I have just returned from the Human Rights and Legal Aid Careership in Arusha, Tanzania, and I feel that it is critical that you understand exactly what kind of situation that you are sending your volunteers into.
I first began to feel uncomfortable a few days before I was due to depart. I was trying to sort out the details for payment for my stay at the Tanzanite Services Apartments and the coordinator I was put in touch with through Global Nomadic requested that I pay in CASH upon arrival. That would mean travelling around the world (from Toronto to Arusha) with $1,760US ($880 for each of the 2 months I would be there) on my person, obviously that idea made me extremely uncomfortable. I phoned Global Nomadic's US office and spoke with a very helpful gentleman who then arranged with the Global Nomadic coordinator and local coordinator for me to pay via bank transfer upon arrival. The local coordinator was to send me the account information, however the information I received was not for the Tanzanite Services Apartments or for Karibu Tanzania Safari's and Volunteering LTD, it was the local coordinator's PERSONAL account. This seemed strange to me but I went ahead and set up the transfer with my bank at home so that all I had to do was call when I got to Arusha and the money would be sent.
I arrived in Arusha around 9pm and was met by a taxi driver to take me to the apartments. When I got there there was no food or water, I had to borrow a bottle from one of the other volunteers to brush my teeth. The local coordinator came very briefly to tell me that my orientation would be the next morning and to say welcome. There was no way for me to reach the ceiling to hang my mosquito net and no one to ask for help so I ended up rigging it around the bunk bed for the night.
The next morning when the local coordinator arrived I brought him my passport and the $120US so he could get my volunteering visa. When I gave him the money he told me that it was in fact $200US for the visa. This was not what I had been told (see file attached: pre-departure info page 3) but as I didn't have another option I had to give him the extra money. He asked about the bank transfer and I explained that I would call my bank as soon as I bought a phone, but given that it was a Friday and I didn't expect to get a phone until the next day it would likely be Monday before I could have the money sent. The local coordinator said this was not a problem and to let him know when it had been transferred.
My orientation consisted of a walk around Arusha with the local coordinator's associate. He showed me how to get to town from the apartments and explained that the roads and paths were safe during the day time, but not to walk around at night. He then took me to the grocery store so I could buy a case of water, and put me in a taxi with my water as he had other business to do in town. He returned an hour or so later for a swahili lesson which consisted of me copying down a few basic terms and took about 15 minutes.
That afternoon 3 other female volunteers and I went to town, we decided to walk back to the apartments since the sun was still up. On the way one of the girls was grabbed by a local man and some of his friends, when she struggled he raised his fist in a threatening motion. When she dropped her bag the robber let go and we ran.
I have a family friend named Tazim who lives in Arusha. On Saturday, the day after the robbery, we met for lunch. I decided to ask her about typical rent prices in the area, since talking to the other volunteers I had discovered that we were all paying different prices to stay at the house, some much higher than others. According to Global Nomadic, I was to pay $880US per month. When I told Tazim and her friend Zahara that, they were appalled. Zahara lives in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house in a good neighbourhood and only pays $650 a month. When Tazim drove me back to the apartment, she was shocked at the location, and after I got out of the vehicle Tazim's driver turned to her and told her that this was not a safe area, especially for a caucasian female on her own.
The financials seemed strange to me but I wanted to avoid and discomfort at the house so I sent the Global Nomadic coordinator the following email:
I've arrived safely and so far everything is fine. I've had orientation and am starting work on Monday.
I have a concern I'm wondering if you can help me with. First of all I understood that the visa application for my volunteer visa that the local coordintator is setting up was $120 USD, but I've had to pay $200 for it. I've talked to some of the other volunteers living in the house and it seems that they paid $130. Secondly, again talking with other people who are living in the house, no one is paying nearly as much as I am for room and board. Some of them are paying $100 per week while others are paying $20 per day, but no one is paying more than $600 a month for the exact same services as myself, why am I paying $880? I haven't had the bank transfer go through yet since it's the weekend, I'm going to call on Monday to have that done but I'd like to clear this up first. It is my understanding that I am paying the local coordinator for the room and meals, correct? It is Global Nomadic that has set up my work placement? I will wait to hear from you on this issue and will talk to whomever I am working for on Monday as well.
Instead of keeping this between us, the Global Nomadic coordinator contacted the local coordinator, something I could have easily done myself. The local coordinator came to speak with me and I reiterated my concerns to him. He told me that the cost of the accommodation was indeed $20 per night, this should have meant that the cost of my stay would be $1200. When I asked where the other $560 was going, he informed me that the airport pick up and drop off was factored in, and also that each month that I worked at the law clinic required a $100 mandatory donation. This still left $260 which I was supposed to pay and didn't know where it was going. The local coordinator claimed it was going to other “outsourcing” projects. I asked for a breakdown of these projects but the next day when he gave me the breakdown it was only a breakdown of the donation spending of the law clinic where I was to work, not the breakdown of where the $260 was going. When I pointed this out he again stated that it was going to “outsourcing” projects. I then received this reply from the Global Nomadic coordinator.
