World Unite! Volunteering, Internships, Cultural Travel

Volunteering, Internships and Intercultural Learning in Tanzania, Zanzibar, India, Morocco, Israel, Nicaragua, Bolivia, China, Japan, Ghana, Galapagos, Ecuador

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10 years of environmental conservation with World Unite! in Zanzibar – time for something new!


Zanzibar is a precious paradise with amazing natural wonders such as coral reefs, white sandy beaches, blue ocean, coral rag and mangrove forests, and an abundance of wildlife including marine turtles, dolphins, whale sharks, tropical fish, coconut crabs, the indigenous red colobus monkeys and others.

However, Zanzibar’s increasing population size puts the islands‘ pristine nature under pressure. Problems include pollution with solid and liquid waste, unsustainable fishing methods such as dynamite fishing and overfishing due to an increasing demand for food (also caused by the increasing amount of seafood and high quality fish by hotels and tourist restaurants), and a lack of awareness about the importance of conservation of protected species such as Hawksbill and other marine turtles.

World Unite! has been arranging volunteer and internship placements related to environmental conservation in Zanzibar for 10 years now, since April 2006, cooperating successfully with the islands‘ leading environmental NGOs and institutions including the Institute of Marine Sciences of the University Daressalam, the Nungwi Natural Aquarium, MOTO/DADA, Misali Island Conservation, ZALA Park, Sustainable East Africa and others.

For the 10th anniversary of our environmental efforts in Zanzibar, we think that we should come up with something new and even better now, to make our programs even more effective for the benefit of Zanzibar’s nature, and more enticing, exciting and satisfying for our participants!

Everyone who is already booked into our existing environmental projects in Zanzibar from middle of June can now join all of the following activities. Those who have not yet booked will surely like what we will present in continuation and will decide to join us in Zanzibar!!

* From middle of June 2016 we will have our own environmental program manager in Zanzibar, Celeste from South Africa. Celeste has been working as a marine conservation project manager with international volunteers in South Africa and Zanzibar since 2013, ensuring the daily running of conservation projects, and keeping volunteers, project partners and local communities engaged and enthusiastic. She is a very lively and captivating character whose motto is to „Be the change you want to see in the world“ (Mahatma Ghandi). Celeste will direct our own environmental volunteering/internship programs and will cooperate with other NGOs whose activities can be joined by our volunteers/interns to make best use of the combined manpower, to better link the various activities going on in Zanzibar, and to offer thrilling and all-encompassing volunteer/internship experiences related to many aspects of environmental conservation in Zanzibar. For instance you as an environmental volunteer/intern in Zanzibar can spend a few hours per day doing marine turtle conservation, some hours doing permaculture building and gardening, and some hours providing environmental education – all in small groups, because it’s more fun to share the experience with other like-minded people, and under the knowledgeable direction of Celeste.

* Another new World Unite! team member from June will be biologist Monique from Germany. Monique has developed „Rucksack School Tours“ for environmental education in the middle of nature that she has already carried out for local school classes in Bagamoyo/Tanzania. In Zanzibar, the „Rucksack School Tours“ will not only be provided to local school children, but also offered to tourists as a sustainable income-generating eco-tourism activity for coastal populations.

* So from middle/end of June, you as a volunteer/intern in Nungwi/Zanzibar can join and combine:

-> The Nungwi Natural Aquarium Marine Turtle conservation project
-> Recycling of plastic waste such as bottles and plastic bags (collected from beaches), turning them into something new and useful, following the techniques of First, we will build the machines that are needed, making use of local materials
-> Building our own „Environmental Education Centre“ in Nungwi, making use of Permaculture techniques for construction and for the gardening of the land, and developing the exhibition.
-> Training local guides and implementing „Rucksack School Tours“ in Zanzibar
-> Eco-tourism programs in cooperation with various partners
-> Environmental education programs in cooperation with various partners

* As our environmental base in Zanzibar where all of our environmental efforts come together, we will have our own „Environmental Education Centre“ in Nungwi, just 2 minutes to walk from the beach. We will also start to build this centre in June 2016, making use of Permaculture building techniques, and you can join! The centre will include an exhibition about environmental topics relevant to Zanzibar, open to any local and tourist visiting Zanzibar.

Are you excited about these new programs in Zanzibar? For more information please contact us at

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10 Recommendations for Cosplay Fans

If you are not yet familiar with the term or concept the Japanese subculture of “Cosplay”, to put it into simple terms, it it just an abbreviation for „Costume Play“. It is a chance for Anime, Manga, Video Game and Comic Book fans, to get the opportunity to dress as their favorite characters. Some even say it is a type of performance art. People cosplay because it’s a fun way to show their appreciation toward their favorite characters, they get a chance to be someone else for a change, and to meet other cosplayers who share the same interests. Even celebrities enjoy taking part in Cosplay events.

