Volunteering abroad is an option most people do not consider until they are well out of college and feel confident and secure enough to participate in such a challenging journey. The concept of traveling to a far away location in an unknown part of the world can be intimidating to a person of any age and with an any amount of life experiences under their belt.

Recently, however, with increased globalization and information just a click away, volunteering abroad is becoming easier for and more appealing to a younger crowd. There are loads of options for high schoolers to participate in guided, supervised, structured, yet eye opening trips to just about any country in the world, especially Africa and specifically Tanzania.

Photo credit: parramitta.


Itʼs increasingly important to be culturally aware, well-rounded, independent and socially sympathetic from an early age. Volunteering abroad in high school can help jumpstart these attitudes in countless ways. A few are listed below:

  • By planning and preparing for a trip so far from the comforts of home, and especially in a third world country, students are developing a self-dependency that will be necessary when they graduate and move to college.
  • Students learn a lot about maintaining finances when they fundraise and save for such a monumental trip - flights to Africa are not cheap.
  • From working alongside international volunteers to help locals, as well as associating with Tanzanians, students develop friendships outside their norm and become more culturally sensitive to how others live.
  • Figuring out how to cope with the differences and hardships that exist in Africa will make students more flexible and resilient as adults.

In addition to these benefits, volunteering abroad can also set you apart when applying to the ever increasingly competitive college acceptance boards. If you know what you want to major in, it could be possible to find a volunteer project within that realm of interest. If you donʼt know what you want to study, a trip abroad could generate new ideas and interests you didnʼt know you had.

Either way, the leadership skills gained by proactively participating in such a challenging project will strongly impress any college application recipient. Community service hours, a requirement of many colleges and universities, can also be gained through a trip abroad. By providing a chance to increase your worldly knowledge while simultaneously creating a stronger college resume, volunteering abroad in high school seems like a no brainer.

As one of the poorest nations in the world, but also one with an incredible ecological system conservation groups are working hard to conserve, there is no shortage of volunteer organizations in Tanzania just waiting for brave and enthusiastic volunteers. Thanks to the many issues Tanzania is trying to tackle, there are no shortage of volunteer opportunities to match your skills and interests.

Program Types

Since high schoolers are occupied with classes for the majority of the year, programs are limited to during summer break, or potentially spring break. One week, however, may not be enough time to get acclimated to time changes, fully become involved in a project, and enjoy all that Tanzania has to offer. Many programs offer 2, 3 or 4 week sessions, and one of these is recommended. All projects include a place to stay and food for the duration of the trip.

Service Learning:

Service learning or community service is often required for both high school graduation and to be accepted into college. Service learning requires students to participate in an out of school project to encourage awareness and a sense of community. By completing the required hours, and maybe more, in a foreign country, a student can easily and definitively set themselves apart from other applicants. There are many programs available that can offer the opportunity to gain these service hours and will cooperate with filling out any necessary paperwork. Often these programs also include a safari or another adventurous trip, and Swahili lessons.

Community Development Programs:

Volunteering at schools, community centers, or orphanages is often the most popular way to go. You donʼt have to have any specific skills, and working with little kids is always a blast. Options may include teaching English, playing sports, caring for young children, assisting teachers, and general maintenance. This could be perfect for those students interested in teaching, social work, communications, or for those who are unsure of their major.

Environmental Programs:

Since Tanzania has so many wonderful natural features to protect, participating in an environmental program could be a great way to get involved. Students can learn about and help with water purification on the Ngorongoro crater, home to 25,000 wild animals. For students interested in studying renewable energy and natural resources, solar energy is a budding market in Tanzania and they could gain lots of useful knowledge even before schooling starts. There are also ways to get involved with farming in small villages. Anyone looking to study sustainability, environmental issues, natural resource management etc. would find this option most enticing.

Programs to Consider in Tanzania:
  • Global Leadership Adventures: Global Leadership Adventures offers two different programs in Tanzania. The program options are either 14 or 21 days and 30 or 45 service hours. The prices range from $3199 to $4799. Both programs offer time to volunteer and time for excursions.
  • Rustic Pathways: Rustic Pathways offers options to be involved in community service AND go on a tourist adventure four different programs. The programs range from 10-17 days and 28-62 service hours.The prices run from $1695 to $3295. Rustic Pathways offers options for only volunteering or volunteering combined with tourism adventure.
  • Cross Cultural Solutions: Cross Cultural Solutions offers one program that ranges between 1-4 weeks and costs between $2862-$5704.
  • Projects Abroad:Projects Abroad offers two programs in Tanzania, both of which are two weeks long. The prices for these programs range from $2695-$2870.

Planning Your Trip

When and Where to Volunteer Abroad:

For high schoolers, 2-4 weeks in the summer time is recommended. For students who wish to work at a school or orphanage, there are opportunities in both larger cities, like Dar es Salaam, and rural villages. For students who want to gain experience working at a hospital, Dar es Salaam offers the most options. For those interested in conservation and ecological projects, working at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, in the towns of Arusha or Moshi, is best.

Resources for Parents:

As parents, it is naturally worrisome to let your teenage child travel to Africa for a few weeks without you. But this is an incredible opportunity to let you son or daughter see an unknown part of the world, and you can help facilitate their growth as an adult in a unique and rewarding way.

The existing high school volunteer programs are intrinsically more guided, supervised, and sheltered, allowing your child to be exposed to a different culture while being kept safe. Though internet access could be limited, and bringing fancy cell phones is not advisable, there will most likely be internet cafes where students can send emails.

It is also an option for students to bring or buy cheap phones, buy a cheap Tanzanian SIM card upon arrival for less than a dollar, and then top up with money so they can place international calls as well as call each other and coordinators. But don’t expect to talk every day, as international calls can be expensive. Always remember, no news is good news.

Most, if not all, programs offer the following services for their younger volunteers:

  • increased staff (about 6:1).
  • constant supervision and assistance.
  • possible escorted flights from home country.
  • airport pickup and transportation to volunteer site on the same day as other volunteers.
  • closely managed dorms or host family placements in protected areas with other students.
  • guided and supervised short excursions.
  • medical and traveler insurance provided.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Tanzania:

Volunteers will need vaccinations in order to travel to Tanzania. Recommended Vaccines include meningitis, typhoid, hepatitis A, B and C, and yellow fever.

Why Volunteer Abroad in this Country:

Despite its imperfections, Tanzania stands out as one of the most stable countries in East Africa. It is a rapidly growing and dynamic country with loads of ways to get involved. Located on the Indian Ocean, it is home to beautiful islands with white sand beaches, the imposing Mt. Kilimanjaro, throngs of exotic wildlife, multiple safari parks including Serengeti, and many other sights to see. People are friendly and welcoming, and eager to teach Swahili. When visiting Africa, however, be sure to heed these pieces of advice!

This is most likely the first time students have gone so far away without their parents. Itʼs incredibly intimidating, they donʼt know what to expect, everything is new. This takes a lot of guts and a lot of adjustment. But volunteering in Tanzania is also a rewarding way for high schoolers to do something drastically different than their peers, gain a broader cultural understanding, and learn leadership qualities essential for growing into adulthood.

Contributed by Mandi Schmitt
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