My Tanzania Experience, by Kirsteen, Volunteer Advisor
In April 2015 I had spent some time in Tanzania where I had the opportunity to visit Inspire’s partner schools in Arusha. It was an amazing experience and it was an opportunity for me to get an insight into what it is like to be an Inspire volunteer in Tanzania.
On arrival at Kilimanjaro airport I was met by Mr Thomas who drove me to our volunteer house in Arusha. Mr Thomas has been working for Inspire for over 5 years and he picks up all our volunteers from Kilimanjaro airport and volunteers can also use him as a taxi service during their time in Arusha. Upon arrival at the volunteer house I met Samina (our Tanzania Country Manager) and two volunteers (Sh’anesu and Robert). Our volunteer house is in a beautiful area called Sekei which is located at the foothills of Mt Meru. A local woman called Mama Sweet cleans the house every day and she prepares the evening meals. The food we ate at the house was much better than I had expected – we had pilau rice with beef, chicken, rice and beans, and we always had a selection of fruits for dessert (In the mornings we helped ourselves to cereals and toast, and for lunch we either made a sandwich or we bought something locally).
Two hours after arriving at the house I was picked up for my safari to Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater National Park. I wouldn’t recommend heading off on a safari straight away, but I was on a tight schedule so it was the best option for me. The safari was amazing and I was completely overwhelmed by the experience. In Lake Manyara we had an incredible moment when we were about 3 metres away from 2 elephants and in the Ngorongoro Crater we got very close to 3 lions. If you’re coming to Arusha to participate in a Inspire volunteer programme I would definitely recommend that you book a 3 or 5 day safari with us when you book your programme.
On the Sunday evening I returned to the volunteer house and I had an early night as the next day I had to get up early to visit one of our partner schools. Our volunteers usually have a welcome briefing on the Monday and Samina’s colleague Dan takes them to process their CTA which is a special permit for people who are Conducting a Temporary Assignment (ie. volunteering). As I was only in Tanzania for a week and I wasn’t actually volunteering I didn’t require this visa. Sh’anesu had arrived the week before and she said that the process to obtain the visa was straightforward and she enjoyed spending the day with Dan (he had also helped her to get some money from the ATM and sort out a SIM card/internet for her phone).
The school which I visited from Monday-Wednesday is approximately 50 minutes door to door from the volunteer house. The journey involves a 10 minute walk from the house to the main road and then a 10 minute journey on a daladala (minibus) and then you walk up a hill to the school.
The school is absolutely wonderful and I am sure that anyone who volunteers at this school would enjoy their time here. The woman who set up the school is truly inspiring and she has done a lot of amazing work within the local community. The school has about 100 pupils and many of them are disabled which is unusual for Tanzanian schools (the founder of this school hopes to remove the stigma which some Tanzanian people have towards people with disabilities). The children start at the baby class at aged 2-3 years and then there is a nursery class, and then classes 1-5 for children aged 6-12 years. It is an English medium school which means that all lessons (even the baby class) are taught in English. I spent the mornings with the baby class and I was very impressed with the little ones and it was lovely to see how keen they were to learn and how much respect they had for their teacher. If you sign up for our nursery and after school club project you will spend your mornings (9am-12noon) in the baby or nursery class and then in the afternoons you could teach another class or help with fun activities with older children. If you opt for our teaching project you will teach some of the older classes and you can help with English grammar, reading, maths, science and geography. The older classes have PE lessons within their timetable so you can also help with this if you want.
Later in the week I visited a government school in a rural location about one hour from Arusha. Volunteers who are placed at this school usually stay in some accommodation just behind the school and they have their meals with the Deputy Head and his lovely family. There are currently 550 Masai children and just 13 teachers at this school so as you can imagine the local teachers really appreciate having support from Inspire volunteers. I really loved this school and if you’re interested in volunteer teaching in a rural location in Tanzania and if you want to learn about Maasai culture then this would be the ideal school for you.
If you sign up for one of our volunteer teaching projects in Tanzania you will most likely be volunteering at your school from 9am-4pm and I think that you’ll probably be exhausted by 4pm. If you’re at one of the schools in Arusha you can either head straight back to the volunteer house after school or you could go into Arusha for a wonder around or go for a drink. I was quite comfortable walking around on my own in the daylight but you certainly have to be sensible and you must take care of your bag and personal belongings. In the evenings you might want to go out for dinner/drinks with other volunteers, but it is recommended that you take a taxi to town and back.
Arusha is a very busy city and I can imagine that some volunteers might find it slightly overwhelming at first, but I think that most people will soon get used to it. In Arusha there are modern office buildings, 5 star hotels and upmarket coffee shops, but you will also see local women sitting on the side of the roads selling huge avocados or cooking corn on the cob on a fire, you will see the women wearing their brightly coloured dresses walking along the streets carrying big bowls of vegetables on their heads, and you will also see lots of Masai men walking around in their traditional shukas. I loved exploring the streets of Arusha and I did lots of shopping in the local markets (I bought some gorgeous material and I had 2 dresses made – thank you Samina for taking me to the market and helping me to negotiate a price).
The main mode of transport in Arusha is a daladala and travelling by daladala is an interesting experience which takes some getting used to. A daladala is a minibus with about 16 seats, however there doesn’t seem to be any rules about the maximum capacity and the conductor will squeeze as many people as possible in to his van. It can be hot, smelly and uncomfortable, but I’m sure when volunteers return home they always have daladala stories to tell their friends and family. It seemed like every time Sh’anesu and I went into Arusha we would return to the volunteer house with a story and the most bizarre was when we told Robert that we had seen someone get on a daladala with 3 goats.
There are a lot of things to do in Arusha and Samina encourages our volunteers to make the most of their weekends. The volunteer house is located on Waterfall Road and you can trek up the hill to a waterfall, or you can visit a Masai market, or you can spend some time at the Cultural Heritage Centre which is the largest art gallery Africa. Or if you want to simply relax after your busy week you can go to the Mt Meru Hotel as a day guest and sunbathe by the pool.
I absolutely loved every minute of my week in Arusha and I would recommend Tanzania to anyone who is thinking about volunteering in Africa. I asked Sh’anesu and Robert if they would recommend an Inspire Tanzania project to their friends and without any hesitation they both said ‘yes definitely’.
One of the best things about my time in Tanzania was having the opportunity to get to know our in-country team. Samina is absolutely amazing at her job as Tanzania Country Manager and she takes her role very seriously, but she has a laid back attitude that makes you feel completely calm and relaxed from the moment you arrive. Nothing seemed like too much trouble for Samina and she was always checking that we were ok. Daniphord and Mr Wilson were also lovely, and so were Mama Sweet (the cook/cleaner) and Mr Lukas the escarpe (security guard at the volunteer house).
If you join an Inspire volunteer programme in Tanzania I’m sure that you will have the time of your life. If you would like to have chat on the phone to discuss our projects further or ask me any questions about my trip please send me an email and let me know your phone number and I’ll be more than happy to give you a call – [email protected]
By Kirsteen Mahoney, Volunteer Advisor – Inspire