Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Muccilli

Stephanie Muccilli is from Toronto, Ontario. She currently work for a non-profit organization in Ottawa. She has a B.A. from McGill University in International Development and African Studies and a Masters in Public and International Affairs from the University of Ottawa. She volunteered with Give a Heart to Africa in Tanzania in August 2009 for 3 weeks.

Stephanie teaching English to the class.

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

Stephanie: I decided to volunteer with Give a Heart to Africa Women Empowerment in Tanzania because I wanted to volunteer with a small organization, which didn't have large overhead costs, so that I knew I would be directly impacting the local community.

At the time, I had just graduated from my undergraduate studies in International Development and African Studies (I studied Swahili!) and I was eager to have an opportunity to see what I had learned in the classroom at the ground level in East Africa.

Ten years from now, what’s the one thing you think you’ll remember from the trip?

Stephanie: In ten years time, I will always remember the people I met during my trip - both my fellow volunteers and the students at Give a Heart to Africa. This was my first overseas volunteer experience by myself and I always felt welcome. It was such a positive and safe volunteering experience.

I learned so much from each and every one of them and they impacted my life in so many ways that I did not expect. I still continue to keep in contact with my fellow volunteers and with many of the students. I love hearing about their success stories - how the resources they gained from the classroom helped them to improve their livelihoods.

Happy and her two daughters.

Tell me about one person you met.

Stephanie: Happy was a student at Give a Heart to Africa when I volunteered there. I will never forget her. She is a single mother, looking after her daughters.

She was walking long distances to carry firewood as a means to support her family. Happy worked so hard while at school at Give a Heart to Africa. She was committed to succeeding and improving her family's livelihood.

Her overwhelming optimism, positivity and generosity, despite her many hardships, was so inspiring. She lived up to her name! There are so many lessons I learned from Happy that I will always carry with me.

What was the hardest or most challenging part of your experience?

 First group of graduates on graduation day in August 2009.

Stephanie: The hardest and most challenging part of my experience was to see first-hand the hardships that our (women) students faced, living in poverty and a very patriarchal society. It was often very emotional and difficult to hear their personal stories.

But I was very honored to have met them all and have the opportunity to learn how they were all committed to getting an education and providing for themselves. The empowerment they embody is powerful.

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

Stephanie: My worldview was enhanced in the most amazing ways as a result of volunteering for Give a Heart to Africa. I believe experiencing life in Tanzania was very humbling. I had an opportunity to connect with our students and had insight into their lives. This gave me a greater appreciation for everything I sometimes take for granted at home - especially my education.