Volunteer Review: Care & Community High School Special – Emma and Louise Perry
I took part in a High School Special Care and Community project in Tanzania with my younger sister, Louise. Having just finished my A levels and Louise her GCSEs, we knew that we wanted to do some traveling and volunteering and do something different with our summer that would make a small difference to a community far less fortunate than our own. We have also both been very interested in childcare and community work and therefore it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Our first visit to the Naserian School and Orphanage, where we would be working for the two weeks was both humbling and slightly shocking. The school aimed to make basic education available to orphaned children and the very poor. The pupils who were aged between 3 and 17 years old shared 7 classrooms, and those who didn’t have a home to go to at the end of the day were split into a girls and boys dormitory. These rooms were so basic and bare that we couldn’t wait to get painting to brighten them up for the kids.
One of the things we loved most about our placement was the variety of things we got to do, many of which we wouldn’t usually find ourselves doing at home. Most mornings were spent renovating the dormitories and classrooms in the school, sanding, washing, painting the walls and getting satisfyingly messy! Although tiring, this was one of the most rewarding things being able to see our hard work completed at the end of the two weeks.
In the afternoons we were able to play with the children, giving them the attention and care that was evidently greatly needed. All the volunteers had bought activities and ideas with them, including balloons, skipping ropes, bubbles, footballs and origami which were all fully appreciated and enjoyed by the children.
It soon became clear to us just how little these children had and it was an amazing experience to witness their utter joy at having us there. Despite not speaking any Swahili which was bound to be a challenge, the school aimed to teach the children basic English. Therefore, we were also able to teach the children a range of songs and nursery rhymes including ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ and ‘hakuna matata’.
Our Host Family
We both were obviously slightly nervous about staying with strangers so far away from home which is normal for anyone, however staying with a Tanzanian family made our experience even more priceless. The Leonard family were some of the most loving and welcoming people we have ever met, the muma (mother) Jasmine, and baba (father) Leonard welcomed Louise and I and 5 other volunteers into their home making the culture adjustment so much easier.
Their 3-year-old son Lewis was also very cute and keen to play with us every evening. We were able to learn and be a part of their everyday lives and tell them a bit about our culture at home.
Living in Tanzania presented some challenges including showering using buckets and power cuts that left us eating breakfast by candlelight and showering in total darkness which was exciting and highlighted how fortunate we are in England. The family couldn’t have been keener to get us involved in Tanzanian life, giving us cooking lessons, and showing us how they carry litres of water on their heads!
We also clubbed together and prepared a meal from home for the family of pasta, pizza and salad which they were really appreciative of. All in all we couldn’t be more grateful for their hospitality and kindness.
At the weekend we got a break from our hard work at the orphanage and visited Tarangire National Park, famous for its large numbers of African Elephants. This was simply an amazing and unforgettable day. The park had the most breath-taking views and we saw some beautiful animals including heards of zebra and wildebeest bathing at waterholes, giraffes and large groups of elephants with some baby elephants. One of the highlights was seeing two lionesses feasting on a wildebeest! Having lunch there was a nice time to relax and get to know all of the volunteers a little bit better.
We also had the opportunity to visit a Maasai village and learn about the cultures and traditions of the tribe. For us this was the biggest culture shock, learning how men have as many wives as they can afford to pay for in cows and how women are expected to get married at as young as 12 years old and have between 8 and 11 children in their lifetime!
It was humbling and inspiring to see how they live with so little and so separately from modern society and yet are so happy and have remained so loyal to their strong traditions.
Tanzania as a country is utterly beautiful and full of lively, welcoming people. There are so many things to experience, the food, the Maasai culture and the local markets as well as breathtaking scenery such as the views of Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.
I would recommend visiting Tanzania to anyone who enjoys meeting new people, new cultures and trying different things, as it is an experience you will never forget. Projects Abroad couldn’t have been more helpful, and Pauline our supervisor was so lovely and enthusiastic, it was clear she loved her job and that they truly appreciated us being there.
Meeting all the volunteers was great too, as there were people from all corners of the world, including Canada, Japan and Denmark. We all got on really well and I know I will stay in contact with them for years to come.
The rewarding feeling of making a difference to the children’s lives and making them smile and laugh was priceless and worth every penny of the trip. Louise and I will never forget the people we met or the things we learned, we recommend it to anyone, you won’t regret it!
This volunteer story may include references to working in or with orphanages. Find out more about Projects Abroad's current approach to volunteering in orphanages and our focus on community-based care for children.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.