Women & Girl’s Empowerment in India

Carin from Germany supports a women and girls empowerment project in the Indian state of Rajasthan as a volunteer. Her project helps women who are exposed to multiple disadvantages due to their gender, caste and educational level.

After my first week in  India I would like to share my impressions with you. First of all: In the new project in Setrawa I feel “on the right place at the right time”.

Note: The women’s and girls’ empowerment project offers educational and vocational training opportunities both in the city of Jodhpur and in Setrawa, in rural India, the location where Carin also operates.

The first days were very moving and I was overwhelmed by the diverse and different impressions: On the one hand, we volunteers support the state schools in teaching English and find very limited resources: There are currently no tables, chairs, books or other materials in the classrooms.
On the other hand, the laughter of the children and their joy in learning, e.g. when we play educational games to learn English, is extremely rewarding and I enjoy every moment of it.

We teach five classes in two open spaces and the levels vary between children. It’s great to see that the more advanced students help the children with less knowledge. Their sense of community is amazing.

Our small team of four volunteers thus starts the first of three “Mission Education” of the new Sambhali projects in Setrawa. The projects in rural will hopefully grow rapidly and contribute to the development of the village community. More volunteers are urgently needed here! Many people in Setrawa live in very poor living conditions and suffer from poor prospects for the future.

The accommodation enables us to regenerate from everyday work and there is delicious food and a very family atmosphere. In the middle of the Thar desert there is a peaceful oasis where our team enjoys creative work in the open air.

I am very grateful to have found my volunteer position in such an interesting NGO in India, thanks to World Unite!


Here you can find all information about Carin’s project and how to register.

Please visit us at http://www.world-unite.de for more information!

Volunteer with Children Abroad in Tanzania

Johanna from Germany volunteerd in a project for children in Tanzania for three months. In this blog you can read about her experience abroad, her tasks in the project and her favorite leisure time activities in Tanzania.


My journey started on September 6th, 2019. I never traveled so far by myself without really knowing what to expect. The moment I arrived in Tanzania, I was warmly welcomed by my roommates.

My placement:

My social project in which I was involved, was the Chapakazi Center in Pasua. I was very pleased about the fact that my roommate Johanna had been volunteering there for the last month. From now on it was the two of us! This was great, because it allowed us to talk about the news and events at work. Our main tasks were the teaching of English and Biology – we painted animals, food and objects on the board, pointed at the respective symbol and asked the class for the words in English and Swahili. Not all children were able to follow – as the ages ranged from as little as two to seven years and all of the 50 children were accommodated in one room. For the rest of the day we involved the kids in arithmetic. We gave them simple mathematic problems to solve, or Swahili letters to copy into their notebooks.

We also played, of course. The teacher Hadija or her assistant Deborah would lead the group and we would play singing, dancing and clapping games on occasion. Johanna and I sometimes brought a music box to dance with everyone in the classroom – that was always a hit.

After the daily makande lunch (corn and beans), Johanna and I would clean the dishes while the children had their nap in the classroom. We finishes work at 4:00 pm.

Leisure:

Our stay in Tanzania was not all work, but also a lot of free time. We did some great trips – to the Hot Springs, to the Materuni Waterfalls, a visit to a Maasai village, short walks and hikes around the area and a Safari. On the weekend, we did what all young people like to do – party. There are some bars and a club in the city center to go to, which was always a lot of fun for us all.

My experience:

My stay in Tanzania was a truly colorful experience – of my social project, the Chapakazi Center, of the children I loved dearly, the friendships to locals and of the friendships I made with people from home.

My trip ended on December 5, 2019 – I am glad to say that these three months that I was able to spend in Tanzania, have been one of the best times in my life.

Asante sana!

Johanna

Volunteer with Children Abroad in Tanzania – Apply Now!

Become a Volunteer at a Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya

World Unite! participant Elizabeth from the US volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya for two weeks. In our blog, Elizabeth talks about her work with the rangers and her time in Kenya.

