Community Volunteering in Tanzania

This is my experience of community volunteering in Tanzania. One of the most rewarding and eye opening experiences I’ve ever had. Full of laughter, lessons, teamwork and a few tears. I’ll be sharing what the mission was for the trip, along with the unforgettable stories I shared with people along the way.

In June 2014 (when I was 17 years old), I had the chance to be part of a missionary trip to Tanzania with my school, working with the charity called Seeds 4 Tanzania. Seeds stands for Schooling, Education, Empowerment, Development & Sustainability. Volunteering in Tanzania was a very special way to be finishing my school education, right before heading to university. We stayed for just under 2 weeks in a town called Mpwapwa, near the centre of Tanzania. The sole aim of our trip was centered around volunteering with children, working in schools, teaching, playing and just having fun with the kids. Mostly based in the main villages the charity works with called Chitemo and Nyhinila. Other days we were visiting schools in the area or on different community projects.

 volunteering in tanzania

Having fun skipping and playing ball games!

The Team volunteering in Tanzania

Our team was made up of 14 people who were all going to be volunteering in Tanzania. We worked for many months before the trip, fundraising money which was firstly to pay for a bore-hole to be drilled in Nyhinila village. Which meant they don’t have to walk around 10km each time to get water. Secondly we raised money for school supply’s and toys for the children to bring out with us. After we had covered that fundraising goal, the rest was then to cover our own cost to fly there, along with all the supplies we bought and collected from donations. I probably wouldn’t have been able to go myself without the help of my family and friends. I’m very grateful for them donating and supporting the events we organised.

Giving the supplies we bought for one of the older kids schools.

Time to go!

The day of the flight the team was super excited and we couldn’t wait to get out there and start our work! We flew from London Heathrow to Daar es Salaam via Nairobi airport. This was my first time flying on a plane and leaving Europe altogether. From Nairobi to Daar es Salaam the flight was amazing and luckily I was on the side that flew over Mount Kilimanjaro! It was Incredible.

When we arrived it was time to meet our drivers for the next 2 weeks. Loaded up the car with the many cases we had full of supplies, then set off for Mpwapwa on the 9 hour jeep ride. It was definitely longer due to being stopped by police and other delays, but I was falling in and out of sleep surrounded by cases. We arrived in the night at the Ark Hotel where we were staying in Mpwapwa.

volunteering in tanzania

Driving to Mpwapwa with the sun setting.

 

Meeting the Villages

We spent our first day in Chitemo village. Welcomed by song and drums into the small church/ school which was filled with everyone from the village. Seeds 4 Tanzania have funded a new pre-school which not finished when we visited but has now been completed in Chitemo for all the children. We spent the day outside playing games with the children, singing, dancing and teaching a few basics of English. The children are mostly orphans who are cared for by the local families and village.

At the start it took a while for the kids to warm up to us. As neither of us could communicate with eachother it made it difficult. But once we started throwing balls, singing and taking photos and showing them to the kids they were loving it, and started posing for photos with their new tennis balls.

Quote from Seeds 4 Tanzania

“Their parents had died mainly from Aids, dysentery, malaria or childbirth. Many areas of Africa can be cruel when it comes to the care of orphans and those with physical or mental disabilities because there is no infrastructure to deal with them. Orphans will have a tough life, often left to fend for themselves from a very young age. 

 

However, in these two villages the church has taken it upon itself to care for them asking the villagers who themselves are very poor, to give them a home and four times a year at a special service, donate what they can towards their care. The children have nothing to call their own, few clothes, no toys, and no school facilities apart from what volunteers are able to do for them. Their activities are always held outdoors, the only shade being a tree.” – Seeds 4 Tanzania

volunteering in tanzania

Some of the bright-eyed kids from Chitemo village.

Welcomed everywhere we went

Everywhere we went we were invited into someone’s home for food. It was usually a goat stew and rice, or pancakes. The team sometimes found it difficult to eat especially when they were making us a big meal, when we would rather the kids were given this food instead of us. Of course we ate to be respectful to the families who provided for us. Everyone was exceptionally friendly and always welcomed us into their homes.

volunteering in tanzania

Heading the the bore-hole point to bless the spot in Nyhinila.

The first time we visited Nyhinila the whole village was waiting for us to arrive. Wating with drums ready to sing and walk over to the spot where the bore-hole was going to be dug. The whole village circled the spot and the reverend and pastor blessed it together.

 

The Special Days

One of my favourite days was when we visited an all girl boarding school. The girls were about 14 and could speak a bit of English. We spent the morning teaching lessons, a bit of Maths, English and Science. Then in the afternoon we all sat down outside making bracelets together, and after that played football (which they were a lot better than me at!)

volunteering in tanzania

Me and two of the girls from the boarding school.

