Mae Smith - Care & Community in Tanzania
Before we left
I had never even thought of going to Africa until Projects Abroad was introduced but I did not even hesitate to join the group and help in any way I could. Before going there was a lot of preparation to do, such as fundraising, getting vaccinations and also discovering what and how we will in achieve our objectives in Tanzania. This took weeks of preparation including face painting, fairs and football events which the group and I organised to involve family and friends. I was part of a group of 9 guys and girls which all brought our own individual strengths to make it possible to cooperate over the 2 weeks as we all realised the huge impact that we could have on the lives of others.
Arriving in Tanzania
In order to get to Tanzania it took 3 flights before finally landing at Kilimanjaro. On arrival we saw our supervisors and I have never been greeted before by such happy and welcoming people, I already felt safe. We then went on a 2 hour road journey to our host family and again they were so welcoming and before we knew it we were learning their language. We firstly had a day of getting to know the host family. We mainly interacted with the children “ Brian and Brittany” and the Grandma ( Mamma). They were lovely . They were so interested in where we came from and the background to each and every one of us. We were also interested in their background and what they did differently. Nasema and I also got involved with their fashion and had our hair braided by some girls. On that same day we went to the orphanage to meet the children and get to know them as we would be spending a lot of time with them over the next 2 weeks. I couldn’t have asked for a better response from the children they were so happy to meet us it already felt like we had changed their lives.
Our project was to build a chicken coop for the orphanage. We made a concrete shed to hold 90 chickens in! For me personally, going to the orphanage was emotionally challenging because it came to show how much I have to be grateful for and to see how happy they were with so little. Moreover this really did motivate me to help them and to build the chicken coop. So that’s what we did. For 10 days we worked on building the chicken coop so the children were able to have a greater supply of food and money. There were some things with the chicken coop we couldn’t do such as the roof as we did not have the skills, so whilst we were waiting for a builder to complete the roof we went to decorate the orphanage to make it more homely and brighten it up. We doubted whether we would complete it in time, however we did. I have never seen so many happy faces in one place. The group and I felt such an achievement in completing it and knowing that we had done something which will change lives from then on. The children were running around with joy and even putting all 90 chicken in. We did get breaks and lunch breaks to play with the children and eat a meal with them. They were so kind and really did make us feel safe. We didn’t really split things up with teaching and care we just joined it all together so we would sing and play and whilst doing so teach them a little bit of English because we really wanted them to enjoy themselves. At the end of the 2 weeks they knew our names and were so confident being around a group of 9 who were on day 1 strangers to them. They were running and jumping on us with enjoyment and they really did bring out the happiness within the group.
On weekends we were able to do some tourist activities going on a safari for the day. It was amazing! We rode in a jeep and it was a very funny day as a monkey came into the jeep (no one was in the jeep at the time ) and stole one of the boys packet of cookies and ran off and then proceeded to eat them in front of his face. We saw so many animals in their natural habitat it was fantastic. There were elephants, zebras, giraffes etc … we were all shattered when we came back but it was a brilliant day. The next day we went to a Masaai village. The lifestyle they live is so different. I was shocked and some of their traditions which are unbelievable and eye opening.
Having gone and done such an amazing project is definitely something to tick off my bucket list. The feeling of going half way across the world and helping so many people is a feeling like no other. The group and I could not stop talking about the experience we had just had on the way back from Tanzania. We were already talking about wanting to go back to the orphanage and see the children grown up and see how the orphanage had changed due to the uses of the chicken coop. I am so happy that I took up the opportunity which Projects Abroad offered to myself and the group. The trip has widened my knowledge and has really given me an interest into the culture of the Maasai. The trip allowed me to help others but it has also changed me to be a better and more understanding person of other people. It has helped me to realise not everyone is the same and that if help is needed somewhere and you have to chance to do so you should go and grab it with both hands.
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.