Volunteer Review: Teagan d., Care & Community in Tanzania
Arriving in Tanzania
My flight landed at the Kilimanjaro airport around 9pm, local time. I had been flying for over 24-hours and I was ready to go to bed, when one of the flight attendants announced that we would have to wait a few minutes more because, “the stairs weren’t high enough”. I had no idea what that meant, but I soon found out. Turns out, our aeroplane was not actually connected to the airport by a tunnel (as I was used to), instead, there was an enormous metal staircase descending from the door of the plane into a glorified parking lot.
I was thankful to have met-up with two other volunteers in Amsterdam as we now made our way into the smallest airport I have ever seen. We entered the airport and proceeded to wait in a long line while filling out a visa declaration form. I was quickly reminded of the fact that we were in Africa when I realised that the airport had no Wi-Fi and no toilet paper.
After having our fingerprints scanned by a border security officer, we made our way to the “baggage claim” area, which was essentially just a pile of all the luggage in the middle of the room. After collecting our bags we cleared security and made our way to the Arrivals area. Upon exiting the airport, we were greeted by two Projects Abroad staff members and two other volunteers who were on the same flight as me. By this time, it was quite dark, and I didn’t see much of our surroundings on the way to our accommodation.
Soon we arrived at our accommodation and we were shown to our rooms. Most of the other volunteers in our group had already arrived and were waiting to greet us before going to bed. After being introduced to everyone, I promptly forgot all their names and went to bed.
The next morning we ate breakfast and got to further explore our house. It was a huge and with nearly 20 people living in it, it wasn’t exactly abundant in western luxuries.
The living room had a couch big enough for all of us and the focal point was a large television, attached to it was a USB-stick filled with dozens of new movies for us to watch. The kitchen was quite small, equipped with basic appliances and a tank of clean drinking water. Our dining room was quite large; a long table and fourteen mismatched chairs filled the space.
We had 13 girls and one boy in our group - he got his own room with a queen-size bed. The girls were split between two rooms with bunkbeds and a bathroom in each. I was relieved to see a western toilet! We had a shower in our bathroom, but our water heater actually tripped the power in the entire house. This left the water to barely dribble out of the shower head. We had two showering options: either squat under the cold tap or take a hot bucket shower. To be honest, the bucket showers were the best - I sincerely enjoyed the heat. Our host family wasn’t around much, but the two house-girls cooked for us every day and we got to spend time with their children. Their English was limited but we all felt very welcome and grateful to have them in the house with us.
The day after we arrived, we were taken to our placement, which was about 45-minutes away. Tumaini for Africa is an orphanage and school (Tumaini meaning “hope”). About 30 children lived there and another 20 or so came for school, returning to their families after each day. We got to see where they lived, and their classrooms. It was a very small school. It had one average sized classroom with three walls, some curtains on one side and a very small adjoining room.
The classroom was beautifully decorated, with pictures and letters painted on the walls by previous volunteers. There was a chalkboard and desks, but not much more. The first day we just played with the children, getting to know them better. Day two was when we really got started; Joyce, the main teacher gave each volunteer a child to tutor one-on-one for the duration of our stay. We mostly taught them basic English by pointing at pictures in books and saying the English word for it. My student and I formed a deep connection. Our group also got the opportunity to repaint the orphanage and assist with vegetable gardening. The painting was quite simple and we used what we had considering we had no ladders. We stood on tables and attached long sticks to our rollers. We also worked with a local artist to create beautiful murals.
The vegetable gardening was not what I expected. We definitely weren’t picking carrots and watering the cabbages! Tools were used to crush large dirt chunks into smaller chunks, then we were to place bamboo-like sticks into it, which would eventually grow into grass. Although this was difficult work, it was rewarding to know that more cattle could be fed and it helped to support the orphanage financially. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Tumaini and I miss the kids so much, I hope to return some day.
The most amazing part of my trip was when we got to visit a Maasai village. I feel so incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity - it’s something I will never forget. It was a relatively long drive of about two hours on the highway and 20-minutes driving off-road which wasn’t even a dirt road, just dirt! I have no idea how our driver found his was.
On the way there we stopped to get a closer look at some wild giraffes, and by the time we arrived I was very excited but also a bit nervous about the language barrier and the cultural differences. On arrival, we received an informal tour of the village and I found that my nervousness had dissipated. Even though the only people translating for us were two Projects Abroad staff members, I still felt very welcome. One of the women in the village even let us hold her four month old daughter.
After the tour it was time for lunch. We got to watch as the Maasai men sacrificed a goat for us and immediately after its death, the men passed around a bowl of the goat’s blood for us to drink. I surprised myself by trying it. The taste wasn’t too bad as it was warm and thick and salty. But what made me gag were the little chunks floating in it - I still have no idea what they were.
At the time of our visit, a pretty bad cold was making its way around our house and I had nearly lost my voice. The Maasai men offered to cure me by feeding me the goat’s pancreas. To this day, I can’t believe I accepted, but I did, and believe it or not, it worked. That day my voice started coming back, and the next morning I was almost back to normal. This experience was by far the most memorable part of my trip, and it really pushed me outside of my comfort zone, forcing me to try new things. I think that really summarizes what the whole trip was like for me: being open minded and daring myself to experience new adventures.
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.