I have discussed this now with the local coordinator and I have the following information for you;
The local coordinator assures me that the CTA working permit for 3 months stay is $200. This is different to a volunteer visa which costs less. You are doing an internship, which is not the same as volunteering and therefore requires a different visa if we are to do everything above board.
Also, the other volunteers to whom you refer are not paying more than you, but perhaps did not request an airport pickup, and also are attending different projects, which require a different donation. This explains the variation in price, which was clearly laid out during the entire application process.
I understand that you have recently left the volunteer accommodation, please can you let me know what you intend to do.
I look forward to your reply.
I have attached to this email all of the information I was given during the application process, and you will notice that there is no mention of a REQUIRED donation (an oxymoron in itself) or of outsourcing projects, let alone a “clearly laid out” price break down as the Global Nomadic coordinator claims. Never the less I inquired at the law clinic about a donation and was told that yes, The local coordinator does often bring in donations on behalf of the volunteers but no, there is no such thing as a required donation and no, I was not expected to give a donation in order to volunteer there. The specifications of the “internship” to which the Global Nomadic coordinator refers are included in the attachment “project sheria” but I will touch on some highlighted information here as well:
working hours are 25-32 hours a week Monday to Friday
depending on your skills tasks include advocacy, administration, organization development, publication and research
I have also attached Global Nomadic's advertisement of the “internship”. Now let me explain what actually happened at the law office.
The first day the local coordinator took me in and introduced me to Harrison, one of the paralegals who I would be working with. Although Harrison worked as a paralegal, he had no formal training as of yet but said he would be going to take some courses in the future. His college background was in sciences. The first day we discussed the legal situation in Tanzania and he gave me some background information on the Arusha Women's Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (AWLAHURIC). He didn't know what my hours would be but said he would contact Ms Martha, the coordinator, and we could meet and discuss it. I was to come in the next day at 9am. At 8:45am the next morning Harrison phoned to say I should come in at 11am instead. At 11am I came in and met John, another paralegal who would soon be going for training. We sat and chatted, Ms Martha was busy and there was no work to be done.
On Wednesday the clinic was open from 2pm-5pm for people to come in and seek assistance. They would come in and explain their situation, few spoke any English at all so this was all in Swahili. The fact that it was all in the local language is completely understandable, however I was told before I arrived that it would not be a problem that I had no prior knowledge of Swahili. Yet because of the language barrier I simply sat and listened to each of the clients without understanding a word. After they had told their story Harrison or John would give me a rough overview of the situation and tell me what advice they were going to give. They would then give the advice, in Swahili, and the client would be on their way. Seeing as I don't speak Swahili I felt like more of a burden than anything else, John or Harrison would have to explain to the client that they had to translate for me, then give me a brief synopsis in English, and then switch back to Swahili to give advice. If I had been an expert in Maasai culture or Tanzanian law I might have been able to contribute a little bit more, but again I was told that my qualifications would be fine and I would have no problem at the clinic.
The clinic was open to the public 2 afternoons a week, Wednesday and Friday. Other than that, there was no work to be done. Sometimes John or Harrison would call to see if I could come in and I would go, but we would simply sit and chit chat, there was no work, no advocacy, administration, organization development, publication or research. They could see that I was bored and soon they stopped calling as I was finding other, more productive things to do with my time than sitting shooting the breeze. By mid May I was spending 6 hours a week at the law clinic. During those 6 hours I would listen to the discussion in Swahili (gradually I could pick out words and understand a bit more but not nearly enough to be able to follow a fast passed discussion), and feel like a burden.
Around this time I was asked to work on a grant application for AWLAHURIC, it had to be written in English and was quite extensive. I wrote the sections that I could but a lot of detailed information about the organization was required as well as an outline for how the money would be spent over the next year. I was told to do what I could and that Ms Martha would fill in the details I didn't know. Harrison and I brainstormed some possible projects on which to spend the money and we were going to discuss it with Ms Martha. A few days later Harrison said that Ms Martha had approved one of the ideas and I was to base the application on that. However, this was impossible for me to do without knowing the current budget or details regarding cost expectancies etc, again I was told to discuss this with Ms Martha when I met her.
