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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How can I get involved with the local community during my stay abroad?

As a volunteer or intern abroad, and with a creative drive and some self-initiative you can contribute to the local community of your host country in a variety of ways, even beyond the actual activities in your host organization. Here are some examples of previous participants of our programs:

From our point of view, the contact with people in your host country is one of the most enriching experiences during a volunteer placement or internship abroad: Through them, you will get to know the local way of working, communication and thinking and learn first hand what people in your host country are interested in, how they feel, how they act, and what moves them.

Here are some current examples of local involvement of our participants of our programs:

Children are often a door-opener to new cultures. The participants in our sea turtle and environmental protection project in Zanzibar have approached the community in Nungwi though local children and an afternoon filled with games and sports on the beach.

The concept is quite simple: volunteers and children paint pictures in the sand and guess the answers of each other’s paintings, both in Kiswahili and English. In the end, children and volunteers taught each other sports exercises.

What a great idea for both sides to learn a new language and a wonderful way to get involved with people in your host country!

Our participant Walter who worked as a volunteer at the Village Community Banks at Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, has also had a brilliant idea:

With his background knowledge in graphical design and finance, Walter did not only support his own volunteer project, but also designed logos for other NGOs or helped them implement their business plans:

“My time in Tanzania was both unforgettable and enjoyable – it was a blast! Although, I was only planning to work with KIVINET/VICOBA, I ended up working with about 6 NGOs; ranging from environmental related to educational. Ultimately, I worked on everything from business plan development to creating logos. Also, was able to secure some funds from US to buy school supplies for children and replace rusted/leaky roofs on the outskirts of Moshi. Sometimes I only slept like 2 hours in three days, but almost never felt tired due to the great atmosphere, African sun and the great people I met. I am still planning to do some work remotely and continue to stay in touch.“

We would like to sincerely thank Walter for his dedication and initiative!

What ideas do you have to contribute to your local community during your stay abroad? We are looking forward to your comments and suggestions!

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“… And things always turn out differently“ – Juliane’s volunteer placement as a teacher in Zanzibar 

Juliane from Switzerland volunteered as a teacher in the village of Muungoni in Zanzibar and provided us with a detailed report about her stay! In our blog, Juliane describes why she thinks that being flexible and adaptable is key during a volunteer placement abroad.

Arrival and first week

I have spent a total of 5 weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar. During my first week I traveled Tanzania. Afterwards, I lived in the village of Muungoni in Zanzibar for 4 weeks and volunteered as a teacher at the village school.

To sum up my trip to Tanzania: Beautiful sceneries, a colorful and diverse culture, a red clay soil and lush green landscapes – Tanzania is a wonderful country for travelers! A two-day safari took me to the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. At these National Parks you can watch all kinds of African wildlife: Elephants, monkeys, zebras, giraffes, hippos, rhinoceroses and even lions.

I truly recommend doing a safari in Tanzania!

For me, the Maasai people were particularly fascinating. On the one hand, many Maasai still life a very simple and traditional life. However, you will also see many of them already using smartphones or riding modern bicycles on the road, which I often had to smirk about.

On the photo you can see some Maassai kids at Ngorongoro National Park. 

Massaai Kids

I highly recommend everyone to travel Tanzania! Tanzania is an incredibly beautiful and extremely friendly country with a stunning nature and wildlife, and a fascinating culture.

By the way, you will meet volunteers from all over the world at many locations in Tanzania and I think that Tanzania is an excellent choice for volunteering, simply because there are so many things to do and to explore (Kilimanjaro, Safaris, Maasai, Katzensprung to the borders of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda).

Arrival in Muungoni (Zanzibar)

I traveled from Arusha to Daressalam by bus and from there to Zanzibar by ferry. The bus ride from Arusha to Dar-es-Salaam takes around 12-14 hours, depending on the traffic in and around Daressalam, and costs about USD 15. If left Arusha early in the morning at around 06:00 and arrived in Dar at night around 07:00. I spent the night in a hotel near the port to catch the ferry to Zanzibar on the next morning.

Despite the long journey I have enjoyed taking the bus because I got to see lots of stunning landscapes during the ride. However, for those who prefer a more comfortable trip, I recommend a flight from Arusha to Zanzibar.

In Zanzibar, I was picked up by Abdi (World Unite! coordinator) who took me to Muungoni where I was warmly received by Mr. Mohammed (project coordinator in Muungoni) who also introduced me to the village.

I really liked the village and being somewhere in the middle of a tropical forest, as well as the humid and warm jungle-like climate. It felt just right to be there.