In Japan Cosplay or known as コスプレ(kosupure) can almost be seen as a way of life for some individuals. You can see Japanese Anime and Manga lovers incorporate their favorite characters into the everyday things that they wear such as bags, wallets, and keychains. If you are a cosplayer or character fan yourself, Tokyo is a city you definitely want to experience.

Please see our list of 10 recommendations for Cosplay and character fans in Tokyo:

1) Akihabara:

As an Anime and Manga fan, Akihabara is the place that would most likely capture your utmost attention. Akihabara is the center for Anime and Manga enthusiasts. Here you can experience manga and maid cafes, cosplay shops, specialty character shops, and much more. At cosplay shops you can find many characters such as Sailor Moon, Naruto, or those from Final Fantasy.

Cosplayers in Japan take their cosplays seriously. Some spend months creating the perfect cosplay outfit of their favorite character. Fans take pride and joy into creating their outfits because it lets them appreciate that character even more. It is a whole transformation from having the perfect wig, makeup and one can’t forget about the costume itself. It is remarkable to see how much detail is put into the costumes. Some look like the Manga or Anime character have actually come to life.

If you’re wondering where to buy Cosplay outfits, these are some of the popular shops in Akihabara:


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Working Holiday – as a Photo Model in Japan

Read about our colleague Katharina’s experience as a photo model in Japan

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I’m Katharina and I’m working in communications with participants and administration for World Unite!. From April to July 2015, I was involved in the development of our Working Holiday Program in Tokyo and tried to find out, which jobs foreigners in Japan can easily gain a foothold in.

What is Working Holiday? A Working Holiday Visa allows nationals of Germany, Denmark, Norway, Great Britain, France, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, Taiwan or Hong Kong between the ages of 18-30 years old, to stay in Japan for up to one year, as well as allowing them to finance their stay abroad through obtaining a job with a regular salary. Typically, holders of a Working Holiday Visa work as waiters in restaurants or cafes, as service staff in hotels, as nannies, language teachers, sports instructors, and as salespersons in shops etc.

In Tokyo, I searched various job boards for job offers that are primarily addressed to foreigners – this means, jobs that are relatively flexibly and only require little to even no knowledge of the Japanese language. While searching one day through the job boards I came across a modeling agency that was looking for participants for a photo shoot. The photo shoot was about advertising photos, which will appear on the website of a famous Japanese golf coach and golf professional. The location for the shoot was a high-class golf club outside of Tokyo.

I decided to do a self-test: Foreigners are part of many Japanese TV productions and advertising campaigns. I wanted to know, if I even without any experience as a model – as a „western“ face – would I have the chance to participate in a paid photo shooting in Japan.

Through the job board I applied for the photo shoot. Only a few days later I received a message from the scout of the agency. She thought my picture looked „kawaii“ – Japanese for „sweet“ or „cute“ – and wanted to shoot sample photos of me for the customer. We met up in a cafe, and while we talked, she casually shot photos of me.

The very next day I got an email confirming the shoot. I was slightly surprised, but also happy that my adventure was quickly taking shape!

Just two weeks later, I was on the train traveling to the shooting. On my arrival at the station the photographer and his assistant were already waiting for me. The golf coach, on whose website the photos where going to appear, was there too. Shortly after I arrived, my male counterpart for the photo shoot also arrived. He is from Australia and also applied for the shooting through the job board.

I was excited and a little bit worried at the same time; many thoughts were going through my mind: What will all these people think about me? Will I be able to meet their expectations? And did I, as a complete beginner, probably feel far too confident about the whole idea? Besides, I’ve never played golf in my life.

By car, we drove to the golf course, where the shooting would take place. Along the way we got a quick briefing: about how the golf coach, my shooting partner, and I will act out various scenes from a golf lesson. Those scenes that we acted out were then eventually photographed. They also had us keep in mind that we should enjoy ourselves, be relaxed and have fun!

On arrival at the golf club, we put on our golf clothes and drove to the green in a golf cart. Besides us, there were hardly any other golfers there; surrounded by lush green of the golf course, we practiced the correct postures, swings and different types of shots. With the instructions of the coach, it was suddenly very easy to be relaxed. Sometimes I almost forgot about the photographer and his camera around us.