 

Let me tell you a bit about Lumo Community Wildlife Conservancy and the rangers. The conservancy really is a community project. I got to address the board of directors the other day and met each one, who are all voted in from the various communities that came together to create Lumo. Nineteen years ago when it started, there were only volunteer rangers (a number of whom have been there since then but are now paid), and many of the newest young rangers had parents who volunteered here. Many of the older rangers have been here the entire time (and know a ridiculous amount about the ecosystem).

The money gained by the conservancy through entrance fees from tourists, the Lion’s Bluff lodge, the fees from volunteers for accommodation and meals, and from fees collected from illegal grazers goes to staff salaries, community programs like building a classroom for disabled kids, school desks, water ponds (they survive completely on rainwater harvesting here), and lunch-only for staff.

There are currently 28 rangers. Their jobs are going on patrol to log by camera and GPS where some of the Big 5 are located for the safari guides’ information, manning the front gate, capturing, herding back to base camp and guarding illegal cattle, staying for a week at the dismal “Bore hole” where there is a water pump system for the lodge and a water pond (the elephants recently trampled the main line looking for water).

In case I haven’t said, the conservancy is really trying to relieve some of the human/wildlife conflicts that are mostly elephants trying to get at water.

Need lest say, I find the whole social structure and customs/traditions of rangers fascinating as an anthropologist. I have a heart to continue to support deepening the knowledge base of the rangers here. I just finished a conversation with one ranger about establishing a university fund for them so they can continue studying wildlife management and then commit to coming back to improve the capacity of Lumo for at least 5 years.

I left Lumo on Wednesday morning with much sadness. I’m not sure I’ll feel quite right until I am back in Lumo again.

Warm regards,

Elizabeth

Volunteering at a Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya: Apply Now!

Marketing Volunteer in Myanmar

Stefanie from Germany volunteered in marketing in Myanmar for 3 months and supported local artists in the design and sale of their products. Here she talks about the reason for her trip, her volunteer work and her favorite moment in Myanmar.


Mingalapar in Myanmar!

Why Myanmar of all places? I’ve been asked this question many times before my trip but if you have been to Myanmar once you do surely know why: Myanmar is a travel destination that has not yet been completely taken up by tourism and (still) has preserved many of its traditions. You can see both men and women in traditional longyi on the streets – a piece of fabric that is artfully tied around the waist. I can only recommend buying one yourself and wearing it – every time I did this I got lots of positive reactions from the locals and even a few compliments.

Volunteering for local artists and handicrafts

But now to the main reason for my stay: I looked for a foreign experience that would also help me to develop professionally and came across volunteering for Hla Day. I can say that it was the best decision for me! Hla Day is a social organization that combines local handicrafts with modern design and thus sells numerous beautiful products in a shop in Yangon.

Since all products are made in Myanmar, Hla Day generates constant work combined with regular income for numerous local artist groups.

They are currently working with over 60 groups and every single product has a story to tell! The artist groups include people with mental or physical disabilities who are affected by poverty or live in crisis areas. With Hla Day, they can master their everyday life better and are very proud of the products they manufacture. Sustainability is the main focus, which is why many products are offered that are made from recycled materials. I don’t want to give away too much, but personally I would have loved to buy each of the products and I think the concept is absolutely great.

Although the shop is open every day, I had a normal working week from Monday to Friday. I was quickly accepted into the team by the lovely colleagues, who also answered any questions about the country and people and were always available for fun. Since I had previously worked in marketing, I was also able to actively support Hla Day in this area and above all to deepen my Adobe knowledge. I think it is definitely a great advantage to have some experience in marketing and design, because this internship shouldn’t be just a vacation.

Accommodation

In Yangon you can choose between numerous standards for your accommodation. Based on the price, I chose a bed in a 6-bed room in a bed and breakfast. The B&B is very clean, there is enough space in the room and thanks to a curtain next to the bed there is also enough privacy. The staff, who always looked after me and tried to teach me some Burmese idioms, is also absolutely lovely. They also prepared a typical lunch box for me every day, consisting of rice and delicious vegetables, omelets or curries. I was also able to have my laundry washed there and they answered any questions that I had.

