Jade O'Toole - Care & Community in Tanzania
I’ve always wanted to visit Africa and instead of going as a tourist I decided I wanted to do something more meaningful. I looked into many different organisations offering volunteer work abroad for teenagers and ended up applying for Projects Abroad.
After applying, the Projects Abroad staff contacted me right away to answer any and all of my questions within 1-2 days. I was a little nervous about travelling alone to Africa and having connections in airports I’ve never been in, but after saving up money, applying for a visa, getting vaccinations and packing, I was finally on my way to Tanzania!
Arrival in Tanzania
After my three flights, half way around the world, I finally arrived at Kilimanjaro airport. It was night-time, so I couldn’t see much of the landscape. After going through immigration, I was welcomed by Angel, a Projects Abroad Tanzania staff member. She drove me to the house where I would be staying for the next two weeks and living with 15 other volunteers!
I was the last one to arrive so I didn’t meet my roommates until the next morning. It was my first night ever sleeping with a mosquito net over my bed, and listening to various different sounds throughout the night (the stray dogs barking and howling, goats, chanting, and the roosters in the morning) but eventually I managed to fall asleep. In the morning we all had breakfast together and I got to meet everyone in my house.
After breakfast we were taken around the city of Arusha, we stopped at an internet café and a grocery store (where we all bought Nutella for our toast in the morning), and then we were taken to where we would be working. We were a big group so we got split in half and I was placed at Usa River Primary School, where we would be renovating the classrooms.
My Care placement
On our first day at work, we were welcomed by all the students and then shown the classrooms we would be renovating. We started by sanding all the classroom walls, then painting them. Each day the kids would watch us work and try to be in as many of our pictures as possible. It was amazing how amused they were by a high-five.
After working we got the chance to play with all the kids. We played a game of football, volunteers against the whole school! Each day when we were done working many of the children would chase our bus down the street waving at us as, and each morning we were welcomed the same way.
At first I was a bit concerned about being a vegetarian in Tanzania, but it was perfectly fine with our host mothers and the staff at restaurants when we went out for dinner. At night in our house we would either play games, or watch movies. Everyone on the Care project came to our house and we crowded around our little TV to watch The Lion King.
Our house was located in Usa, where we had to take many bumpy, dirt roads to get home. The community was so welcoming, each night all the kids from around the neighbourhood would gather in front of our house where we would play with them for hours.
One night we ventured to the local church and weren’t sure how the locals would react to us showing up. However, we were welcomed with open arms and were asked to return the following day! They even translated what they were saying just for us.
On the Saturday we went on a safari to Tarangire National Park. We saw all kinds of wildlife including elephants, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and even lions! On the Sunday we hiked part of Mount Meru to the waterfall. The waterfall was beautiful and we all posed for group pictures in front of it.
We also got the chance to visit a Maasai village and watch their traditional dancing and singing. On our last day, we visited a Maasai market, where I discovered how bad I am at bargaining! Luckily some of the other volunteers were a lot better than I was and helped me out.
I really enjoyed the outings Projects Abroad had planned for us; all of them were fun and allowed us to see some of the Tanzanian culture.
I remember on my first day in Tanzania I was questioning how I would survive there for two weeks, but I quickly adapted and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing about my Tanzanian experience.
On my last night, all the volunteers in our house moved our mattresses and blankets into the living room so we could be together before we all parted ways. I had to leave the house at 3:45am to make my flight at 6am, so my housemates stayed up most of the night with me, since it felt pointless for me to try to sleep only a few hours.
Leaving Tanzania was heart-breaking; although I was looking forward to returning to Canada and having a hot shower. I was going to miss everything about the country. I had an amazing time and I cannot wait to return, hopefully for a longer period of time!
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.