Alumni Spotlight: Shannon Fisherkeller

Shannon is from the San Francisco bay area of California. She went to Arusha, Tanzania in the summer of 2010 when she was 23 years old, right after graduating from college with a BA in Child Development.

Why did you decide to volunteer with IVHQ in Tanzania?

Shannon: I decided to volunteer because most of my life I have traveled, done volunteer work and see amazing things, but I had never been to Africa and I had never done such a trip independently of my family. When I found IVHQ's program, and saw how low the fees were, I was shocked!

It did take me a good amount of time of talking to others that had done the program before (via their well-used Facebook page) to convince me that this was not a scam, just a company who really wanted to be able to both help small volunteer organizations contribute to their communities AND give young people an affordable way to participate.

(It is good for a potential IVHQ volunteer to note the IVHQ itself partners with local organizations, they themselves do not start programs in the country. However, the means that they charge lower fees and are also able to actually put some of the fees towards your placement. Meaning the kids actually got some of the money I paid, this does not happen in most other volunteer situations. They do have representatives from IVHQ check in on the program often, to make sure that all is well.)

Shannon volunteering with children at an orphanage in Tanzania

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Shannon: I worked at a baby orphanage, which was different from many of the other volunteer's placements, which tended to be primarily in schools. I took two dala-dalas (local "buses") to work 5 days a week, and occasional weekends, pretty much by myself. There was someone to help me get there the first few times, but as soon as I was comfortable, I was okay to be on my own. Daily life consisted of being there with the children, playing and feeding for several hours. It was tiring, heartbreaking and empowering all at once.

How was this experience unique and special?

Shannon: This experience was unique because I feel like for the first time in a long time, I was surrounded by like-minded people. I lived in the volunteer house with people from all over the world who had a desire to travel, help children and have fun! It was just as easy to engage in a conversation about clean water for a village as it was to have a laugh with them. We went out to clubs almost every weekend, so there was a good deal of partying that we did too. We were well supported in getting safe taxis and going out in a safe way. The kind of people who volunteer seem to be the kind of people who have their head on straight, and still want to have a bit of fun.

We were also given opportunities to go on weekend trips, like safaris, Zanzibar and to visit the Masaai village of our house's guard, which was in itself a life changer (In one sentence: I drank goats blood....).

How has this experience impacted your future?

Shannon: I have gone to get another degree in childhood and education, and have taken classes in childhood studies (which often involves studying lives of children in poverty or non-Western contexts) as a result of going to Tanzania. It has also really sparked my interest in voluntourism with young adults, which I hope to incorporate into a career someday! It changed my life. I had a whole new perspective on what it means to be human, what it means to be American, what the world can really be like.

I also met some wonderful people who I have kept in contact with and have visited from all over the world! For someone who has never left the country, there are plenty of people to learn from (both locals and well-traveled volunteers). For someone who has seen the world, this is seeing the world in a whole new way. I would be happy to answer any questions anyone has about the program!