The B&B is about a 15-minute walk from Hla Day, but you can also easily order a taxi and get there quickly. However, I found it exciting to get as much of everyday life as possible and to walk through the streets. Since there was unfortunately no dinner at the accommodation, I usually ate out after work. Street food in particular can be found everywhere in Yangon and I can only recommend trying it! Usually it is not only very cheap, but also tastes absolutely delicious. In addition, there are many delicious fruits and the typical tea rooms to discover – if you like extra sweet tea, this is where to go!

Leisure

Of course, leisure time should not be neglected in such a wonderful country! At the weekend you have enough time to explore the country and to meet its people. So I went out alone or with friends and could see a lot not only in Yangon itself, but also outside. On a bike tour I discovered the wonderful place Dala on the other side of the river in Yangon. A ride on the circular train allows you to get very close to the locals. Other highlights were a visit to the pagodas in Bago, a weekend at Nwge Saung Beach and a few days in Hpa-an!

There is definitely enough to discover and I haven’t had a weekend where I would get bored.

Since the visa that you apply for for the stay is (unfortunately) only valid for 70 days and my stay was 3 months, I had to renew it after some time. In my case, this meant: an extended weekend with a friend in Bangkok! It was great to see something different in between and to enjoy the advantages of a tourist place.

Safety

The Burmese are above all curious, friendly and helpful. Since I obviously look like a foreigner, most people on the street initially stared at me.

After that, my favorite moment would usually happen: After I gave them a smile, people would smile back at me even wider!

Since the country has been closed for such a long time, it is incredibly exciting for most people to meet tourists, many have never seen them (or at least look at them that way). However, they are always reserved and never pushy and what could be nicer than making people happy with a simple smile or taking a photo together.

Of course, not everything is going well in this country, but I can report from my personal experience that I have never felt unsafe. Especially in Yangon and as a woman, you don’t have to worry about being alone or at night. Also, don’t get confused by the fact that the cars are right-hand drive despite right-hand traffic – the Burmese are used to it and know how to handle it.

Pagodas everywhere!

Did you know that Myanmar is number one in the World Giving Index? At the latest after a few days here, you will also believe this: Donating money and food are part of everyday life and are completely normal for the people in Myanmar. In the morning you will meet numerous monks who collect food donations for their lunches and especially at the pagodas  a lot of donations happen. Speaking of pagodas: They are literally everywhere and they radiate an incredible magic. Of course, the Shewadagon Pagoda is particularly impressive at night when you can see its golden shimmer from afar. But even if you drive out of the city you will discover golden peaks and pagodas everywhere, absolutely fantastic!

Best wishes,

Stefanie (from Germany)

Here you can find all information about an internship or volunteer in marketing or design in Myanmar.

Volunteering at a Horse Ranch in South Africa

Our participant Anita from Australia talks about her 5 week volunteer placement at a Horse Ranch in Western Cape, South Africa. Her responsibilities on the ranch included feeding, grooming and caring for the horses and ponies as well as accompanying riding tours for tourists along paradise-like white sandy beaches! 

22nd of September: The journey to Cape Town, South Africa begins.

I stop over in Addis Ababa capital of Ethiopia for my connecting flight. It’s 4:45 am in the morning 6:45 am Ethiopian time. We fly among the mountains of Addis and as we come in close to the landing strip beneath I can see the city slums. We land and I get onto my connecting flight to Cape Town. I arrive in Cape Town and I am picked up by Kos, who runs the Horse Ranch with his wife Sarah who I will be staying with.

We start the two and half hour whale coastal route to Pearly Beach.

The route has majestic sandstone mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. I notice the diverse range of the native Fynbos plants everywhere. The plants in the Cape are more botanically diverse than the richest tropical rainforest in Southern America. There are over 9000 species of plant found here. As we drive along I am hoping I will spot a whale out of the window.

Along this coast live southern right whales, humpbacks, Bryde’s whales and even the odd Orca, although they are rare. They raise their young in the shallow waters to avoid large predators. They come from June – November during their annual migration from their icy feeding grounds off Antarctica to the warmer waters off Southern Africa where they feed and bring up their young. They are later this year than expected, so I am sure to see them during my stay here. We drive through the town of Gansbaai, pronounced ‘hansbi’ and meaning ‘goose bay’. It is the great white shark capital of the world.

