What position do you hold at help2kids and why do you like working there?
I am the Volunteer Program Manager and I also run the guesthouse where the volunteers stay. The house is beautiful, with a lush garden outside and my office is the breezy terrace upstairs. Some days are spent visiting the projects and checking in with the volunteers there.
Occasionally, I finish my work early and spend the afternoon at the beach, located just 10 minutes from the guesthouse. Both the local and the international staff I work with are amazing and I consider it a privilege to work alongside them.
Three months have passed since I arrived and I feel that rather than colleagues, the people I work with are more like a family to me. Most importantly, I like my job because I am part of an organization that is concretely working together with the local community in order to improve the conditions and opportunities of vulnerable children.
What do you find most fulfilling about your interactions with volunteers?
My position is unique in that I get to share everyday with the volunteers. I share this beautiful experience both professionally and personally, living and working among the volunteers. It’s exciting to know others who decided too to leave the safety and comforts of home to see what else is out there and to get involved in something bigger than themselves.
Each volunteer has a story to tell and a unique experience. It is great that my position allows me to build meaningful relationships with the volunteers. The bonding that occurs after several weeks of living and working together is strong and it's nice to know that even when the experience ends, what you have experienced together will continue to live in the many volunteers around the world with whom you shared an important part of your life.
Did you volunteer abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?
I have always been addicted to travelling but at a certain point I realized that I preferred to stay in a place for some time rather than just pass by on a short visit. I wanted to share the habits of the locals and get deeper in touch with different cultures. That’s when I started volunteering.
When I decided I wanted to volunteer, I was twenty-seven and had been teaching. I was looking for an opportunity based on my professional experience and skills and ended up in Kenya, teaching orphans in a small township. I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to repeat it a few months later in Morocco.
Finally, last year I decided to quit everything and go to Peru with the European Voluntary Service to work with street children. I spent one year there and it was incredible. After that, I decided it was time to check out the other side of things, and came on staff at help2kids, where I get to make sure volunteers have equally great experiences that inspire them to keep giving back and gaining perspective.
What's a typical day like for a participant in your program? How many hours do they work? How much free time do they get for travel?
Volunteers typically work six to seven hours per day. They have breakfast in the morning and then go to their respective project. Afternoons are usually spent tutoring kids at the help2kids Children’s Home. Volunteers come back in the late afternoon for a delicious dinner prepared by our wonderful cook, Martha. In the evening, we will watch a movie, play games, go out for a drink, or just hang out and talk on the terrace.
Dar es Salaam is a lively city, surrounded by beaches. Weekends are spent exploring the city or enjoying the beach or one of the local islands. We’re pretty flexible when volunteers want to take a few days to travel to Zanzibar or one of the national parks for a safari, we just ask for a little notice for the project managers. Many volunteers prefer to travel before or after their time volunteering.
What qualities should volunteers have in order to be effective participants?
Volunteers should possess a willingness to learn, to get involved, to discover, to meet new people, and to have fun. They should abandon prejudices, stereotypes and embrace the different culture and way of life. For our projects, it is particularly beneficial if volunteers enjoy working with children. I also believe enthusiasm and the desire to actively participate are important for a successful experience.