On a Friday evening around 9pm I received a phone call from Harrison who was in Dar es Salaam for a meeting. He had obviously had a lot to drink and wanted me to come to Dar es Salaam and join him in his hotel room. I politely refused and hung up, the conversation made me very uncomfortable. I told John of the conversation on Monday and he asked if I wanted to tell Ms Martha (who I still had not met). I explained that while I didn't want to get Harrison into trouble the whole thing made me very uncomfortable. Since that was the case John said that he would talk to Harrison himself. Apparently Harrison had no memory of the conversation but was very embarrassed. After that, I was never alone in the office with him nor did he phone or contact me unless it was work related. Please understand that I am not relaying this story to get anyone into trouble, I simply want you to understand the kind of unprofessional situation it was.
I asked the local coordinator and the Global Nomadic coordinator about dress code before I left and these are two replies I had from the local coordinator:
Some time you will visit local community as part of you program and cloth your wear should not offend them
observe as a lawyer you need proper dressing code is some occasions in your project lets say during presentation and during your visit in the court .hence you need black suit
I would like to point out that during my two months at the law clinic there was no mention of going to court or going to local villages. When I asked about going to visit the court John explained that it would all be in Swahili but that if I wished to go they could try to arrange something. I also said that I would like to go to the Rwanda Tribunal and again was told they would try to arrange something. At the end of two months nothing had been arranged. My brand new black suit remained in my suitcase along with all of the other business clothes that I had brought.
As the Global Nomadic coordinator mentioned in her email I did indeed move out of the apartment after 4 days. I was feeling very uncomfortable not only with amount of money I was supposed to pay but also with the safety of the area. While it is true that there was a watchmen at the apartment at all times, I was still expected to walk everywhere (or take a taxi which became quite expensive) and after being part of a robbery in broad daylight I was not feeling safe at all. My family friend Tazim had been asking around and everyone she spoke to said the same thing: the area is a slum, it is not safe, and no, I should not be staying there on my own. Even Harrison at the law clinic had asked me why I was staying there, he said that he didn't understand why someone would put a volunteer house in slum area since all “mazungu” (white people) are considered to have money and are therefore quite often the targets of robberies. I no longer trusted the local coordinator given that I felt he was trying to over charge me, but he had taken my passport in order to get my visa. I waited until he returned it and then called Tazim who immediately sent her driver to pick me up and move me into her friend Zahara's spare bedroom.
That evening the local coordinator called and he was quite angry. He wanted me to come to the apartments the next day to pay the money that I owed him. I did not feel particularly comfortable with that so I offered to meet him at the Arusha Hotel instead and asked how much I owed him. He agreed and said I owed him $20 for each of the nights I was there plus 200 000 Tanzanian Shillings ($122) for the airport pick up. That seemed like a lot for a cab from the airport so I asked the cab driver who I had been using and also Zahara and Tazim and they all said standard airport pick up cost $50. Since I had stayed for 4 nights and did not intend to pay more than the standard price for airport pick up I should have had to pay the local coordinator $130.
I was very glad I met him in the hotel because he became agitated and angry several times and caught himself each time he began to raise his voice, looking around to see if anyone had noticed. He completely denied having told me that the airport pick up cost 200 000TSH although Tazim and I both heard him quite clearly over speaker phone. He also demanded $20 for my 15 minute Swahili lesson. In the end I paid him $155: $80 for room and board, $20 for the Swahili lesson and $55 for airport pick up. The local coordinator also had accusations to make. He said he thought I was just using him and the apartments and that I had never intended to transfer the money from Canada. This was not true at all, it was Monday when I moved out of the house and had I not been moving out I fully intended to make the phone call to have the money transferred that day. When I asked what he thought I was using the house for he said a visa and to find a job. How he could even think that was beyond me, volunteer visa's are very easy to get in Tanzania, I could have got it at the airport when I arrived or through AWLAHURIC when I started work or directly from in immigration office in town. If the cost really was $200 then I would have been paying that much anyway, why did I need to use him? As far as finding a job was concerned I had applied for my position through Global Nomadic, it had nothing to do with him. The local coordinator also told me that he was going to have to notify immigration that I was no longer staying at the Tanzanite Apartments. I told him I understood and that was fine. Below are the emails between myself and Global Nomadic that followed.
The local coordinator seems to believe that you only used Karibu to get your letter of support for the working visa, and get in touch with the organisation, and as soon as you had this you always intended to go and stay with your friend and go around Karibu. There is also mention that you out your friends address on your immigration form.
Is there any truth to this?
Please let me know.
Yes he told me that, and I told him it was completely untrue. I was very disappointed to have to leave the volunteer house. I'm sure you are not aware of this at Global Nomadic or else you would certainly not send clients there, but the house is located in a slum. Even the taxi drivers say it is not safe to walk alone there and yet that is what I was expected to do to get to work every day.
