I, along with my two friends, traveled to Tanzania and participated in the childcare program for 4 weeks in October 2023.
The booking process was very seamless, and the hefty handbook provided gave us all the information we needed to know, except for the many things that must be learned on-site. PMGY arranged an airport pick-up, which we were very grateful for after our long journey from Perth, Australia. It is about a 1.5-hour drive from Kilimanjaro Airport to Arusha.
We were honestly surprised by the living conditions upon arrival. I believe October is a very popular time, so the house was full to capacity, and we felt a bit piled on top of each other. We were placed in a small room with 4 bunk beds on the top floor. There was very little room to put our stuff, and we shared a bathroom with the adjoining room (18 people sharing one bathroom). There are often power outages in Tanzania, but we were lucky to have a generator at the house, which is usually switched on shortly after power cuts. However, when the generator is on, there is no hot water, so showers were often cold. Eventually, we were able to move to a smaller room with its own bathroom, which is always a possibility. Keep in mind that the ‘free WiFi’ advertised on the website does not exist. However, you will be provided with a SIM card for a very reasonable price, and this can be topped up whenever needed. For us, this wasn’t available until the day after we arrived, so ensure your family is aware you may not be able to contact them right away.
The coordinators were beyond helpful with everything we needed. There was always someone around to assist us or answer our questions. There is also a WhatsApp group chat with everyone in the house and the coordinators, making it easy to communicate and ask for the generator to be turned on or order a tuk-tuk, etc.
We had an orientation day during which we visited some major sights, had a local lunch, and, of course, withdrew Tanzanian shillings from the ATM. My regular debit card worked just fine at the ATM. I spent about 150,000 TZS each week ($60 USD) plus extra for safari, weekend trips, and souvenirs.
The volunteering experience was obviously the highlight of the trip. We were able to do some fundraising months prior to arriving, which was amazing, as we were able to provide a school with painted walls, desks, windows, school supplies, and much more. I would definitely recommend setting up a fundraising page, as a little goes a very, very long way for these schools. You can switch schools at any time with good reason. Also, you can switch to the medical program from childcare/teaching for $150 USD and switch to childcare/teaching from medical for free.
I recommend packing modest clothing. As a tourist in Africa, you already draw a lot of attention to yourself, and it’s very important to respect the culture and protect yourself. You can have your clothes washed by the mamas for a very cheap price; however, we did our own washing by hand to avoid our clothes getting mixed up. Bring extra towels and lots of comfy clothes, as you will appreciate these luxuries.
The food is a set menu of basic meals that repeats each week. Some meals are better than others, but all are tolerable. You can order food deliveries anytime you don’t think you can stomach rice and beans again. If you are a vegetarian or planning on eating vegetarian, make sure you let PMGY know on your application, as the ratio of vegetarians to vegetarian food was way off, and we often went hungry.
Keep in mind that Zanzibar is a short and pretty cheap flight away from Arusha. You can go to Zanzibar during your program as long as you aren’t missing more than 3 days of placement (3-5 days is plenty in Zanzibar). You can also go at the end of your placement and potentially fly home from there to prevent extra hassle.
Being able to volunteer in Tanzania was the experience of a lifetime, and PMGY made that possible.