We arrive at the farm and I settle into my barn-renovated cottage.

After hardly any sleep I have a quick dinner with Kos, Sarah, their son Chis and friends Chantelle and Steven. Then I crawl into bed and into a deep sleep. The next morning we are straight out on a trail.

We get to Pearly Beach and the horses walk along the exquisite white sandy shores. In the distance we spot several southern white whales.

One of them is breaching (breaking through the surface of the water), and it’s incredible to see for the first time. We ride back through the dunes, up and down. The horses canter up the dunes. We have to watch out for mole holes, if the horses step on them they go right through them and suddenly your balance is thrown off, so with one hand you hold the reins and the other the saddle.

My riding everyday is improving dramatically.

I am able to lead other horses and canter up and down the beach with ease, even sometimes with a backpack full of cool drinks and snacks. When the weather is good we will swim with the horses. I’ve been moving up the ranks with the horses. I started out cantering on a pony called Jinx then onto the bigger horses Mardi, Kimo and Rocky. There was one horse Pride I was eager to ride and I was always told that he was for experienced riders. The day came when all the riders were novices and intermediate, so I was put on Pride and from the moment I sat on him I realised how powerful this horse was. I kept on having to hold him back. He is a ball of energy beneath me, pure fire with a gentle soul.

I am often helping to lead the horses into the sea and sometimes I get to ride them in. It’s a funny feeling having a horse swimming underneath you, suddenly you feel weightless. And then you feel the power of the horse making its way out against the strong current pulling you back as you hold onto their mane and head back to the shore. An experience I will never forget.

On my last day I have my first fall off Pride. I am leading a canter down the beach. I was struggling to control the horse and it made a sharp turn and I fell straight off. Luckily it is a soft landing onto sand and I get straight back up and canter back down to the group.

5 weeks is over at Pearly beach and now I travel to Cape Town where I stay in a great hostel called Once in Cape Town. They offer a lot of tours around the city. I have roommates from all over the world. I went up Table Mountain together with my Brazilian roommate and her Chilean friend – Makarena and Gabriella. The views are amazing up there. I also visit Hout Bay, which has a harbour and beautiful beach surrounded by mountains.

Best regards,

Anita,

You can find all information about Anita’s volunteer placement and how to apply on our webpage.

 

 

 

Sea Turtle Conservation & Environmental Protection in Zanzibar

Karibuni Zanzibar! Jambo! My name is Olivia, I am 19 years old and I volunteered in a sea turtle conservation project in Zanzibar / Tanzania with World Unite! for 3 months.

My placement:

I spent most of my stay at the Mnarani Aquarium in Nungwi, a sea turtle sanctuary committed to the protection and care of sea turtles. The tasks in the aquarium were a lot of fun and quite varied.

I stayed in one of the bungalow rooms, which are right next to the sanctuary. The rooms and my roommates were great!

When I arrived at the aquarium I was welcomed by my local coordinator. The next day she showed me around at the sanctuary and after breakfast I got an orientation to be able to navigate my way around Nungwi.

The work in the aquarium:

Every morning at 8 a.m. water change and general cleaning tasks were on our to-do list. The water from the two pools – one for the baby turtles and one for the hospital, where the infected turtles stayed – was changed twice a day.

Likewise, working in the aquarium includes collecting seaweed, collecting rubbish on the beach and supplying the baby turtles with medication. But all the tasks were always spread over the working week (Monday-Friday), so we had enough time to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings! The entire work is done together with the local staff, which also worked out great!

Leisure:

We had enough free time to explore the island and to enjoy the athmosphere of Nungwi. We went sunbathing and swimming everyday (sometimes we had to wait for the water to come bakc because of the tides). We also did excursions on the weekend. For example, I did a snorkel tour to the nearby private island of Mnemba. We took a boat to the reef (a “dhow”, a traditional Zanzibar sailing ship) and snorkeled there. Afterwards, we had a fish barbecue with rice, fruits and vegetables on land.

We also took a Daladala (public bus) to Stone Town in Zanzibar City and spent our day off there. In addition to shopping and dining out, Stone Town was also very interesting to look at in terms of history and architecture.

