Volunteer Name: Rachel Ursitti
Project Location: Moshi, Tanzania
Program Dates: From Nov 15 2014 to Jan 10 2015
Volunteered at: Teaching / Education
1- How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country?
My experience, as the first volunteer in Moshi, was very atypical. A lot of the misunderstandings I encountered had to deal with the African Time and the culture; however, both Sarah and Gail worked hard to fix any issues that arose and implement changes for the other volunteers I met throughout my two month stay in the program.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
The culture is very warm and inviting, but money is more important than friendship or any kind of relationship in Moshi. The men that approach you are often times only approaching you in the hopes that you will buy something from them; not because of other reasons like in America. I was also surprised by how safe I felt in the country.
3- What was most difficult to experience?
The language barrier is tough. The orphanage was not so bad because most of the kids and workers speak English; however, the preschool only has one English speaking teacher and he is often not around. I would suggest translating your lesson plans into Swahili before arrival. Also, it is important to know that the children being taught are all learning very basic concepts (like the alphabet or numbers) so they will not be able to speak with you and you will not be able to understand or a aid them with their various needs and desires.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
I am glad I spent two months here. I learned a great deal about the culture and even learned Swahili well enough to hold full conversations with natives. Dress in Moshi is a lot less formal than it is in other parts of Tanzania. For one, you can show your shoulders (although I chose not to), swimming suits can be bikinis without issue, tops can be tight fitted. Night club clothing has not dress code. The only thing that is non-negotiable would be longer pants and skirts when walking around. Knee length or there abouts is the only acceptable length if you want to avoid harassment. As for things to bring, I brought my laptop, a camera, and a smartphone--all three items made it home safely. Get a lock for your luggage, this way your items will be safe in the house, don't leave money in the room (on beds or table), always with you or in your locked luggage) Most other things you lose or forget can be purchased in the town. I bought more disinfectant there, as I found it necessary to have. As for important documents, you need 4 (not 2 or 8) passport photos. You also need a copy of your passport for Immigration (they will also want a copy of your VISA stamp, which you acquire by going up to four different windows when you exit the plane (so start with the line for window 1). As for donations, it depends on the program. The orphans always need shoes and clothes. The preschoolers need pens: black, blue, or red (for the teachers), chalk, and art supplies that you make a lesson plan for (as you will likely teach Creative in addition to English). Bring money to feed the preschoolers meats and vegetables. They only eat porridge or maze and beans usually (and that may be the only meal they have that day).
5- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
You will get a lot of attention for looking different. The locals will call you "mzungu," which translates into tourist/white person. They will think you are a walking ATM and may ask you to buy them things, give them money, or try and make you pay more because of your skin color. On the bright side, young children will get lots of enjoyment from seeing you. Expect all kinds of affection from them.
6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security (e: host family, on-site, shared)
My time in Moshi was truly incredible. I experienced a lifetime in the few short months I was there. As an English major in school, I always believed that language was a central part of connection. My interactions with the non-English speaking people (especially the children) in Moshi taught me a world of difference in that regard. There is no greater feeling than falling in love with the children you work with to the point that leaving them brings you to hysterical crying. Children that I sometimes could not speak with, but with whom I laughed, played, cuddled, danced, and hugged. A part of my heart will forever be in Moshi, so with the rest of it, I thank A Broader View for giving me the chance to give that piece away.
7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
The accommodation was a very secure hostel with two (heated, if desired) showers, a kitchen with a fridge and gas cooking stove, fans in the room, mosquito nets, and a European stylet toilet. There is a gate, two locked doors with additional bolts before possible entry, bars on every window. Meals were delicious and Irene took good care to learn everyone's food preferences.
8- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
There are way too many to pick only one, but I think my very, very favorite experience of all was when I went to say goodbye to little Jenipher at the orphanage and she said she had a present for me, so I followed her into the girl's dormitory, where a bunch of girls were playing with the playing cards I brought them earlier that day. They were giggling and showing me the cards. I then told them that I was leaving and how much I would miss them and how much I loved them and held my arms out for hugs when all of them made a huge group hug and then proceeded to tackle me and shout "I love you!" and "Nakupenda!" Then, many of the girls gave me individual hugs and told me how much they would miss me with the most genuine upset on their faces that I thought my heart wold break into a million pieces and then collectively they interrogated me as to the very date which I would be returning. That was definitely the greatest experience of my life.
9 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Sarah was very helpful and friendly. She helped me with everything that she could; however.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Of course! I would love to answer any questions that other potential volunteers may have. I am a Moshi expert at this point (and helped to orient several other ABV volunteers), so ask me anything!