This summer I, along with 11 volunteers from Working in Tandem went on a long journey, geographically as well as spiritually, physically, mentally and culturally to work at a school in Tanzania. Our memories of the people we met, the places we visited, the food we ate, and the culture we explored this summer will undoubtedly be with me forever.
We arrived at Dar Es Salaam airport after a terrible journey and from Dar, we took a 12 hour coach journey north westwards to Arusha, one of Tanzania’s most bustling and beautiful cities. We explored the city and located the infamous ‘Shoprite Complex’ which is a haven for tourists who crave their home comforts. From here we headed to Meserani, a small village 20km north of Arusha, and set up our tents for what would be a 44 night stay at Snake Park. As its name suggests, Snake Park holds a collection of snakes and other reptiles which have been discovered by locals and often found to be injured in the wild. Ma and BJ, the owners of Snake Park, bought the site over 20 years ago and since then have created an exquisite oasis of trees and animals in an otherwise largely barren landscape. They have a fully established campsite with an atmospheric bar, which has seen many a visiting safari group leave their mark over the years and every shilling which Ma and BJ make behind the bar funds a clinic which they built to assist and improve the healthcare of many locals. BJ also sponsors over 100 children through their education – they are simply wonderful, generous people.
The main centre is called KCEM (Kituo Cha Elimu Meserani) and most of our volunteers were based here and led lessons in English, Computer Skills, French, and Business and also worked in the Kindergarten. Two of our volunteers were also based at the Maasai Outreach Centre where they taught a Kindergarten class. The creativity, passion, enthusiasm and energy which all of the volunteers demonstrated was truly staggering. Whether it was organising and leading a debating group or playing games with the children, whether the volunteers were planning their next interesting lessons or buying stationary equipment for the school, their input into the entire project was invaluable and they made a huge difference to the lives of these Tanzanians.
Tanzania is the world’s 4th most diverse country in terms of landscape, culture, peoples and animals. We were keen to experience all that the country had to offer and we were by no means disappointed. We travelled to Moshi, which sits in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro – indeed one of our group climbed the epic mountain. We took part in many cultural heritage tours in Longido, N’igeresi and Lushoto where we could experience the everyday lives of the local people, taste their food, and soak up their atmosphere. Once the project had ended, 5 of us continued to travel across Tanzania to Tanga on the East Coast. Tanga has a huge amount to offer but has been largely neglected by tourists over recent decades and it is now a shadow of its former glory. The most interesting, beautiful and diverse place I have been to is Zanzibar. It’s a magical Island but had a troubled past due to its huge role in the Slave Trade. In the capital, Stone Town, you can stand at the top of a building and see Churches, Mosques and Temples sitting peacefully side by side and although it is a strict Muslim society, religious tolerance is a natural way of life there. The paradise beaches which Zanzibar is so famous for provided us with rest and relaxation after our long and varied stay in Tanzania. It’s a wonderful country with amazing people and a bright future. I hope we made even a small contribution to the development of Tanzania and I will never forget my time there.
If you are interested in heading out to Tanzania over Summer 2013 or if you would like more information on Working in Tandem, please follow us on twitter: @workingintandem, join our Facebook group: Working in Tandem 2012-2013 or visit our website: www.working-in-tandem.com