My experience and what I take from Zanzibar:

I will never forget my time in Zanzibar. This time has shaped me for my life. I have learned that it is sometimes good to be satisfied with what you have and thankful for it. During this time, I met a lot of people and made great friends.

But what I am most pleased about is that I was able to help endangered animals through my work as a volunteer and that working with them was so much fun. I also realized that plastic and general waste is a huge problem: if we don’t do something about it, our environment will be destroyed even more than it already is.

I also learned from this stay to become more independent and it is much easier for me to speak English.

I would like to thnank the entire World Unite! team for making this experience possible. I recommend volunteering to anyone!

Asante sana,

Olivia (from Germany)

Here you can find all information about Olivia’s location, the sea turtle project in Nungwi, Zanzibar.

How to Build a Traditional Sailing Ship in Zanzibar

World Unite! participant Clemens from Germany is currently in Nungwi, Zanzibar, where he learns how to build a dhow, a traditional Zanzibari sailing ship. In our blog, he describes what he has learned so far and why he shares his accommodation with baby turtles.
Sun, beach, palm trees, sea – in Nungwi it can live! I’ve been here in Nungwi for a few days and have experienced a lot.

Today was already my third day with the dhow builders. Haji, my supervisor, explains very well which tools you need to build a dhow and how to use them. On the second day he even made me do an unannounced test. 😀

A very important part of building a dhow is the use of “Kalafati”, which is cotton soaked in coconut oil, which is then hammered into the cracks of the wooden planks with a hammer and a kind of chisel – “Chambeo” – so that the boat is watertight. It’s not that easy. Today we even pulled a finished dhow into the water!

The accommodation I live in belongs to a turtle rescue sanctuary and I spend most of my time with the other volunteers working in the sanctuary.

Last weekend we took a sunset boat trip and a snorkel tour – in the rain … 😀 I will definitely go diving as  well, because there is a diving center nearby.

The little turtles in the station are very cute. Speaking of cuteness: At the accommodation there are a few baby cats around who hop onto one’s lap from time to time and want to be caressed.

We go swimming everyday. The ocean and beaches here are absolutely stunning and it is constantly hot! Sometimes it rains, too. But that means when you walk through the city you have to be careful not to step in puddles, because the water is very dirty. The regular power cuts do no longer bother me now. Before coming to Zanzibar, I did not expect that with the local SIM card it would be so easy to use the internet. The connection is great!

Step by step I’m learning a few words in Swahili, but pole pole … That means something like “slowly slow”, a statement, which one hears constantly here and which also describes quite well the relaxed mentality of Zanzibar.

The food in the accommodation is also great and sometimes very European: pancakes, pizza, pasta, fries, burgers or sometimes soup. In the morning there are always delicious pastries with tropical fruits.


I can only say that I feel absolutely comfortable here!

Stay tuned!

Clemens,


Clemes regularly writes about his experiences in Zanzibar in his blog. You can find it here.

Architecture Internship in Tanzania

World Unite! participant Patrick carried out a five week internship at an architectural firm in Arusha, Tanzania. In our blog he speaks about his learning experience and how the internship changed his perspective on architecture.

 

I did an internship in an architectural firm in the city of Arusha, Tanzania. The firm consists of architects, interior designers and project managers and renders consultancy services to various private and government projects.

My role at the company

When I started my internship my role was clearly defined: I was assigned tasks that I was to complete under the supervision of other experienced staff members. I mainly worked on residential floor plans during my first week. My supervisor explained how to draw the plans and which software I should use. After an introductory period, I was allowed to do things on my own more and more and to practice on different designs and decide myself what I wanted them to look like. The team really encouraged me to contribute my own ideas to the buildings they were working on.

I feel that having the opportunity to work on my own designs improved my performance a lot. I really felt part of the local team right from the start and just felt like any other staff member in the company. Doing my own designs was a pleasant and rewarding experience and I enjoyed all aspects of the process –  from start to finish – including drawings, site and client meetings, and the making of 3Ds.

