The Small Things logo

The Small Things

Why choose The Small Things?

The mission of The Small Things is to provide comprehensive assistance for orphaned or vulnerable children and their families in Nkoaranga, Tanzania, not only in moments of crisis, but with thoughtful and long term plans. Working with the local community, we aim to educate and assist our clients, primarily women and children, in becoming contributing, healthy, active citizens impacting their country and our world. We run a Children's Village caring for children aged 3-15, a daycare and pre-primary school for early childhood education, and a comprehensive family reunification program including entrepreneurship training and microfinance opportunities.

Our philosophy is based on a quote by Mother Theresa: "We ourselves know that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. We can do no great things, only small things with great love."


Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

An amazing experience that will stay with me

Working at TST was a fantastic experience, it's a charity that values its cause over volunteer novelty and that is the highest possible praise I can give any ethical volunteering experience. Spending two months there was barely enough time to scratch the surface of all that they do to help the local area. Ranging from a subsidised daycare and preschool all the way through to upskilling young adults and running micro-finance schemes for local people, the work that this relatively small team puts out is truly impactful and equally inspiring.

Whilst I was initially anxious that my role would be mostly performative, this was not the case as my work always felt meaningful and beneficial. Working alongside the extremely skilled teachers and dadas was always a pleasure and the kids of all ages were incredibly receptive to the new content and concepts I brought. Whether this involved teaching IT skills to older children or vocabulary to the pre-school students, it was a great experience to share my skills and contribute in the classroom.

Even though my role was primarily as a teaching assistant, I also valued the opportunity to help in other aspects of the charity. TST's management was incredibly flexible and accommodating when I suggested this and it was great to contribute both directly through teaching and behind the scenes where I got the chance to see the other projects they were working on. TST was incredibly transparent from the get-go and I really felt like part of the team whilst volunteering, their work culture is welcoming and I really appreciated the opportunity to sit in on their annual review meeting to get a deep understanding of how the organisation runs.

Everything about volunteering at TST has been fantastic. I came to Arusha hoping to immerse myself in Tanzanian culture, experience a new way of life, and help towards a good cause and I can confidently say all these desires have been met.

Thank you Bekka, Rehema, Mama Pendo and all the staff that makes The Small Things so great!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
TST offers the option to stay with a host family instead of the Western-style guest house. The host family is incredibly welcoming and they provide an amazing opportunity to further understand and engage with local culture and cuisine! I'd really suggest opting for this choice if you want to get the full Nkoaranga experience!
  • It is a truly ethical organisation that sincerely helps the local people
  • Fantastic staff and support from TST
  • Beautiful location, the hills of Meru are stunning
  • Without a hired car / tour guide it can often be difficult and relatively costly to find many activities to occupy your free time (bring a book)
  • The area/ nation is prone to frequent power cuts and back-up generators are rare
Yes, I recommend this program

Great time at TST

I'm so glad that I decided to work with TST for one month! The children were so greatful and loved the new songs we learned together. All of them have the trait to make one smile and they are so inquisitive! Everything new is great! They are all so happy and it was the best feeling to see, how TST gives them the opportunity to live on the best way they can do!
I had a great time and I really miss it!

Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing month of volunteering

This summer I volunteered at TST with my friend. We experienced so many aspects of the charity, and were able to spend a lot of time with the kids. The children were all delightful, and I already miss seeing them everyday. We really felt like valued members of the team, and that everything we were doing was worth while. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my university holiday.
I couldn’t recommend it more highly

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing experience working at TST - would recommend to anyone wanting to make a difference!

This summer I volunteered with TST for a month with my friend. Everyone at TST is so welcoming we were put straight at ease and fully immersed into everything the charity has to offer. The Happy Children's Village is full of laughter, joy and happiness and I will never forget all the amazing kids there.

It was such an amazing experience, and one that I will never forget. If you want to go volunteering, and go somewhere where you really will make a difference - choose TST!

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Glorious volunteering experience at TST Nkoaranga

Starting a day with melodious and wonderful voices of the children, smilefull faces of the mamas and all staff are the first things that pop into my mind when I remember my experience at TST. TST family is a loving, happy, caring and a great family to be a part of. It opened my eyes and my heart to reaching out and helping those in needs, showed me the importance of working as a team and the ripple effect of taking time out of our busy schedules to care for others.

What would you improve about this program?
Volunteers should get a sample itenary of different volunteering posts in a given period of time.
International Volunteers getting basic Swahili lessons no late than 3 days upon arrival at TST.


Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Olivia Lessard

Olivia Lessard is studying to be a Registered Nurse at Brigham Young University in Utah. She is from Northern California and loves camping, travelling, and summer. She volunteered with The Small Things in June-July 2013.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with The Small Things in Tanzania?