During the breaks, an assistant would fix my hair and freshened up my makeup. To be honest, I felt a little bit like being on a movie set.


In the evening, back on the train to Tokyo, the events that took part that day were lingering in my mind. At that time I was already looking forward to seeing the – hopefully – good results of the shoot. My side trip as a photo model will certainly always be a lasting memory of my stay in Japan!

Whoever has the courage to try this, not only has a good story to tell in the end, but can also get beautiful pictures which not only make a memorable souvenir but also help contribute to financing your stay in Japan!

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Volunteering – An Act of Localising Aid, not Globalised Aid

Going on a volunteering assignment can be filled with mixed emotions – apprehension about the new place, enthusiasm about “making a difference” and excitement about new experiences. It can also be a challenging experience because of these very factors. What really is the best way to prepare oneself for this intense experience?

Besides undergoing cultural training about the nuances of the new culture, it is also extremely important to adopt, what ethnographers call, the “model of a child”. Just like a child learns his/her culture through observation, asking questions, interpretation and participant observation, a volunteer must (where possible), take the time to understand his/her surroundings before thinking of making any difference.

According to Ernesto Sirolli, an Italian sustainable development expert and author, there are two ways in which people approach volunteering or “aid” – by being patronising, or otherwise, paternalistic. According to him, the first principle of aid should be “respect”, by responding to the people and becoming a servant of the local passion. In his book, Ripples From the Zambezi, he talks about how every project that his NGO undertook in Africa failed, because nobody stopped to understand the local people and what they wanted. In a subsequent TedTalk, Sirolli urges people that if they really want to help, they should “shut up and listen”. This approach resonates well with the idea that for every successful volunteering stint, there is a considerable need to understand, rather than arrive with preconceived notions on “what is best”. Volunteers often arrive, armed with their degrees in Social Work, assuming an attitude of “knowing” what’s best for the situation. It is however, crucial to localise the solutions according to the needs of the people.

Volunteers should, hence, as much as possible, study existing research and literature on the local culture. The data analysed should include history of the specific geographic and cultural area, statistics (including population, gender distribution, religious orientations, socio-economic classification, education levels, etc.), political movements, cultural predispositions, as well as previous volunteer accounts and experiences, interviews with previous volunteers, a study of work done in the particular field and the success rate, and possibly, an analysis of how volunteers are perceived in the local community (through existing literature and/or organised interviews with the social workers in the community). Such secondary data analyses will ensure that volunteers are aware of the community that they are getting into, rather than arrive with preconceived ideas and impressions.

During this “preparation” phase, it is also important to learn the local language as much as is possible. Much depends on establishing a common frame of reference with the local community – while the volunteer may be overtly different, with a completely different frame of reference, if one lifts the language barrier, it can help to build trust with the local community and of course, gather a much better understanding of the situation.

Observation is the next critical aspect to a successful volunteering stint. No matter how well prepared through the secondary data analysis, one must account for errors and discrepancies in the actual experience. Any volunteering stint, therefore, must be prefaced by a minimum of a week’s observation (according to the competency of the volunteer to comprehend based on observation). Of course, this depends entirely on the criticality of the situation that one is in (one cannot expect that a volunteer reaches an area destroyed by an earthquake and spend time observing), but, when possible, it is important that the volunteer observes the working of the community or otherwise, observe the needs of the people or community. Building trust amongst the people is an important part of volunteering assignments. A volunteer must give the local community the confidence that he/she has their best interest in mind and be willing to listen to their needs and concerns before imposing his/her own ideas. The “help” then, must be localised according to their particular needs as much as possible. Once this trust is established, asking questions becomes more productive and meaningful, since the respondents are more comfortable to give honest answers.

The use of a “notebook” becomes extremely useful through this process. Recording observations, conversations and one’s personal feelings through the interactions is in fact, important, as one can “observe” one’s own emotions and reactions more “objectively”. Returning to one’s notes after a period of time helps an individual reflect more on situations, record private feelings and can serve as a “confidante” in an otherwise alien situation. Very often, volunteers talk about feelings of helplessness and distress due to the new environment that they are in and the lack of “someone to talk to, who would understand”. A notebook of this kind would help as a way of “venting” emotions, as well as to take a broader, “third party” perspective of the situation. This may help in dealing with a situation more objectively than one would otherwise. Moreover, it serves as secondary data (if made available) to future volunteers.

Especially in a volunteering assignment, if one gets into the mistake of performing tasks without receiving feedback, the attempts to make any difference becomes futile. A volunteer must be trained to leave his/her own cultural ideologies behind and have a local perspective of the situations that he/she encounters.