My friend's address is on my tourist visa because when I was applying I emailed the local coordinator for an address and he wrote back just saying "Tanzanite Apartments, Fire Area" which wasn't enough information, I needed a PO Box and street number on my visa application form. Since I was running out of time and the local coordinator usually took 3-4 days to reply to my emails I used my friend's address. My friend is currently in Kenya anyway, I am not living with her, she simply found me somewhere safer to live. I'm not sure if you're aware of this but volunteer visa's are very easy to get here. If that was all I had wanted I could have done it directly though the legal aid office here while staying at a hotel without any problem, or I could have done it from Canada (for a fraction of the price, I might add) before I came. There is absolutely no reason for me to have used Karibu to get a visa.
As far as using Karibu to find a work placement, I understood that was what Global Nomadic was doing, after all I applied for the position and was approved through Global Nomadic, and I paid Global Nomadic for the placement abroad which to my understanding meant a place to work and secure living arrangements - the house itself is secure, but as soon as you walk outside it is most certainly not. A slum is by no definition secure. Did the local coordinator mention to you that I was robbed on my first day there? That is why my friend came to see where I was staying and make sure it was safe, the taxi driver told her to get me out of there.
There are 2 final incidents that I would like to mention. First, the daytime guard at the apartments not having enough money for food. I was asked to pay $880 per month to stay at the apartments. While that is an outrageous amount of money in Africa, it is pretty typical of prices here in Canada which is why I didn't question it too much. I would not have minded paying Western prices if I thought the money was being used fairly. However the daytime guard did not even have enough money for food. He had to ask the volunteers to borrow money, a request he was clearly very ashamed of making. Of course the volunteers gave him what he needed, but my question is where was all of our money going if not to pay the staff decent wages? It certainly wasn't going to Western style accommodations or gourmet meals.
The second indecent happened on my last day in Arusha. I went to the law clinic to say goodbye when the local coordinator showed up. We made some small talk and then the local coordinator said something to the paralegals in swahili before he left. As I got up to leave John told me that the local coordinator had said that I had $200 US as a donation for them. I asked again about the mandatory donation and John said, “No no, there is nothing mandatory we talked about that on your first day, The local coordinator knows that. He just said that you wanted to donate to us”. I was shocked and more than a little angry. I calmly explained to John that I am a student and that this trip had cost me a lot of money for what turned out to be very little experience that I could put on my resume. I told him that my time was my donation, and that the local coordinator was mistaken. He happily accepted this explanation and we said our goodbyes. There was no other reason for the local coordinator to do what he did than spite.
Below is the last email I received from Global Nomadic, it is from the 15th of May, a quarter of the way through my 2 month placement.
I have been investigating this further, checking testimonials again from previous participants, and all say they felt very safe in the area of the volunteer guesthouse and never had any serious issues of security. Karibu receives many volunteers each year, of which we have sent around 15, and yours is the first complaint we have had. The local coordinator also confirms that a volunteer was robbed recently by some school children, and that this does unfortunately happen. Africa in general is not as safe as the West, and you must be careful wherever you go, just as you would in any other part of the world.
I am sorry that you felt unsafe with Karibu, and we take your concern seriously. I will continue to investigate this, and will make sure that you don't have to have any more contact with the local coordinator if that is what you wish. Please let me know how you are getting on with the placement, and if there is anything further we can do for you.
I look forward to your reply.
After this email I was on my own. As far as no serious issues of security, well this is why I say that Global Nomadic has no idea what they are sending their volunteers into. Every the Global Nomadic coordinator said was based purely on what the local coordinator told her, and he obviously wants to boost the reputation of the apartments as it's his job. The daytime guard may not make enough money for food but the local coordinator certainly does in his European designer suits. After the robbery on my first day at the apartments the girls who had been with me and I were pretty shaken. When we returned to the apartments the other volunteers were very sympathetic, it seemed it had happened to all of us. 2 girls said they had been followed all the way back to the apartments by some men who then waited for them to come back out of the gate, they had to stay in for the rest of the day. Another girl was robbed at knife point in broad daylight while walking out of the slum to her work placement. The girl who had been there the longest had been robbed twice, both times walking to or from the apartments. Her advice was this, “We are walking dollar signs because of our skin colour, and in an area as sketchy as this it's simply too tempting. The worst spot is at the end of this road when the men hang out all day in front of the bar, avoid walking there alone at all costs. Once you get into town it's ok, even in other neighbourhoods it's ok, but not here, this area is a ghetto, it's not safe at all.”
I simply feel that as someone who has been through the experience I have a responsibility to warn any other well intentioned young people what they are getting themselves into by trusting Tanzanite Services Apartments and Global Nomadic.