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Volunteer in Tanzania

Volunteer in Tanzania
Volunteer in Tanzania. Photo courtesy of Cross-Cultural Solutions.

I was in Tanzania, Africa for a total of three months, working as an international volunteer with Cross-Cultural Solutions. My job was to work side by side with local people to help support sustainable community-led projects. My work was in an orphanage, for children ages two to seven, teaching basic English and math. Of the 35 kids, approximately half of them had HIV and a number were orphans whose parents had died from AIDS.

I was put in charge of five of the kids—Rehear, Amani, Irene, Jacob, and Lujiso. I set myself a goal that by the end of my three months, they would know the whole alphabet and be able to count to 10 in English, and it was a mission accomplished.

The resources at the school, although good for Tanzania, were fairly bad by our Western standards, so anything you bring for the kids is welcomed with loud screaming and mass hysteria. I handed them out crayons and then turned round for a second to get the coloring book. I turned back round—crayons gone. Okay, some of the kids have a tendency to put things in there pockets, so politely and in my best Swahili I asked them to stand up and empty their pockets. They did, and to my surprise, nothing. Again, in my best Swahili I apologized and asked where are the crayons? Then they all smiled. There was a red smile, a blue smile, an orange smile, a green smile, and a gold smile. Crayon mystery solved.

For More Info

Cross-Cultural Solutions offers three types of programs: Volunteer Abroad, Intern Abroad, and Insight Abroad. Volunteer Abroad and Intern Abroad programs operate year-round, and range from 3-12 weeks. Insight Abroad is a one-week program and is available in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. CCS is in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations and in partnership with CARE, one of the world’s largest international humanitarian organizations. Volunteer placements are with CCS Partner Programs, local NGOs or community organizations within each country, and are based on an individual’s skills and interests. Contact: Cross-Cultural Solutions Headquarters, 2 Clinton Pl., New Rochelle, NY 10801; Tel. 800-380-4777;, .

Ben Gerrish is 19 years old and lives in Manchester U.K. After graduating from high school in 2004, Ben took a gap year, during which time he volunteered for Cross-Cultural Solutions in Tanzania and again in Bangkok, Thailand. He is now studying human rights and politics at Kingston University in London.

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