Having spent a fair amount of my childhood in East Africa, I knew I wanted to return to the place where many generations of my family grew up.
Landing in Kilimanjaro airport, I felt slightly anxious as well as excited as to what the next two months would hold. Having found my driver, I jumped into his jeep and off we sped down the red soil roads towards Usa.
Usa is a town near Arusha, where I was based during my stay. It has a great community feel to it. Children, chickens and dogs run around the small side streets whilst women wearing brightly coloured kitenges and kangas sell fruit on the road corners. The driver stopped outside a cream coloured house with a large gate in front of it. This was to be my home in Usa. Lizbet my little host sister immediately came running to the gate with an inquisitive expression on her face. Her smile was infectious as was that of her adorable older sister Charity. My host family are such wonderful, warm and generous people. I felt very welcome from the start.
Within the next few days, I met all the other volunteers, who before long became really close friends. They helped show me around Arusha, which is a vibrant city with fantastic markets and introduced me to the numerous great places to eat! I had my first experience of riding in a Dala Dala which was interesting whilst scary at the same time! Dalas are the local transport in Tanzania and it took a few trips for me to adjust to the crammed vans which race along the roads.
I was so excited the morning of my first day teaching at Usa River Academy. I awoke at around 6 a.m. as sunlight poured through my bedroom window and the chickens started clucking! The day starts early in Usa. I got dressed and off I strode down the beautiful tree lined boulevard to my school.
I was allocated four year groups, of children aged approximately 10-14 years, to teach English to. Having never taught before, it was quite a daunting prospect at first but one which I loved from the start. Initially, the children were apprehensive as to what this Mzungu (foreigner) was like but they soon warmed to and trusted me.
I had a great amount of independence and freedom in taking the lessons. It is hard to see how much some of the children have suffered and endured in their lives but they are all such survivors and their courage and strength is truly inspiring.
By the end of the day, I felt exhausted but teaching filled me with such joy. Most evenings I spent relaxing with my host family, eating the local cuisine and playing and dancing to Tanzanian tunes with my host sisters. Some nights I would head out with the other volunteers to enjoy Arusha’s open air nightlife.
Outside teaching, I enjoyed spending time with the other volunteers relaxing in Arusha and discovering the rest of the country. I ventured on safari to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. I had such a brilliant time and the scenery was breathtaking. I ended my time in Tanzania with a trip to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar where I spent the days wondering around the atmospheric Stone Town and lounging on the island’s paradise beaches.
My two months in Tanzania were fantastic, however, that is not to say without challenges. At times for days there would be no water, nor electricity. Within a short time these issues became a part of life that you learnt to adapt to and made you so much more appreciative of the daily necessities taken for granted in the developed world. The difficult days were made much easier by the support of the other volunteers. We were always there to look after each other and to lean on each other.
Now back in London, Arusha seems a world away. However, I often find myself reminiscing about those incredible two months. Living in Tanzania was one of the best things I have ever done whilst at the same time one of the hardest things I have ever done. There are times where one sees or hears things which are really upsetting and even more frustrating is knowing, that there is often little you can do to change those things immediately. However, knowing that for those two months I made my students smile is all I need for me to believe it was all so worthwhile.
I cried when I said good bye to those that I had become so close to. Leaving my host family at the airport was a really emotional and poignant moment. Some of the students were worried that when I returned to London I would forget them. I will never forget them, they inspire me on a daily basis and it is them who have taught me so much about life.
To my students, my host family, my friends and all the other wonderful people I met out there I want to say thank you. Thank you for being a part of my life. You have all enriched my world so much and I miss you all constantly. There will always be a special place for all of you in my heart. I genuinely hope to be reunited again in the future.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. To find out more about what you can expect from this project we encourage you to speak to one of our friendly staff.