Another one was when everyone from both villages Chitemo and Nyhinila came together for a day of activities Starting with a church service for the whole village outside. Then we had paining, skipping and ball games. It was a lovely day. Everyone was getting involved not just the kids. Most of them were covered in paint by the end of the day. Which was probably my fault as I was encouraging them the paint their hands to make prints. Looked like everyone had a great day!

volunteering in tanzania

Helping the kids make a mess with paint.

 

Making Friends

I had some really nice encounters with some of the kids who lived in Mpwapwa town. One of them was when we were walking around the markets one day, buying fabric to have some clothes made for church. There were these boys just jumping around doing backflips and all sorts, I started taking photos of them and showing them the photos which made them laugh, then they were trying to do bigger flips. We gave them some sweets we had with us and carried on walking. Somehow I dropped a sock from my bag and they ran through the town after me to give it to me, which I just found really sweet.

volunteering in tanzania

Parkour skills in Mpwapwa town.

One afternoon we was at the hotel and some kids were just outside. One of the other volunteers had bought his guitar with him. So we went out to see these kids, and started playing some songs. At one point I was playing the chords and singing while getting them to play the strings. Taking it in turns and playing the song together, from what I could tell I think they were enjoying themselves (unless they were laughing at my singing). It’s so weird how even though we don’t speak the same language we could communicate through music and laughter.

PIPIs

When driving to and from places in the jeeps, we would always have a massive tub of sweets in the car. When we would pass some children walking on the road we would open the window and shout pipi (swahili for sweets) and throw a load out and they would go mad after them, chasing the jeep running and laughing with their friends.

Buying a Goat

One of our scheduled days was to present to a group of adults about aids and contraception. Nearby they had loads of goats, and as a joke we asked if they were for sale. As it turned out, yes they were, so we had the idea to gift a goat to live in the village of Chitemo (a mother for milk and babies not to be eaten). I got to choose the goat. The goat was put inside for us but all it’s goat friends were allowed out on the grass. The goat was crying out and then I started crying (like what have I done I’ve taken it away from it’s friends) I couldn’t stop crying and then I had to present with red eyes to the adults in the group. 

My goat friend Alberta whom we gifted to Chitemo village..

I think that goat crying was definitely my tipping point. Anyway we put the goat into the back of the jeep. I tried to make friends and keep it company for the journey back to the village. We named her Alberta after the man called Albert who was one of the charity workers at the hospital. I hope Alberta is having a great life in Chitemo and made some new goat friends. Really did not expect to be buying a goat on this while volunteering in Tanzania!

volunteering in tanzania

Other goat friends at Chitemo village.

 

Church

We spent Sunday’s and some evenings at church and at other community events. The church choir I saw in Mpwapwa is one of the best choirs I’ve ever seen, they sounded so good together, and their dancing was on point. I wish I had recorded some of their songs. We were seen as guests so we had to sit at the front. And had to perform a song for them as they did for us. They would get us to join in with their songs and attempt to dance. It was actually really fun, better than any churches I’ve been to in the UK.

Reflecting on volunteering in Tanzania

volunteering in tanzania

The team stopping for lunch.

 

Every evening in the hotel after dinner we would sit down as a group to talk about our highlights and bad points from the day, and how we was feeling. There was usually tears and a lot of thought about some of the things we had seen. After that the work usually didn’t stop and we spent the evening making posters for teaching. Then sorting out resources and the plan for the next day.

Volunteering in Tanzania opened my mind to how I was behaving back at home. In that I was searching for happiness in material items or caring too much about what I look like. Surrounding me were children some with no family, no possessions. Wearing the only pair of clothes they own and some of the time having no real food. Yet they still have massive smiles on their faces.

Greatfulness

I came away from this experience with gratefulness for what I had in the UK. The way we take things for granted such as running water from a tap and available education. I had never truly thought or experienced how other people live in other countries before, especially as I hadn’t been to many places before this trip. I’m so lucky I was able to be part of that experience, and will never forget my time there.

Young Hayley with some mountains near Mpwapwa.

The day we left Mpwapwa the hotel owner gifted us all a handmade bracelet. I felt quite sad leaving and had met some wonderful people. Hopefully created some beautiful memories for the children we was working with. I hope the fundraising and work our team did would have had a good impact on the community. And the resources we bought will help to support the children’s education in the future.

We then headed to Mikumi National Park for a few days to wind down and reflect on our time volunteering in Tanzania.

You can read my blog post about Visiting Mikumi National Park, Tanzania here.

Seeds 4 Tanzania run a blog page where they add updates of the work and projects going on in the area, you can check it out here

About Hayley Crone

Hayley is a Digital Nomad who has spent the past few years turning her love for travel into a full time income & lifestyle. Head for Horizons is designed to give you the BEST tips to help you travel better and work online. CLICK HERE to read more about me and how I could help you!

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  1. Pingback: Visiting Mikumi National Park, Tanzania

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