Lucy Parsons - General Care Projects in Tanzania
Travelling has always been a strong passion of mine and ever since I can remember I have wanted to travel and explore Africa, experience and interact with different cultures and help out in the local community. Whilst studying in my second year of University, one of my modules gave me the opportunity to plan a trip with Projects Abroad to any of their destinations for a month as well as carrying out a piece of fieldwork that would go towards my degree.
Straight away I knew I wanted to travel to one of their destinations in Africa but choosing where to go was another question! After doing a lot of research into the countries in Africa that Projects Abroad offered, I finally came to the decision of spending a month in Tanzania doing a care project in an orphanage. I can now safely say it was one of the best decisions I have ever made!
I left for Tanzania in April and didn’t really know what to expect! I had travelled to South Africa before but was pretty sure it was going to be a completely different experience from that. Everyone I had spoken to beforehand had given me different thoughts and opinions of what they thought I might experience, encounter and how I might find my trip so I had a lot of different things going round in my head creating expectations and worries.
Arriving in Tanzania
I think now looking back it was completely normal to be worried and anxious about whether you were going to like your host family, the food, the heat, everything, however as soon as I reached Tanzania, I had nothing to worry about! I was met off my flight by a friendly member of staff from Projects Abroad and taken to my host family. I arrived at night so it was quite strange not being able to see what everything looked like in the day light but as soon as I reached my host family’s house, I was welcomed in like a long lost relative!
I arrived at a weekend which was quite a daunting experience as it meant that I wasn’t going to my placement until the Monday so I had to settle in and explore the local town I was staying in, Usa. I was lucky enough to be sharing a room with another volunteer who had been in Tanzania for two months already, so she helped me settle in, show me the local points of interest and told me all the things I needed to know!
My home and host family were so welcoming that it didn’t take much time to adjust to the new environment, but what did take a couple of days to get used to was the fact that I was finally here, in such an amazingly beautiful country, full of friendly, welcoming people who just wanted to stop and talk all the time! It was such a great a way to start my experience.
My Care Placement in an Orphanage
I decided to base my placement in an orphanage because I wanted to work with local people and working with young children was something I hadn’t come across too often. I was placed in an orphanage called Seeway Tanzania which was run by two people from the UK and America. I was welcomed in and introduced to all of the children who were just awesome! I was shown around and asked what kind of things I wanted to partake in which was really good as I was able to be specific if I wanted to.
I encountered many different things from playing with the children, teaching, gardening, cooking and DIY work. I was always doing something, but that was the great thing about it, there was always someone around who wanted to do something, play, talk or go for a walk so there was never a dull moment! We would take the children to play football outside of the grounds which was always good fun, I took some of the older children for a milkshake one day which was good for both them and myself and other similar things like this.
New ideas are always welcome and the children appreciated any attention and love that they were given which was so rewarding, fulfilling and great to experience and witness. The times I worked at the orphanage were very flexible, they could use you all the time, but if you wanted to travel or leave early because of plans, they were really flexible so I was able to explore parts of Tanzania such as safaris, local markets and nearby towns which were just incredible!
Tanzania as a country is just beautiful and everyone should witness it if they can! The landscapes and views are incredible and something that you never tire of, the local people are incredibly welcoming and warm and every visitor becomes a local! There is so much to see and do from climbing Kilimanjaro or Mount Meru to going to the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater on safari and experiencing local Maasai villages and local markets too are a definite must! As a whole, the country, the people, their food, culture and landscape is something that should not be missed!
As I was a university student, I had to undertake some fieldwork and research, this could have been quite a difficult task to undertake whilst volunteering but with the help of Projects Abroad staff, it was made really simple and I was able to get the work done. The supervisors at my orphanage were also really co-operative so it made being able to study, volunteer and enjoy my experience a definite possibility.
The rewarding feeling I got everyday when making the children smile or doing something in the orphanage that was appreciated, spending time with my host family and making new friends from many different walks of life was worth every penny of my trip. I was able to give something back, experience a different culture and way of life and it is something that I would recommend to anyone.
You’re never alone and someone from Projects Abroad and many other volunteers are always around to help you from booking your trip, to your flights to directions in your destination. It was an experience that I will never forget and something I believe has shaped me as a person and taught me a lot of things. I was lucky enough to be with a wonderful family and in a fantastic orphanage which shaped my experience to be what it was. I definitely 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.