Alison Leiterman - General Care Projects in Tanzania
After secondary school, I decided I wanted to travel and spend some of my time volunteering. I figured that since I was going to do it I might as well go somewhere I would probably never get to go otherwise, and I chose Africa.
Being young and having never travelled to a foreign country on my own I was very nervous. Luckily, Projects Abroad communicated with me thoroughly and had every single thing taken care of for me along the way. Having such a dependable organisation eased so many of my anxieties about the trip.
First impressions of Tanzania
I remember that upon first arriving at the airport I was greeted by the Projects Abroad staff that were to bring me to my host family. During the journey we played music and sung to some of the songs which we both new. The ease of being around others my age that were much like those I knew back home, made me instantly feel more comfortable.
My host family was absolutely amazing, and they were such a blessing to have during my time there. I would go back to visit them any time. My Australian roommate became one of my dearest friends during my stay there. By the end of the trip I started to have an Australian accent and her family told her she sounded American when she went back home!
My Care placement
I was placed in a nursery school teaching 60 children between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. They spoke almost no English and neither did the two teachers there. It was very challenging at first to find ways to connect with them. After a while, we were able to see that the children reacted well to music and art. We started having music days every single Friday where I brought my iPod and speaker and we listened to the Lion King and various children’s songs. I even taught them the “chicken dance,” which became their favourite!
I also brought enough school supplies to make books with each of the children using construction paper, yarn, and a punch. Each of the pages had a lesson that we worked on throughout the week such as self-portraits with yarn hair, matching up shapes, writing numbers, colours, and letters.
The teachers almost always worked with the children by having them recite numbers and letters while pointing to the chalkboard. I was so happy to have been able to implement different types of learning in order to improve the children’s English and their basic skills. We were able to make learning really fun for the kids. The parents greatly appreciated everything that we did, and were proud of the projects the children came home with - they threw us a huge party at the end of our time there.
After school my roommate and I went to the orphanage in our spare time with three of the children from the nursery school and met with five other older children there. We were able to spend a lot more one on one time with these children, and they greatly appreciated having someone there to give them attention. They loved turning on my music and dancing or even building toys out of garbage we found around their small shack. We were able to go on outings with them, help them with their chores, cook them breakfast, and play with them. It was very rewarding to get to spend so much time with these children and make a difference in their lives.
Free time in Tanzania
During my free time in Tanzania, I learnt what a beautiful and amazing place Africa was. I had no idea how beautiful it would be there. My host family took me to see a sending off party, similar to a wedding or a wedding shower for both the bride and groom.
I was, unfortunately, also invited to attend a funeral for one of the school children’s parents. The event held a great amount of sadness, but the rolling hills and the beautiful songs from the women dressed in bright kanga, or scarves, was an image that will forever be in my heart.
I was also able to see, and be dressed as, the Masai or indigenous people of Tanzania.The White Masai, is a great book I would recommend to anyone interested more in what their lives are like in comparison to Western culture (and it’s also a movie). I also spent a few days on safari and made friends that I will never forget. We were able to see lions up close, and an elephant even came right up to our camp in the middle of the night to drink from a watering hole!
After my trip I had friends from Australia, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Japan! If you are interested in travelling with Projects Abroad my advice to you is do it!! You will not regret it. It was an experience that I will never forget, and I will always look back on it as one of the best times in my life.
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.