I’ve wanted to volunteer in Africa since I can remember, and Tanzania is one of the most beautiful and stable countries there. I volunteered with The Small Things because I have a very close friend who is on the Board of Directors. When she said I could come, I felt like it was too good to be true!

Reaching my dream destination + getting to see my great friend + travelling with someone who knew the language and the culture + knowing I could trust the organization I’d volunteer with = how could I say no?!

Describe your day-to-day activities as a volunteer.

As a volunteer with The Small Things, you sign up once a week for the shifts you’ll work that week. (This can be changed if necessary and if coordinated with the other volunteers.) The shifts are either from 6-9, 9-12, 2-5, or 5-8. You usually sign up for about 9 shifts a week.

The first morning shift is early, but it’s fun to wake the kids up and help them bathe, dress their shivering bodies, and feed them breakfast. During the second morning shift, the “big kids” (4 and 5 year olds) go to “school” on the orphanage grounds Monday- Friday, where they learn little lessons and do little activities, so you get prime time with the babies and toddlers.

The afternoon shift is mostly just playing. We usually took the kids outside into the courtyard to get them some fresh air and fresh entertainment.

The night shift is my favorite;tucking those kids in tugs at your heartstrings and makes you forget any crimes they committed that day… Until you see the escaped toddlers come pouring out of their bedroom, little Houdini’s determined to test your patience and make you smile all at the same time. I miss that so much.

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

I’ll remember those kids even though they won’t remember me. I’ll remember them just how they were and they’ll be in my thoughts and prayers. If my new dream comes true, I’ll have two of them as my own.

If not, I’ll remember saying goodbye to Pray. He acts like a tough kid but deep down he, like the rest of them, is desperate for love and attention. I told him I was leaving. “Na enda aeroplane,” I said. He ignored me and kept playing with his car. I told him again to make sure he understood. He didn’t turn around, I gave him a hug from the back and walked out, sad to leave them all.

Just as I walked thought the gate, something came running toward me and hurled itself at me. Pray was in my arms and he said, “I’m coming with you” in Swahili. That’s when the tears came in a rush and I wanted him more than ever before. That I will never forget.

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

Seeing how imperfect everything was, seeing the flaws in the good systems like The Small Things, and seeing the corruption and abuse in the bad systems like some of the government and other orphanages. Seeing what a complex issue this was. Seeing that nothing could fix all the problems in the world.

I already knew this, but it was hard to experience. That was the hardest thing. But that’s one of the biggest enemies of change. That’s why The Small Things’ motto: ‘We can do no great things. Only small things with great love.’– Mother Teresa” is perfect.

One of the quotes I repeat most often to myself, one of the quotes I could not live without, is this: “We cannot help everyone, everywhere—but we can help someone, somewhere."

How can a country with aspirations of becoming one of the world's "Superpowers" justify the poverty and pollution which exists there? How can they spend billions on space and nuclear programs when so many people are living in squalor?

I don't have any answers except that their culture and religious beliefs have evolved over hundreds of years and embrace the caste system, arranged marriages and many other aspects of their lives that we in the West find "alien".

There are countless projects such as the one I was involved in which are designed to bring education to the poor, not just in India but to many parts of the developing world. Whilst the spread of education is essential, I for one love the diversity that exists in the world. Why otherwise would we be so fascinated by travel?

How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, etc)

Already, it has already made me see the world differently, made me love children more, made me more committed to my lifelong dream of adopting. It has made me more determined to not let complacency creep into my life. It has urged me to do more good and to start setting concrete goals about the ways I can give back a percentage of what has been given to me.

But I am positive that this experience has impacted my future in ways I do not even comprehend yet. I am in Nursing School and hope to enter a program that Indian Health Services in the United States teaches for use on the Indian reservations: how to be a midwife in impoverished and rural conditions.

I would like to study in this program and use those skills not only on the reservations but outside of the U.S. as well. I want my mom to start an orphanage because she is the most incredible Head Start teacher I’ve ever heard of, and she would run an amazing orphanage. I thought of her often when the kids were running around, dissatisfied and unsure what to do with themselves.

For most kids, that’s where a parent or sibling steps in and gives some direction, either by playing or teaching a game, sending the kid outside to play with neighbors, or pulling the kid into the kitchen or garage to “help.” For these kids, there are 1-5 people over 5 years old around to do this for them, and not only is it unnatural, it could potentially be harmful.

I thought often of how helpful her skills would be to our kids at Nkoaranga, how much they would benefit from her games and program and structure. I don’t even know all the ways this experience has impacted me yet, but in the years to come I know I'll discover even more."