In the larger scale of volunteering and aid, there have been debates about whether aid does more harm to developing nations than good, as it brings about a complacency in the local governments in actually finding sustainable solutions. Sustainability then, can only be achieved through finding specific solutions to the local problem, never at a larger, wholistic level. There are hence, three stages for any voluntary service – Preparation, Initiation Through Immersion and finally, Service Through Understanding.

“Great minds are to make others great. Their superiority is to be used, not to break the multitude to intellectual vassalage, not to establish over them a spiritual tyranny, but to rouse them from lethargy, and to aid them to judge for themselves.” – William Ellery Channing

Written by Divya Susan Varkey, Intercultural Communications Trainer, World Unite! image

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Volunteering with Sea Turtles in Zanzibar: Release Day

On February 20, the sea turtle conservation center in the north of Zanzibar celebrated their annual release day, releasing 80 turtles into the Indian Ocean. 16 volunteers and employees of the center worked over several days to pull off one of the biggest events here in Zanzibar.

The release day started two days earlier for us at the station. 40 large turtles were taken out of the lagoon, trimmed, weighed, measured and marked, so that they could be recognized after their release. The turtles were then divided into two basins, in which they were retained until the release day, when they were transferred to the boats. Shaded seating arrangements were made for the guests expected on the release day.

Turtles in the morning in one of the two pools

Turtles in the morning in one of the two pools

Volunteer Max on a guided tour in the morning

Volunteer Max on a guided tour in the morning

Cleaning the largest turtle

Cleaning the largest turtle

Program Area for Guests

Program Area for Guests

Shaded seating area for guests

Shaded seating area for guests

On February 20, we had a small meeting before breakfast,where we were all delegated responsibilities. Among other things, the tasks included T-shirt sales, reception of guests, tours of the station and photography and videography. After breakfast, we all wore a Release-Day T-shirt with the logo of the station and „Staff“ printed on it, so that everyone could see that we were a team and belonged to the station. Everyone was already in their designated area before lunch; we finished our meal then began preparing the boxes and tables for the guests.

Staff and volunteers with the "Release Day" t-shirts

Staff and volunteers with the „Release Day“ t-shirts

Boats waiting

Boats waiting

There were a lot of tourists, as well as Zanzibaris that came to witness the release. For $ 30, you could enjoy the program and ride on the boats in the afternoon to release the turtles.

The program consisted of music, small plays and acrobatics. While guests enjoyed the performances, we prepared the station and the turtles for their release. We were divided into four groups with the turtles divided amongst us. Each group went on a big boat that was waiting on the beach. At about four o’clock, the time had come – the beach was filled with people and we handed over the turtles to tourists on the boats. Finally, we climbed onto the boat and off we went.

Crowded beach at release time

Crowded beach at release time

We rode about 10 minutes to a reef, where we freed the largest turtles. It was an emotional experience, because everyone was cheering and clapping. When all the turtles were released, the baby turtles were put onto the boats. They were then released on the beach of Kendwa (about 20-30 minutes boat ride from Nungwi) in the form of a race. When we arrived at the beach, everyone made a big circle around the turtles; each guest was allowed to put a turtle from his boat in the sand and watch as they ran into the sea.

On our way!

On our way!

Myself, preparing to release the turtles

Myself, preparing to release the turtles

Leaving for Kendwa

Leaving for Kendwa

Baby Turtles in tubs before release

Baby Turtles in tubs before release

Getting prepared for the race

Getting prepared for the race

Releasing baby turtles

Releasing baby turtles


After this event, it was for the guests to go back to the station on their boats. We volunteers and employees of the station,however, rode to the other side of the island, namely the East Coast, to release the remaining babies. All in all, it was a great day in which each of us were closely involved. I would advise anyone who is interested in this great project to be here on the release day – one of the biggest and best events in Zanzibar!


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My Fashion Design Internship in Zanzibar

Dear Family and Friends,

After my return from Tanzania in October, Africa still beckoned me, so a few weeks later, I applied again for the next project. It was a women’s cooperative in the Cultural Art Centre in Zanzibar, which I discovered by accident last year during my few days’ stay in Stone Town. After my application to World Unite! was accepted, I got my sewing machine out of its slumber and started it off. I wanted to do something very simple, natural, without a lot of seams and fit for tourist sale. With a cloth brought from Arusha,Tanzania, the first prototype was made – just a rectangle worn diagonally. I sent the photos to the project manager Nell, who in consultation with her employees, took up this idea.
So I packed my suitcase with scissors, needles and a huge bag of yarn that a friend brought over. On February 2nd, we started our trip from Hannover via Amsterdam and Nairobi. This time, the excitement was not as great as the first time. I already knew the island a little, the first „culture shock“ had already been processed and I could practice Kiswahili again. My first „victim“ was a stewardess of Kenya Airways from Nairobi. Thanks to the help of a sleeping pill, I was rested and landed on 3 February at 10.00 a.m. in Zanzibar. I went to the office, as agreed, to get the letter from World Unite! with my name. And then someone shouted from behind me, “Sabine!”. To my surprise and delight, it was actually a familiar face – Lukman, a former employee of my last hotel in Stone Town, who now worked for the organization and still remembered me.

