Tanzania - more than ten thousand miles from my home, more than 12 hours spent on the plane, more than 60 days of preparation. Having safely come back to Poland, it still overwhelms me that I had a chance to do exactly what I love to do in a country that turned out to be my second home. Winston Churchill once said that "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give" and he was so right! Anachronistic as it may sound, his mantra has been resonating down the years and has been of such a special meaning for me that it enabled me to live my Tanzanian dream!
Ever since I launched my interest in travelling to Tanzania, I have been very impressed how well IVHQ's website works. Thanks to a very detailed description of available programmes I never had any doubts that taking part in AIDS/HIV programme was the best possible decision. A brief explanation of volunteer week, accommodation and meals gave me a general idea of what to expect upon coming to Tanzania. A thorough and elaborate explanation of what to take with me calmed my parents who were more than apprehensive when I made my way to Africa for the first time in my life! Had I not read it before my trip, I wouldn't have been aware of visa and work permit costs or general vaccination tips.
But the best part of living in Arusha was getting to know people from diverse backgrounds, different cultures and countless races and ethnicities. I felt best when exposed to the vibrancy and diversities of points of views and perspectives and it really gave me power to act. Every day I happily walked to work at my placement where I could see how much women suffering from HIV virus struggle in Tanzania. Even though they had nothing, they were still more than willing to do everything to spread love and make me - a 18-year-old Pole - feel like home.
On the way down the dirt road near my placement, a lot of kids were running out of their small huts yelling 'Teacher Rafal, Teacher Rafal' and went on to hold my hand and say how thankful they were for fixing them a simple cup of porridge earlier that morning. Everywhere I looked, I would hear local people asking 'Mambo rafiki?', which helped me to settle down in Tanzania in a matter of 3 days. I am more than convinced that all volunteers coming to this country should do a little research on Swahili and arrive with a massive smile on their faces as Tanzanian people are one of the most benevolent nations I have ever seen!
To prove my point, I still do not know how to express my sheer gratitude to Nelly and Angella (Tanzania Volunteering Experience directors) who helped me cancel my flight tickets to Zanzibar after political riots broke up there following presidential elections. Having found out about my upcoming trip to Zanzibar, Nelly called me directly to tell me I should avoid travelling and remain in Arusha. The following day Angella took me in her own car to Arusha Airport where I managed to persuade one of the Coastal Aviation agents to cancel my ticket and received 100% refund. Nelly and Angella did something I would have never expected them to do and that is why I am immensely grateful for their help. They became good friends and made me feel important and wanted as a volunteer.
Tanzania has helped to make me who I am now, opened my eyes to the world, given me extreme opportunity to explore the world, meet new people and involve in the community. I lived there for a strong purpose and that is why hard work was a necessity - a necessity that reinforced the belief that I should walk through my life with a smile on my face. Now I am more than ready to follow my plans to pursue a professional career at university. But then again, I want to come back next year to live my Tanzanian dream again!