My accommodation in Muungoni

My accommodation is a pretty and quite spacious cottage with a thatched roof, consisting of 3 rooms: A bedroom, a functional bathroom, and a living room with tables and chairs. Of course, the standard is rather simple, but there is basically everything you need. Compared to most of the villagers’ houses, my accommodation is a fairly comfortable place to stay.

The bathroom has a western toilet, sink and shower. There is even running water, although it might happen that there is no water at all during some days. If that’s the case, Mr. Mohammed will usually bring me water for showering in buckets. Since the water pressure is usually low, I shower by scooping water out of the bucket, which is surprisingly easy for me. I find these kind of showers just as refreshing and efficient as regular ones!

My accommodation in Muungoni

My first days in Muungoni 

I was unfortunately not able to start my teaching placement during the first as Eid-al-Fitr celebrations (fast breaking festival at the end of Ramadan) were taking place and the school remained closed. However, I had the great opportunity to be part of Eid!

On the first day of the 4-day festival, a huge celebration was held on the premises of the village school, including an acrobatic show.

Eid-al-Fitr celebrations after Ramadan

I particularly loved how people dressed up during Eid: Everyone was wearing breathtakingly beautiful clothes, especially the children: Magnificent colors, white veils, and all children and even the newborn babies wear strong eye makeup (which I needed to get used to first, but somehow looked quite pretty).

The festival took 4 days in total but on the following days celebrations were limited to the evening hours, when people would meet up in overcrowded festival tents to watch music and theater performances as well as comedy sketches.

Beach day and snorkeling trip

During my first week in Muungoni I also spent 2 days at the beach in Jambiani where I did a snorkeling trip. My friend Ali joined me on the boat, and although he can not swim I think that he still enjoyed the trip. A wonderful day that I will never forget!

 

The children in the village

The children in the village are absolutely heart-warming. I don’t have any words to describe the feeling when I arrived at the school everyday, and a crowd of around 100 children was running towards me, excitedly shouting „Hello, hello, hello, hello, how are you, how are you“.

The girls in Zanzibar already wear veils from quite a young age. This may appear strange to us (at least it did to me when I was still in Switzerland), but the veils are absolutely pretty and the fabrics are airy and light and you don’t have to worry that the children might be very hot.

Kids at Muungoni Nursery School

School trip to Stone Town

We also arranged an excursion to Stone Town for the 100 children attending Nursery School. The means of transportation were something quite in need of getting used to, since theoretically not even half of the children would have fitted into the bus from my point of view. However, I was absolutely amazed and touched how uncomplicated and adaptable the children are here. 2-3 children squeezed in one seat and yet not a single one of them was crying or complaining, some of them even sleeping when standing.

“There are worlds in between them and the children in my country. I think one of my key learning experiences from this journey is that nothing about human behavior is „naturally given“ but rather learned and a matter of adaption, even the need for food or for safety. “

 

Furniture for the Nursery School 

A very special moment for all of us – and probably a significant moment in the history of the nursing school in Muungoni – was when the furniture sponsored by Heike (World Unite! volunteer) was finally set up in the classrooms.

Before… 

This is how the rooms looked before: The children sit on the floor in the classroom.

… and after! 

The new furniture has arrived and I suggested to arrange the tables this way instead of in rows.

It was so adorable how the children naturally accepted the new tables and chairs just as if that was most ordinary to them.

Teaching

Since my main task here is teaching, I would like to add a few words about this topic.

Although on arrival I was assured that I would not have to teach independently on my first day of school, but would rather observe and help, this was not the case when I arrived in class on Monday morning.

All 100 children had been put into one class, eagerly awaiting me, including the teacher who just said: “Karibu! You teach, welcome!“

My protests and explanations that I had not been expecting to teach on my first day remained unheard and I finally taught and improvised a lesson for 100 children between 4-6 years, sitting on the ground and enjoying school incredibly much!

This is how the everyday life looks like here: Things will always happen differently than what you might expect. People often don’t make any plans reaching far into the future and if so, the plan might still be subject to change. 

Teaching methods

The children here almost exclusively learn through verbal repetition in chorus. I am currently trying to change this structure bit by bit by teaching them to answer the question „What is that?“ (by pointing at something that they already know the word for in English. i.e. colors).

All in all, it can be said that I had to completely change my teaching style compared to what I do in Switzerland. But I am enjoying my time here and have a great time learning and adapting to the local teaching styles.

Doctor’s visit in Muungoni

I have also kick-started some smaller projects during my time here, including the sorting and distribution of donated materials, and in addition, I was focusing on a health care aspect, meaning that I was having an eye on sick children.

