room while in Arusha.  The few tourist hotels where too expensive, so when in Arusha the only option was cheap local guest houses, which at the time were rowdy, not to mention the constant concern about one’s security.

Around this time Jo had decided that she wanted to stay in Arusha for the remainder of her years and she had been planning to build a house.  But after hearing about the challenges to find a relaxing place which was not too expensive, Jo decided to build a Bed & Breakfast instead.  Around this time Jo’s lifelong friend Judith decided to join her in Tanzania where they would find themselves into a great deal of adventures.  Locally they were known as the 2 Crazy British Women… 

Over the years the two made quite a name for themselves becoming somewhat of local legends.  From owning a bar and restaurant to running a small safari business, they were very active in the community.  The Bed & Breakfast, known in those days as JJs became the Arusha home for many of the most well-known researchers who passed time in Tanzania.

The ladies really had a special touch that went with both of their rather large personalities.  But through it all they took pride in finding and cultivating the hidden potential they found in people. Over the years they found an amazing team who worked hard and took pride in their work.  Eddie started working with them almost 25 years ago as a young man washing dishes.  Jo saw a passion in Eddie and she started to teach him to cook, and as anyone who knows Eddie can cook.  Helen started as a part time housekeeper helping a few days here and there.  Judith was impressed with Helens work ethic, so they decided to bring Helen on full time.  Ali was an out of work mechanic when Jo hired him to take care of the gardens and do some maintenance.  Each member of the team has an interesting story, all converging when they were brought together by 2 Crazy Bats…

Gradually they aged, but always remained to be part of Arusha.  Organizing fundraising dinners to expand internet access in schools, or the famed Thanksgiving dinner, they always kept busy.  Eventually Judith returned to the UK due to medical issues and Jo held down the fort.  She was not able to host as many guests, and finances began to add up. Jo’s health gradually degraded, but Arusha was home and she was not leaving.

In 2017, Jo had a minor fall and fractured her shoulder.  Over the months that followed were challenging as Jo's body was not able to recover and in March she passed away.  Ben and Aurelie who had lived on the property with their family during the past 5 years helped to manage all the arrangements and Judith returned for the funeral and to try and sort out the finances which in “typical Jo style, were left in shambles”.

Judith managed to scrape together enough to sort out the finances.  Jo had left the house to a former Tanzanian business partner, who had financial problems of his own.  He had no idea what to do with the house.  Eddie, Helen, Ali and the team had no idea what they were going to do, but to look for new jobs.  And one night as Judith and Ben sat telling stories over several glasses of wine, the idea of the Researchers Rest started to take place.

The following morning Ben assembled the staff and asked if they wanted to start their own guest house, that was their own business.  Without hesitation the staff agreed and Ben then went to the new owner of the house to see if he would rent the house to them.  Given that property prices had dropped during the previous years, he knew if he tried to sell the property it would not fetch a fair price and would probably take months if not years to sell.  So he was relieved at the idea and an agreement was stuck.

It took several months to get all the paperwork sorted out and the company established, but the Researchers Rest was born.  Ben and Aurelie agreed to assist with reservations and marketing and give overall advice, along with a donation during the startup period.  Eddie was chosen to be the Manager.  It was agreed that once there were profits, 50% would be used for improvements to the Researchers Rest and the remaining 50% would be distributed to the staff.

The first few months more and more clients chose to stay at the Researchers Rest.  It was a bit challenging for everyone to shift from being employees, working for Jo and Judith, to becoming owners of a business.  Eddie gradually grew into the role of manager and the property finally started to get a steady revenue.

In May of 2019 it was time to implement some improvements.  The team sanded old paint off doors and then varnishing them, along with painting a few of the rooms to give a refreshed look.  The beds and furniture were replaced to improve the look but also to give guests a more comfortable stay.  And the property was redecorated with a fantastic series of Photographs provided by long time friend and guest Pierluigi Rizzato.

The researchers who had returned were impressed with the improvements and happy to see the newfound ownership and the personal development they saw in each member of the team.  All was progressing as planned, until March 2020 when the tourism came to a standstill due to COVID-19.

As it became clear that the pandemic was going to last longer and longer, Eddie worked with Ben to create an action plan.  Part of this plan was to reduce costs as much as possible.  Ben then approached those who he knew had a connection to the place.  Terry McCabe, Timothy Baird, and Tony Sinclair came through with a vital lifeline to get through, what at the time appeared to be the worse of it.  Ben and Aurelie also made personal contributions which have gotten the Researchers Rest to where it is today, where there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we need help to make it out.

Donations (50)

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  • Mary Di Giacomo
    • $20 
    • 1 yr
  • Anne Williamson
    • $50 
    • 1 yr
  • Renee Weitzner
    • $20 
    • 1 yr
  • James Stutsman
    • $100 
    • 1 yr
    • $100 
    • 2 yrs
See all


Ben Jennings
Sparta, TN

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