My tasks included working on plans for residential houses with other interns, attending client and site meetings (where I would take notes about what was discussed, and take photos of the sites). For most drawings I used a software called Archi Cad. I also assisted the team with admin tasks such as printing documents and sending them to clients, or helping customers to use our printer. I carried out research, drew simple plans and had my work reviewed by the other architects in the company. Additionally, I worked on the plans for a comercial building and a hospital. Towards the end of my internship I spent the majority of my time working closely together with the architects and worked on the drawings for the hospital. I helped to design the electric flow for the plans and for an additional water tank outside of the building. During the site meetings I would always take pictures and record videos which we would then discuss in the team and make necessary changes in the plan.

What I enjoyed most was that I was able to establish a certain work routine for myself after a while, but on the other hand had a variety of tasks so that the internship would never get boring.

Learning experience

My internship taught me that architecture is definitely a group effort. I realized the importance of cooperating and communicating with other disciplines and team members as well as with clients. Having social and communication skills is just as important as having designing skills.

I also learned how much creativity and discipline one needs for planning and designing and for finally bringing a building to existance.

The internship also helped me to have a better understanding of my own role in the “real” professional world and about my own strenghts and weaknesses. I do now have a much clearer idea of what I am good at and what areas I still need to improve in. I know now that I have strong time management skills since I never had difficulties to complete my work until a certain deadline. I would still like to learn more about using different software to improve my drawings, and I also want to improve my project management and problem solving skills.

My understanding of architecture after the internship

My placement in Tanzania also shaped my perspective on architecture and its influence on how a place or country is perceived. Architecture influences how people study, work and live and I do now have a better understanding of an architect’s social responsability. I appreciated that I was given the chance to apply the skills that I had learned in school and to put them into practice. My internship also influenced the decisions regarding my remaining course work and studies: I will select more courses in design, survey, and Autocad in the upcoming year.

I am grateful for having had a learning experience beyond the pure classroom or university setting. Knowing how it feels to deliver a finished drawing to the client is simply rewarding and motivates me to keep going!

Thanks,

Patrick (from Japan)

 

Would you like to read more about Patrick’s internship company? Visit us on our webpage for more information!

 

The 4 Best Day City Trips from Berlin

Berlin is surely a destination for you if you’re up for new experiences, and a great opportunity for exploring this city where something is always going on. There is lots to see in Berlin, but surely also in the adjacent towns where you can see the beautiful nature of Germany, amazing palaces as well as spectacular parks. During your Working Holiday in Berlin, you should sure get the most out of it.

 

Let’s go on a small journey together here, so you can be inspired and get knowledge about some of these astonishing places.

First stop: Potsdam

You might not know it, but Potsdam is actually the capital of the German federal state, Brandenburg, and is located only about 25km. from Berlin City center. From Berlin Central station, you can take the S-Bahn, and after approximately 40min. you will arrive to Potsdam Hauptbanhof. Potsdam is a beautiful historical town, and it very famous for its stunning castles, here among Schloss Sanssouci. A great number of the parks and castles that you can see in Potsdam, are on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and a wonderful thing is, that you can get to see many of these places, as every place is within cycling distance.

Second stop: Bad Muskau

Have you ever heard of this place? If not, now is the time, as it is truly worth visiting. Bad Muskau is located at the boarder to Poland, and is known for its palace, as well as beautiful landscape gardens. You might think that it is far from Berlin – imagine it’s at the Polish boarder! But no, it is only an approximate 2hr. 40min. train drive from Berlin. When going to Bad Muskau, you should make sure to visit the Muskau Park, which is one of the few UNESCO World Heritage sites which is in two countries – Germany and Poland.

Third stop: Bremen

A trip to Bremen will take you approximately 3hr.-4hr 30min depending of means of transportation. It is a bit of a distance from Berlin, but surely a place you do not want to miss out on. Bremen is a major cultural and economic center of Germany, and you can experience places such as the Bremen Town Hall, Bremen theater, Böttcherstrasse as well as the numerous of museums and historical sculptures. Also, did you know that Bremen is very well known from the Brother Grimm’s fairytale called “Town Musicians of Bremen”.