After I had noticed a boy with a worrying skin rash, I decided to organize a doctor’s visit in the village.

The majority of the people in Muungoni largely live with very little money (self-supporters through agriculture and farming), and thus many people can’t afford to see a doctor, or only so if there is no other way. Amon the children, infectious skin diseases are common and they are just rarely taken to a doctor.

Together with Ali we went to a hospital in Stone Town and consulted with a dermatologist. I asked him if he was willing to come to our village for a visit to treat all children of the nursery school who were in need for medical treatment. Only two days later, a visit set up for a flat rate of USD 200 (considering that the Doctor treated around 70 children, that was a very modest rate!).

 

 

Learning Swahili 

I am constantly trying to improve my Swahili skills. In Muunogni it is a huge benefit if you speak at least some words in Kiswahili. The more, the better, because most people do not speak English in the village. Also, people will always be happy if they notice that you are eager to learn and can communicate at least with basic words and phrases.

Leisure time & friends

The people in Muungoni are absolutely friendly, curious, communicative, and very hospitable. When I walked through the village, I heard the children shout my name every few seconds.

I was touched deeply by the fact how much people in the village seemed to trust me. Sometimes I got the impression that they thought I knew everything better and did everything right and I realized that they valued my opinion a lot. Likewise, I always tried to anticipate or to ask them for their opinions.

It is important to bear in mind that the trust people showed me in Muungoni is an expression of the postcolonial relationship between black and white people. This relationship has a significant impact on everyday life, and I will come up with further explanations on this topic in my next post.

On this last photo you can see me, my friend Ali and his sweet daughter. 

 

Ali, his daughter and I


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As a psychologist in Nicaragua – Judith’s volunteer placement at the Minibiblioteca

World Unite! participant Judith, psychologist, has been working as a volunteer in León, Nicaragua. After having returned to Germany, Judith is still in touch with her host organization in Nicaragua.

I have been doing a 1-month voluntary service at the Minibiblioteca in León, Nicaragua.

Before traveling to Nicaragua I was well prepared for my trip by the team of World Unite! who provided me with all kinds of practical information (i.e. about insurances, vaccinations, etc.) as well as information on culture in Nicaragua. My contact person at World Unite! was always available for any questions. They also provided me with information about my accommodation and was picked up and taken to my host family straight away on arrival.

My host family was very friendly and open-minded and was always happy to help me if I needed any assistance.

During my first days in León I was welcomed by a World Unite! staff member who showed me the city and accompanied me to my host project, the Minibiblioteca, where I first met my colleague, with whom I would also work together during my time there.

The next day I got to know the rest of the project, including the other staff members and the children. The project provides after school care for about 40 children. Besides homework tuition the Minibiblioteca also offers various other programs. My job was to establish a program for 7 children with behavioral problems together with my colleague. My working hours varied. Usually, at the beginning of the week, we would make a plan for the entire week, and we set up our working hours accordingly. During the time I was there, we developed a therapeutic group for the 7 children and started our meetings in the second week. In addition, we set up a parent/family group. In addition, there were weekly modules on anger management for the entire group of children. The work with my colleague was so much fun right from the beginning, and I think we made a great team!

On top of my volunteer placement, I tried to get to know the city and the country as much as possible. León is beautiful and has many nice bars, cafes and pubs. I did often go out in the evenings and joined the pub quiz or salsa dancing with other volunteers or with Nicas, whom I had met. On the weekends I did some tours (for example a hike to a volcano, a mangrove tour, a trip to Granada). I also rented a car with another volunteer to explore the country on our own. It was a lot of fun 🙂

The return transfer to the airport was again arranged by World Unite! and I arrived well back in Germany.

I am still in touch with the Minibiblioteca and will definitely go back to Nicaragua one day! I can  recommend this experience to anyone and I would also like to recommend World Unite! as an organization.

Judith, Germany

Join our programs and learn more about the Minibiblioteca and volunteering in Nicaragua here

 


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Cultural Learning through volunteering: Johanna and Justus in Tanzania

The example of Johanna and Justus from Germany, who are currently volunteering in a day care center for children and nursery school in Moshi, Tanzania, show how volunteering abroad can improves one’s own intercultural skills and contributes to cultural exchange between volunteers and the people in their host country. 

We are very happy in Tanzania and enjoy every day in our placement. Together with a local teacher, each of us has been assigned to one class so that we can get to know the children properly. After an initial adaption and learning period we were even allowed to start to teach on our own. The teachers always provide us with a small cheat sheet and, of course, are always there if we need help or assistance.