With a cheerful taxi ride, we went to Stone Town to my accommodation. I had only a vague description from WU! and knew only that it was a Volunteer house in the old town. Expecting little and trained by my last hotel in the slum of Arusha, I was yet, very enthusiastic. A private room, wow !!!!! With windows, a large bed and a fan. And now comes the most amazing part – only three roommates, all of whom are very, very nice.

After the initial unpacking, freshening up and activating the Tanzanian Simcard, I strolled happily, grinning, along the old, well-known streets and was hoarse that evening from only greeting people. This is very typical – one greets everyone and greetings are not only not a word but a lot of conversation. The cause of my grin was not only the joy of being back here, but also the anticipation of the next day.

For now, my friend Annette was already sitting in the plane, and would arrive the next morning at 7.20 a.m. in Zanzibar. Annette was my first student at the Fahmoda and since then, we’ve been very close. When I asked her in November to join me, she spontaneously said “yes”. Unfortunately, only for ten days, but still.

And then we plunged together into „work“. We were warmly welcomed in the project, there were even two sewing machines; and unexpectedly, instead of a woman (because it was a women’s cooperative), we worked with an adorable young man named Saleh. Saleh had been working for the Cultural Art Centre for two years. Previously, he had been in Suma House, a treatment center for drug addicts, from where he could successfully leave after his treatment. He had learned to sew from his mother and now dreamt of a great design career. The dress was now in „production”. We bought the materials on wholesale and started with stitching. All this was even slower than a snail’s pace. While it was only 32 degrees, it felt like 50 degrees. The needles slid through sweaty hands. Occasionally you felt things crawling on your legs and hands and you would think that they were little animals. But they were drops of sweat.

But slowly one dress after another was finished – a total of eight now – and we wanted to see for the first time whether they could be sold. In parallel, the preparations for the Sauti za Busara music festival were being carried out, where we had a stand, braving the sweltering heat. The products were introduced by the Art Centre to a broad national and international audience.

On the evening of the first day, when the first dress was sold, the joy was so immense, I got goose bumps even at 45 degrees.

Almost all the clothes and accessories were sold and we are now highly motivated in production. Saleh is working so great that he can do everything wonderfully well without me, in the way it should be done. We still have two weeks and many other ideas and I „fear“ that I must return here soon. And now I have to start collecting, and will be grateful for any donation of material such as yarn, scissors, plug-and needles, embroidery sets, crochet yarn and sewing machines (which, even if old and trashy, we can get repaired). From 3 March, I’m home again and I would appreciate every little spool. That’s it for now from afar, I embrace and greet you cordially, kwa heri siku (goodbye) njema (good day).


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Praktika und Volunteering in Galapagos | Internships and volunteering in Galapagos!

Praktika und Freiwilligeneinsätze auf Galapagos

World Unite! gibt es nun auch auf Galapagos!

Dabei liegt unser Schwerpunkt auf Einsätzen aus den Bereichen Umweltschutz/Biologie, nachhaltige Landwirtschaft und nachhaltige Tourismusentwicklung.

Wir arbeiten mit dem Galapagos-Nationalpark, einer Biofarm und einem Reiseveranstalter.

Außerdem kannst du in Galapagos an einem 24-tägigen Voluntourism-Einsatz auf 3 Inseln sowie Spanischunterricht teilnehmen.

Hier findest du alle Details: Im PDF „World Unite! – Galapagos“!

Bei Fragen oder zur Teilnahme einfach Email an!

World Unite! is now also in Galapagos!

Our focus in Galapagos is on internship and volunteer placements from environmental conservation/biology, sustainable farming and sustainable tourism development.

We work with Galapagos National Park, an organic farm and a tour operator.

Additionally in Galapagos you can join a 24 days voluntourism itinerary on 3 islands and Spanish language lessons.

You find all details in the PDF „World Unite! – Galapagos“!

For any questions or to join, just email to!