Last stop: Dresden

Dresden is a town which is located at the east of Germany and is the second largest city on the River Elbe  (Hamburg is number one). You can get there from Berlin in approximately 2 hours by train, and you can look forward to seeing numerous parks and cultural monuments. Most attractions are within walking distance, and you can experience beautiful places such as Brühl’s Terrase, the Zwinger Palace, the Dresden Church of Our Lady, and much more.

Check out our Working Holiday programme in Berlin and Germany!

Volunteering in Physiotherapy in Tanzania

Lisa from Germany volunteered as a physiotherapist in at a school for children with special needs in Tanzania. In our blog she speaks about her time abroad and shares her favourite therapy memory.

 

I am Lisa, 26 and a children’s physiotherapist from Germany.

This year I felt like a special holiday and wanted to experience an adventure. So it came that I, with the help of World Unite!, traveled to Moshi (Tanzania) and worked at a school for children with special needs for 4 weeks.

My volunteer placement

The World Unite! coordinators accompanied me to the BCC Office (the organization that cares for a total of 7 special schools in Moshi) on my first day. There the BCC staff decided that I should go to the school in Moshi-Pasua. This was a great decision, as everyone greeted me warmly when I arrived. Two teachers take care of 11 children aged from 2 ½ up to 11 years with different impairments.

A typical day in my volunteering organisation

The first few days I spent observing to understand the daily structures and to see how I could best integrate myself into the everyday life. Most of the children were dropped off at school by their parents between 8:00 and 9:00. First thing in the morning would be the common prayer and singing in the classroom. Each child would then recite the current date. Although only one boy was able to speak, each child was called out individually and the teacher would speak the words with child. In the end, everyone would sing a song for each child, such as “well done, well done, Jonathan! Keep it up!”. A great ritual, I found, as it focused positively on each child and made them feel welcome.

After that, some children got notebooks, where they were to try to write numbers with individual support. I used this time mostly to do physical therapy with severely physically impaired children. Next to the classroom there was a small therapy room, which was equipped with mats. I brought therapy material from Germany, such as a gym ball. 10:30 was the breakfast time for the children, where they got Uji (Porridge) to drink. A few children needed assistance and some others needed encouragement to drink their Uji. Afterwards the kids had free time to play. I used this time to perform physiotherapy or simply to spend time with the kids.

The kids got a freshly cooked meal for lunch every day at 13:00. Since many of the children come from poorer backgrounds, it is an important part of the school to provide at least one well-balanced meal a day, that would provide nutrients to counteract malnutrition. Here I also helped the children to eat their food, but also with the cleaning of faces and tables. Due to a heavy tetra paresis, a girl had considerable difficulty swallowing and thus had problems to eat at all.

Children like her would be artificially fed in Germany, but as this is hardly possible in Tanzania, the teachers take almost 1 hour for each meal to feed her a bit at least. After the children’s lunch it was the lunch time for the staff while the children busied themselves. The food was very delicious and I was always happy when we got rice with beans and spinach. The rest of the day was used for free play. I used this time for further therapy and often tried to involve several children in group activities. I would use the hammock in the classroom, play with balloons, move the rotary carousel in the schoolyard, and so on. The parents or older siblings came in the afternoon at around 16:00 to pick up the children.

The teachers interacted very loving with the children but unfortunately, there was little individual support. This is partly due to a lack of knowledge, but also lack of staff. There is a total of 11 children in the classroom – all of whom need special attention. One teacher was mostly busy with nappy changing, as 6 out of 11 children were incontinent and two kids needed assistance with going to the toilet. Of course, I have changed nappies before, but since diapers are too expensive for some families, the children are wrapped in cloths and a plastic bag. This old way of swaddling was also a new experience for me and I had to learn the right technique first.

Occupational Therapy

Every other week, the occupational therapist visits for a few hours. She is the Sister in charge for over 100 BCC children in Moshi. She has great ideas for the children’s therapies and designs a therapy plan for each child, which in my opinion is well adapted to the children. However, her time is unfortunately sparse and limited to put the plans into action. The Sister also has an eye on the children’s care and provision of appropriate aids, such as customized shoes, tables and wheelchairs.

Physiotherapy

With the physically impaired children, I used classic Bobath physiotherapy to improve their motoric skills and mobility. I also showed the teachers how to support the kids by shaping the environment. Of course, I do not know if they will continue to work with these ideas.