To be honest, when it comes to Kiswahili, we benefit as much of the teaching as the kids do. Every morning, the teachers provide us with the daily schedule and explain to us what we are going to teach, including Kiswahili meanings etc. Also, they regularly teach us songs, rhymes and clapping games that afterwards we teach to the children. After school, we always sit together with the teachers for around an hour and talk about the day, the country and also about our own home country/culture.

Conclusion: Not only you as a volunteer do provide your skills and time for a good cause during a volunteer placement abroad, but you get at least as much in return from your placement when it comes to cultural knowledge and new skills! 

Johanna and Justus, we wish you a great remaining time in Tanzania and would like thank you and your placement for your great work!

Here you can find more information about the day care facilities and schools that we are working with in Moshi.


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An experience of a lifetime: Sara’s elective placement in Moshi, Tanzania

World Unite! participant Sara from Canada just recently completed her elective placement in Moshi, Tanzania. In our blog Sara describes why her stay in Tanzania has been an experience of a lifetime. 

I had an amazing time in Moshi, Tanzania doing a medical elective at the Pasua Health Care Center! The staff were very welcoming and kind. On this placement, we were able to decide what we wanted to do every day to make sure we had a full experience based on our interests. We worked in the inpatient unit, outpatient unit, labour and delivery unit, laboratory, family planning clinic, and more. The staff being always happy to have our help was always explaining to us how and why they made their care decisions. It was very eye-opening experience to see that even with fewer resources they are able to care for these patients as they deserve to be treated. My only recommendation I would be to know some Swahili before coming to this beautiful country, as it will enrich your experience working with the patients. Luckily, the staff do speak English!

Moshi is a beautiful city to explore. It is easy to walk around and access everything. They have great coffee shops (we actually ended up going to the same one every day as their coffee was so good)! During our stay, many were celebrating Ramadan, which allowed us the opportunity to be introduced to the food and culture. We were even invited to prepare food with the locals, which was a wonderful experience.

To finish, World Unite! is a great organization! They were well organized and always available to answer our questions. Everyone was so nice in Moshi and very welcoming! We went on a day trip to the hot springs and on a weekend trip to the safari, all organized by World Unite! It was absolutely amazing! It’s very easy to plan and you have nothing to worry about.

Honestly, it was my first time visiting an African country and it was an experience of a lifetime that I will remember forever! If I could use three descriptors for my trip, they would be eye opening, amazing, and outside my comfort zone. As a last recommendation, I suggest you visit Zanzibar for a weekend, the beach is FANTASTIC!

Enjoy!

We look forward to your visit on our website! You can find the details about our elective options in Tanzania here

Would you like to go an a safari? Or spend a relaxed day at the Hot Springs? Check out our options Budget Safari


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Volunteering and internship at bear protection program and nature tours in Japan

At Asasama Wildlife Protected Area (75 minutes per bullet train from Tokyo) we arrange volunteer and internship placements related to bear conservation and ecotourism.

There are around 160 Asian black bears living in the forests around the town of Karuizawa. The bears regulary come to town where they pose a threat to humans. In the past, the bears were hunted for this reason. The bear conservation organisation has therefore equipped many of the bears with radio collars which allow to track the movements of the bears. If a bear comes too close to town, a rapid reaction team moves out with a specially trained Karelian Bear dog, whose barking is pushing the bear back inside the forest. As a volunteer or intern, you help to track the bears‘ movements, to move out with the dog, to catch bears and equip them with radio collars, to free bears that were accidentially caught in deer traps, and to inform tourists and school classes about bears and nature.

There are also nature tours where you accompany and assist the guides. It is very popular for children to observe the Japanese Giant Flying Squirrels („Musasabi“) which are 80 cm (31 inch) large and can glide for up to 160 m (520 feet) from tree to tree. The placement is possible in English and accommodation of good standards is provided free of charge.

Find more details about this placement on the World Unite! Website:

http://www.world-unite.de/en/internships-volunteering/japan/ecotourism-conservation-biology-nationalparks.html


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7 ways how to wear a Kanga

… did you know that there are several ways how to wear a Kanga, a traditional dress of women in Zanzibar and Tanzania? It’s hard not to fall in love with these colorful garments! Our participant Maike shows you how to wear a Kanga, depending on the occasion! 

Kanga12

Kangas are colorfully printed cotton fabrics worn by many women in the African Great Lakes region. In the eastern part of the region, the Kanga are usually printed with Swahili sayings or phrases.

Depending on the occasion, there are different ways of how to wear and tie the Kanga.

Maike presents 7 different styles used by women in Zanzibar:

Click on the photos to learn which occasion Maike is wearing her Kanga for!