Alumni Spotlight: Alexandra Lang

Alexandra Lang volunteered with Give a Heart to Africa in Moshi, Tanzania throughout the month of January 2011. Originally from Burlington, Ontario, Alexandra studied political science at the University of Ottawa, and currently works for a non-profit organization in Hamilton, Ontario. She enjoys yoga, learning languages, and good movies.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Give a Heart to Africa Women Empowerment in Tanzania?

Visiting the Women’s Co-operative

Alexandra: After finishing my undergraduate degree I planned on traveling with a friend to experience a culture completely different than my own.

I had always been interested in volunteering abroad, but finding the right place seemed somewhat daunting. Then we were introduced to Give a Heart to Africa through two friends who had spent a month volunteering there.

They raved about their experience, and so we decided to look further into it. Based on their feedback, and what we learned on the website about how GHTA is completely volunteer run, it seemed like the perfect place to go to.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

Alexandra: There are so many things about GHTA which made my time there special. However, two of the most important things would be the strong relationship you are able to develop with the students, and the closeness among the volunteers and staff.

GHTA volunteers lead classes daily allowing them to create close bonds with the students. You learn their stories, their personalities, and their strengths. You are able to help them to overcome challenges, and encourage the achievement of their goals. The direct relationship GHTA volunteers develop with the students and local population definitely enrich the overall volunteer experience.

This closeness is also accompanied by the amazing relationship you develop with your fellow volunteers and the staff teachers (former students). Volunteers live together in a house on school property. You eat meals, explore the city, relax, and in same cases can even travel together as a group.

You meet individuals from all over the world and from different walks of life. Monika, the Executive Director of GHTA, is there every step of the way ensuring that each volunteer feels welcome, safe and supported. All of these elements combined make GHTA an extremely special place to volunteer.

Group photo of students, volunteers and staff

What did you wish you knew before going to Tanzania?

Alexandra: I wish I knew how much I was going to love it there so that I would have planned to stay longer.

If you could go back and do something different, what would it be?

Alexandra: I would have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. My friend and I had decided not to climb the mountain due to time/financial constraints. Knowing what I know now, I would have budgeted so that we would have been able to climb Kili. That being said, I now have a reason to go back to Moshi a second time at some point in the future.

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

Group shot of volunteers at home

Alexandra: Having studied international development issues during university, I had an idea prior to arriving in Tanzania what some of the main concerns of a developing African country were. What impacted me the most during my time with GHTA was the universality of the human element of development questions.

Our students were mothers, daughters and sisters with families that they cared for deeply, and they wanted to succeed in order to offer their loved ones a better life. Although the context differs greatly from back home, I was struck by how universal ties such as family, friendship and community are across cultural and geographical boundaries. I came to realize that although we all live in very different realities, we as human beings are not all that different.