Heidi Fung - High School Specials, Care & Community in Tanzania
The thought of going to Tanzania was absurd to my parents. Thankfully, the Projects Abroad 16-19 year old High School Special program proved to be a good persuasion tool. The carefully detailed arrangements meant that I could enjoy myself safely and my parents didn’t have to worry.
Arrival in Tanzania
After more than half a day of traveling from Scotland, I arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport. On my last flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, I was seated next to another volunteer with Projects Abroad. It was nice to meet a fellow volunteer beforehand, despite not being on the same project! The hot and dusty air hit me instantly as I exited customs.
My project leader, Jenna, and the Medical project leader, Matt, greeted me at the exit. They welcomed me to a completely different environment from where I came from. Other volunteers on my project arrived about the same time. We were all a little nervous and shy, but Jenna and Matt were great. They made everyone feel so at ease. It took over an hour to get to my host family. Matt had bought us all some chapati to try on the journey there. The chapati was so tasty (no comparison to the meals on the flight)! I could feel the start of the best two weeks of my life!
My host family
The house of my host family was not what I expected. The house was immense and spacious. I was shocked I hadn’t expected that as a volunteer I would be placed in such good living conditions. Nevertheless, I was ever so grateful for Projects Abroad organizing me such great hospitality. Mama Victoria greeted me with warmth and happiness. She showed my around the house.
My first meal in Tanzania was mince and mashed potatoes. Absolutely delicious, and so filling! Mama’s son, David, was very helpful. He told me some basic knowledge of Arusha and some customs. The next day I met two other volunteers on my project that were going to be living with me. Both British as well, so it was nice and easy to settle in.
Starting my project in Tanzania
The structure of the project was well-planned. I was gradually eased into Tanzanian life. The first day was getting all the official documentation done and meeting all the other volunteers. Projects Abroad helps you change money, buy SIM cards to phone home, and arrange volunteer permits etc. Honestly, there is no need to worry about anything! They have it all under control for you – great hospitality!
Anywhere you walk in Arusha, Tanzanians will greet you whether they know you or not. Everyone is so friendly and they do expect you to return the salutation. I had taken note of some basic Swahili before coming to Tanzania, but it was inaccurate. Luckily, Projects Abroad, provide you with a Swahili lesson. This was really useful when trying to engage more with my host family. The language is not difficult to learn and has a really joyful tone to it.
The Care & Community project
For my project, I volunteered at an orphanage, Tumaini for Africa. In Swahili, “Tumaini” means hope – a very meaningful name for an orphanage. It was early morning starts for most days, as it took about 45 minutes to commute to Tumaini by bus. Mama always made a big breakfast for us before we went out every day and some days she would prepare a packed lunch for us. Other days, we ate at the orphanage, where there would always be a few children watching us with so much fascination!
At Tumaini, I was assigned a task each day. The tasks were carried out in groups of about 3 volunteers. For the first week, we painted all the walls white on the boys’ and girls’ houses, painted black borders on the bottom of the walls, and sketched murals on the walls with chalk. In the afternoons, we would have an option to play with the children or continue working on the houses.
Of course, most of us chose to spend time with the children. Each and every one of them was just as adorable! They ranged from the ages of 3 to 14. Although the children were small, they enjoyed playing soccer, frisbee, and skipping with us. Because the children don’t have a lot of toys, they were very quick to make up new games. Their imagination was wonderful! I can assure you that playing with the children is not as easy as it seems. They are very energetic and they can keep you on your feet! Indeed it was tiring but seeing them smile and laugh, was the utmost satisfaction. It is true when people say “a child’s smile is one of life’s greatest blessings.” During the second week, we painted the murals and spent more time with the children.
Not every day, was spent at Tumaini. The High School Special program allowed us to explore and witness the beauty of Tanzania. Sometimes, we only spent half a day at Tumaini and the other half Projects Abroad had organized some cultural activities for us. In the first week we had visited the Snake Park, where it has a medical center for healing snake bites. After that, we were given an opportunity to visit the Masai Cultural center.
In the second week, we spent a whole day at the Chaga village, where we observed coffee making, traditional Chaga dancing and a mind-blowing walk through the forests to see a waterfall. We got to practice proper Tanzanian drumming and dancing in another afternoon with some experts at Via Via. For the weekend between our 2 weeks, Projects Abroad took us on a safari trip at Tarangire National Park and a chance to run wild with the bush men.
Never have I had so much fun in the space of two weeks. I know it is a very short period of time to do so many things but it is a perfect opportunity for those young people who lead busy lives to go and experience something different. It is important to be able to taste the culture of the country as well as volunteering.
I feel that I see the world differently after going to Tanzania. I have a much more positive outlook on life and I appreciate everything much more. I would highly recommend you go and experience the world with Projects Abroad. They plan your trip and make it so delightful and stress-free! This program changed my life and changed lives of others.