1- How was the local ABV Coordinator and the support provided in-country?
Stellar! my ABV Coordinator in Arusha did a wonderful job getting me settled in, telling me more about the area and the program, and staying in contact throughout my time there. She was always reachable if I needed anything but was never smothering. She made sure to schedule a halfway mark meeting to check in and see how everything was going, and it was all great.
2- What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
I was most surprised at how normal it was for small children to be free to run around unsupervised. People just pass their kids around to sit on a stranger's lap in the daladala if there weren't enough seats, and that was totally fine! Surprising at first, but then became the new normal.
3- What was most difficult to experience?
It was most difficult for me to witness such intense poverty and lack of infrastructure in so many communities and schools, knowing that the government is not doing enough to help alleviate it. There is corruption and injustice in the political system that is holding the entire country back and not utilizing its resources. It's a beautiful country and the people are wonderful; it's hard to see many of them not having access or ability to enjoy the benefits.
4- Any tips for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
a. When the program guide tells you not to bring white clothing because it will be hard to keep clean... don't bring white clothing. They're right. The layer of dust and dirt is just unavoidable. Consider bringing clothes you wouldn't mind just leaving behind and donating. b. Ask what your program can use as far as materials to donate ahead of time. It is better to bring things they can use rather than money that might go elsewhere. For the HIV/AIDS community outreach program, basic vitamins and painkillers (ibuprofen) are in high demand. In general, everyone loves hand sanitizer (hospitals, orphanages, any project needs it and should use it). c. Be willing to accept and adjust to "Africa time" - but don't call it that, it's just time. And it goes slowly. And it's okay.
5- Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
You will probably be faced with a whole host of new situations that you've never experienced before, and may even only experience in Tanzania. This might be the first time you've been the minority, or the first time you've been the majority depending on where you're from. You will be called a "mzungu" no matter what. Your cultural norms will be challenged. You can respect traditions without agreeing with them. Nothing will go as planned. Everything will not be what you expected regardless of how many program guides you read. Just know that everything will be alright if you allow yourself to go with the flow and be flexible and accepting. Also know that there is a whole support network for you if you need it. Being self driven and willing to make your own experience are key to having a fantastic adventure.
6- How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security (e: host family, on-site, shared)
I am very glad I chose ABV for my first volunteer experience abroad. I was very well taken care of, and supported the whole time. I was also given enough freedom to shape my time there how I wanted, and left me more independent and self reliant.
7- What was your favorite memory of this trip?
My accommodation was wonderful. I lived in a volunteer house with other ABV volunteers. We had an extraordinary cook named Saum who was basically our Tanzanian mother. The food was always delicious, though only breakfast and dinner. We had electricity and running water (most of the time). The house was surrounded by a high gate/fence and there were locks on all the doors. I felt very safe and well taken care of.
8- How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
My favorite memory was sitting at the dinner table with a candle when the power was out, asking Saum and Iddi (a local student who also lived in the house) how to say certain things in Swahili. I kept a page in my journal for all the vocabulary I was learning so I wouldn't forget it. It was amazing to them how I was able to spell the words as I wrote them but not necessarily pronounce them, and made for a lot of laughs. My favorite slang phrase that I learned is the funniest thing I have ever heard: "Poa kichizi kama ndizi kwenye fridge". Cool like a banana in the fridge.
9 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
It was all via email, but very fast and detailed responses to any questions I had.
10 – Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?
Sure! I can talk most specifically about the Arusha HIV program, or travel in general.