Today’s guest blog is shared by Sham Tzegai as she speaks about her inspiring experience in Tanzania.
Guest Blog by Sham Tzegai
Good morning Madam! That’s the phrase I would hear every day at the orphanage as soon as I stepped into the classroom.
Happy kids with smiles always on their faces, simply happy that I was there.
In November, I spent three weeks in Arusha, Tanzania volunteering at Rainess Children Center. Making the decision to go didn’t take long. I knew that volunteering abroad was something I had wanted to do for a long time. Once I made the decision to go with International Volunteer HQ, the only thing left was to decide where to go. Africa has always been a huge part of my life. Having been born in Sudan with parents from Eritrea shaped my outlook on the world. So I made the decision to go to Tanzania. I went with no expectations of what I would see or experience. I can say now looking back that it was truly life changing.
Rainess Children Center is in Usa River, a town about 30 minutes outside of Arusha. It was different from some of the other orphanages as the majority of the children lived there instead of going home to live with extended family. There were about 40 children there every day.
I saw bugs that were bigger than I had ever seen.
And I fell in love with children that will forever be a part of my life.
The older girls also had to help with the laundry, which was washed in the nearby river. Missing part of the school day to do so.
Every morning at about 7:30 a couple other volunteers and I would leave the volunteer house and walk down the path to the dalla dalla stop. We’d get on a dalla and travel about an hour to Usa.
The kids were taught in English and we’d either help their teacher with the lesson or lead the lesson ourselves. I learned that teaching practices are very different from what I’m used to here. The children were split into Baby I and Baby II classes. Baby II had most of the older children. But a couple of the younger kids could be in it if they were smart. It was basically a competition if they had a couple kids that would be moved to the older class. They were tested on several things to see if they could do what the other kids were doing. It was sometimes hard to watch how some of the kids struggled to really understand what they were taught. Only a few of the older children understood English enough to follow the entire lesson. It was our goal as volunteers to try to help them with their lessons in the best way we could. We didn’t speak Swahili and they didn’t speak English. We had to find other ways to communicate what they needed to know.
I learned so much from those 40 kids at Rainess. I learned what you really need to have a happy life. They didn’t have running water or a variety of food. They didn’t all have mattresses on their beds. But they were always smiling, always happy. And they taught me much more about life than I think I taught them about English.
Tanzania will always have a special place in my heart. And if I can I will go there many more times. The Tanzanian people are welcoming and open. I met some of the most amazing volunteers from the UK, Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand. This was an experience I would repeat over and over again.
We hiked to the waterfall in Arusha. I rode a boda for the first time (motorcycle cabs)
I ate some of the most amazing food there. The “House Mamas” at our volunteer house were so friendly and were amazing cooks!
The volunteers I went on safari with. An amazing group of women from all over the world!
Some of the sights we saw on Safari. Tanzania is truly an amazing country!
For more information on volunteering in Tanzania with IVHQ: