Laura Doughty - General Care Projects in Tanzania
Ever since I was a little girl I have dreamed of going to Africa, and that dream became a reality when I heard about Projects Abroad. Having just graduated from high school, I knew that I wanted to travel and volunteer in my gap year. Projects Abroad was able to accommodate my plans according to my needs.
Being that this was the first time I have travelled alone, I was a bit nervous, along with my parents, but the minute I stepped off the plane I was welcomed by the Projects Abroad staff, my host family and my placement. The first day was a blur. I was picked up by a staff member and taken to my placement, Good Hope Orphanage. I was greeted by many curious, happy children which made me more eager to start my placement. The day was followed by orientation, getting to know the town of Arusha, the language, and the crazy lifestyle. It felt a little overwhelming at first, but as days went by I adapted to Tanzanian life.
My first day working at the orphanage I got lost on the way there. The orphanage was quite a distance away from my house so remembering how to get there was a little tricky. At the time, I was unfamiliar with how the daladala (the local buses) system worked. I just hopped on one that was going in the direction of the orphanage. Little did I know that I missed my turn and my dala just kept on going. It wasn’t until I reached the next bus stop that I realised I was lost.
Luckily for me Tanzanian people are very gracious and helpful. The dala conductor gathered a bunch of his friends and starts rambling in Swahili how to get in the right direction of the orphanage. With a bit of debate, I was kindly put on another dala and back to the right bus station. From there I called the Projects Abroad office and fortunately for me, they were coming to the same area I was in anyways, so they were able to pick me up and take me to the orphanage. I was late on my first day, but I learned a big lesson in paying attention to the directions and I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for the help of the friendly Tanzanian people.
The usual day at Good Hope started at eight in the morning and usually finished around three in the afternoon. We began the day with teaching the younger children who didn’t go to school. Even though I was in a care placement, we taught basic English, math and science. They were also taught Kiswahili from the woman who lived at the orphanage. Although this was a challenge trying to teach the kids when they knew very little English, it was rewarding all at the same time. Slowly, but surely kids were starting to show some progress. I started to get stronger in my teaching and leadership skills as each day passed by.
Before lunch we would walk over to the sports field that was just down the road. There we would participate in various activities. Some kids liked to play football everyday using their handmade footballs. Some liked to play circle games, which involved lots of singing, but mostly everyone just liked to run. We would set up races between the kids trying to match them with each other the best that we could, so all races would be equal. Once in a while it would be the kids versus the mzungus (white people/foreigners).
After a hearty meal of ugali, a traditional East African dish, we spent the rest of the afternoon playing and caring for all of the kids. This is a time when each child could have their own private free time. It was during this time when I was really able to bond with each child. I set a goal for myself to spend at least ten minutes of each day with each of the kids individually. Each child craves attention and it’s hard for them to get the attention they need when competing with thirty other kids around them.
With already having close to nothing, the kids would make their own fun by using little of what they have around them. One particular afternoon, some of the boys found a giant praying mantis and being boys thought it would be fun to throw the creature at the rest of us watching. The next thirty minutes were spent running from the giant praying mantis and laughing all at the same time. Who knew you could have so much fun with one poor little bug.
My two months spent in Tanzania were coming to an end and so were my days at Good Hope. A party was thrown for me when it was time to say goodbye. Everyone was cheerful and sad at the same time, but it was time to go. I said my final goodbyes and then I was gone.
I have appreciated and enjoyed every minute of my time in Tanzania and at Good Hope. I was challenged mentally and have learned lessons that have made me come out stronger. The friendships and bonds that I’ve made will always connect me back to Tanzania. Projects Abroad has helped me live out a trip full of memories and one that I’ll not forget anytime soon. I know in the future which organisation I’ll be choosing first.
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.