With the girl, affected by tetra paresis, I worked particularly intensive. This 4-year-old girl sits in a wheelchair and – although she cannot speak – she has a good understanding of language and worked very hard throughout therapy. My goal was to improve her rump stability and lift her so she could improve her swallowing. Unfortunately, 4 weeks were too short to see a big progress, but I hope her mother will continue the exercises at home.

Individual support

Since not all children had a severe physical disability, but still needed a lot of support, I looked at how I could support each child individually. The children were not used to having someone take care of them 1: 1, which lead to some jealousy between the kids, when I was dealing with another child. It was apparent that they enjoyed the time when it was only about them and they could learn new things. Some children, for example, managed to finish a simple plug-in puzzle from which they had previously thrown only the parts through the room. There also were various picture cards (showing an elephant, a house, hand washing, etc.) to initiate speech, which the children brought to me repeatedly so I could cite the words. Although they did not talk well or at all themselves, I realized that they knew the words. This way I also learned some new Swahili words, which was a nice side effect.

I came across unfamiliar practices as well, e.g. that there is not enough time for hyperactive children and a lack of understanding of the handling and perseverance for this. After spending some time with one of the fidgety boys and focusing on body awareness with him, I was very surprised by the positive change. Suddenly he became much calmer, could play a game and was also much better in direct contact.

My favourite therapy memory

The most beautiful therapy experience was a little girl, who was clinging to me and was watching everything I did. The previous weeks I had taught her how to wash her hands properly. Before lunch, the children wait in line to wash each other’s hands (most of them need assistance). Behind that little girl stood a girl with hemiplegia. After washing her own hands, she stopped and took both hands of the girl behind her and helped wash both her hands. Although this only seemed a small thing, it nevertheless gave me great pleasure.

Karanga School

On two days, I went to another school in Karanga. Karanga is just outside the city center and without a BCC employee, I would have not found my way. This school is very different from the one in Pasua. Some of the older students helped with minor tasks and support of the care of the younger ones. I was able to therapeutically help out with two severely affected children. I was surprised about the great interest, the teachers showed in my work. They acknowledged the positive effects were open to learn different exercises for the children. An 8-year-old boy in a wheelchair, who had watched my work, asked if I could practice with him. He had so much fun and the walking exercises gave him so much joy that he simply would not stop.

BCC Special Olympics

I was very lucky that the “BCC Special Olympics” took place during my stay. Once a year, all children from the 7 special needs schools come together and spend a day together. Every school performs something; there is food, dance, games, singing and laughter. Everyone had a blast.

Leisure time

Of course, I did not spend all my days working but also spent a lot of time with the other World Unite! participants. There were about 10 other volunteers during my time of stay. Everyone would return to the shared house in the afternoon and we would chat about the events of the day. There was a nice community feeling to cook, eat and spend time with so many people. Sometimes we would go out together for dinners. Right on my first evening we did a sunset tour, where we enjoyed the sunset on the roof of a converted party bus. I can also recommend a visit to the nightclub “Redstone”. Dancing here and watching the mad dancers around you is so much fun.

Hot Spring Tour

Another volunteer had organized a tour to the Hot springs as a surprise for children from an orphanage. Together with the 22 children, we went there in a crowded Daladala with extremely loud Tanzanian pop music blasting out of the speakers and spent a relaxing day together with swimming and playing football.

Safari, Coffee Tour, Hike in the Usambara Mountains

Weekends are the time for excursions. If you are in Tanzania, you should not miss a safari! To see the animals was extremely beautiful. I also went to the gate of Kilimanjaro, to nearby waterfalls, did a coffee tour and visited a Tanzanian cave village. Together with three other volunteers, I spent a whole weekend hiking in the Usambara mountains. We enjoyed the beautiful landscape, great views and experienced the most beautiful sunset. This tour was definitely one of my highlights. It was quite adventurous and we had so much fun.

I had a wonderful time in Moshi! I met a lot of great people and experienced a lot.

Kind regards,

Lisa (from Germany)

You can find all information about Lisa’s placement here.