Zoe Schneider - Care & Community in Tanzania
I took part in a two-week Care and Community project in Tanzania with my friend, Ruby, in the summer after our GCSEs. We decided that after having a stressful and monotonous few months revising, we wanted to do something exciting and worthwhile with our long summer. We decided we would really like to visit a country in Africa and researched different projects available before making the final decision. Having both done our work experience in a pre-school, we both knew we enjoyed helping in school environments and being around children.
My host family
I was really nervous about staying with a local family in Tanzania, after having a bad French exchange experience. Once in Tanzania, the Sebastien family were so welcoming and friendly; it was really comforting to have them around. We became quite close with their 17-year-old daughter, Winnie, who was very friendly. Close bonds also formed between us and her siblings, Wilbard and little Glory. ‘Mama Irene’ was very kind to her volunteers - helping teach us useful phrases in Swahili and talking to us about her charity – an aid to young women providing talks and information. Our meals were delicious, consisting of a range of rice, noodles and stews for lunch and dinner.
Our house was much more developed than I had expected, with big beds and a spacious sitting room. We still managed to have a truly ‘African’ experience, including frequent power-cuts resulting in us searching through bags looking for torches more often than necessary! Our bathroom was also very basic. It had a bucket shower which proved to be an experience we managed to master in the end!
My project group
In our house we had seven volunteers, and our project supervisor, Clara. Having such a small group was quite special, as we formed a really close group and bond as new friends. Our supervisor Clara was lovely! She was fun and became more of a friend than a member of staff.
Our first visit to the Roselini Centre was both humbling and uplifting. The school taught around 80 students between the ages of two and seven years old, in four separate classes: A, B, C and D. The children were separated by age and ability. The centre also accommodated four orphans of different ages, not attending the pre-school but residing in a dormitory connected to the centre. The classrooms were reasonably well equipped, with benches and desks for all the children, albeit slightly cramped.
There were four subjects taught: handwriting, maths, drawing, and English. Handwriting and maths lessons involved teaching the pupils how to draw letters and numbers, showing them the shapes of the characters, and for some of the older children, some addition during the maths class. Drawing lessons taught the children how to recognise pictures and learn the vocabulary for some English words. English classes involved the translation of Swahili to English, giving the pupils a foundation for the language.
Most mornings we helped the few teachers during class by attending to some of the many pupils and giving demonstrations on the blackboards. We helped entertain the children during their two ‘playtimes’ and this mainly involving being chased around the field or throwing balls for some children to catch. These mornings spent at the school were so special, and the children were so happy and appreciative. This really emphasised how many people can find joy in the smallest of things and on the other side, how much we take for granted in England.
The last two days of our trip were spent doing renovation work in the school. This involved painting and decorating the walls and adding displays such as a decorated alphabet and number chart. Two volunteers in my group bought materials and constructed a shelf for the girls’ dormitory; this was greatly appreciated by the staff. I enjoyed the school visits so much, and I was devastated when I had to miss two mornings of teaching due to the flu. Despite this (which included a malaria scare and a trip to the very traditional – by that I mean basic – hospital) I immensely enjoyed my entire trip!
Weekend and afternoon activities
Each afternoon we took part in a pre-arranged activity which really enhanced our cultural experience, giving us opportunities to understand and be exposed to the traditional Tanzanian way of life. We were given a Swahili workshop of many useful phrases, questions and vocabulary, as well as tips to avoid ‘tourist prices’ and how to engage in a polite conversation with a local. Another workshop we took part in was a traditional cooking workshop, in which we made our own dinner of some very delicious traditional food!
At the weekend we visited Tarangire National Park, famous for its large numbers of African Elephants. It was an incredible and unforgettable day, and we spotted lots of amazing wildlife such as lions, elephants, zebras, giraffes and buffalo. We had a really fun day together as a group. On the Sunday we walked to Mount Meru waterfall - a beautiful waterfall surrounded by trees and vegetation. I even braved swimming in the water which was very cold, but an incredible experience that I will not forget!
On another day trip, we visited the traditional Maasai tribe living in mud huts in the middle of nowhere. We learnt about their traditions, not all of them particularly agreeable. These include women marrying as young as 12-years-old, to much older men who already have many other wives. We experienced a large cultural shock when we learnt that to ‘welcome us’ to their tribe, a tribesman would sacrifice a goat and provide us with the blood to drink and the meat to eat! Nevertheless, we still had an enlightening and enjoyable day.
I had an amazing two weeks, and made friends from many different places including USA, Japan and Wales who I know I will keep in contact with for many years to come. The Projects Abroad staff were fantastic, and our supervisor Clara was absolutely wonderful, we all miss her!
The project was so rewarding, it was amazing to be able to say I made a real difference in my summer, and touched the lives of so many children. The project was worth every penny and I would thoroughly recommend any expedition you choose to go on – you’ll surely love 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.