Why Volunteering in Tanzania?
Where can you find the warm welcome of complete strangers greeting you as friends as you pass by, the smiling faces of children walking down the street hand in hand with you, knowing that you are making a difference in the lives of others and meeting friends that will last a lifetime? Tanzania is that place, and as one of the safest countries in Africa, it is the perfect location to volunteer whether it is your first time or your fifth. Live like a local while you learn about your new community and spend your weekends exploring all that Tanzania has to offer.
Know Before You Go
Volunteering in Tanzania requires some preparation with visas, personal health and packing. A visa is required to enter Tanzania, so you will need to apply prior to departure. The visa for volunteers is slightly different than a tourist visa, so be sure to read the requirements carefully. No suitcase or backpack to Tanzania is complete without some strong bug spray, small first aid kit and of course anti-diarrhea tablets. Travel sized laundry detergent also comes in handy and allows for lighter packing. Another wise move is to visit a travel doctor at least a month before your trip. He/she can provide you with any required vaccines and prescriptions to prevent diseases like malaria. Travel insurance is also required by most volunteer organizations, but it is not included in the program costs. There are many companies that offer affordable coverage, so shop around to find the best deal. Finally, requirements can change, so visit the CDC (Center for Disease Control), State Department and Tanzania Embassy Websites for the most up to date information about entry requirements and traveler warnings.
Locations and Placements
From the beaches of Bagamoyo and Zanzibar to the city of Dar es Salaam or the mountains in Moshi or Arusha there is truly something for everyone. Each organization offers something a bit different with some focusing mainly on the volunteer work to others who combine volunteering with vacation. It’s best to compare many different programs to determine which works best with your budget, interests and skills. Most programs, however, focus their work on the following initiatives: conservation, HIV/AIDS work, orphanages and teaching English. Because they are so broad, it allows for volunteers to bring their own skills and talents to any placement.
What to Expect in Tanzania
Each volunteer location, placements and accommodations are varied, so think about what you have to have and what you can do without. You should also think about the type of volunteer experience you want. Do you want to be more immersed in the local way of life? If so then a home stay is probably for you. If modern conveniences like a western toilet and secure home base with other volunteers is more your style, then choose a volunteer organization that will be able to provide these options. No matter what your housing situation, you will be surrounded by like minded people who want to make a difference in the world. The first week is usually a blur of cultural activities, language lessons and quick immersion into the Tanzanian lifestyle. It can be overwhelming, but after that first week it will feel like home.
Free Time Excursions around Tanzania
One of the many wonderful things about volunteering in another country is the ability to do some once in a lifetime side trips. Tanzania has no shortage of stunning vacation destinations, and no visit would be complete without going on safari. Whether it’s the Serengeti to witness part of the great wildebeest migration or a smaller game reserve, you will be able to get up close and personal with giraffes, elephants and lions to name a few. If adventure is your style, extend your trip and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or take a hot air balloon ride over the savannah. But if you would rather relax on the beach with an icy drink in hand, then Zanzibar is your cup of tea. Any of these destinations are easily booked upon arrival in Tanzania.
Crash Course in Swahili
Swahili is the national language of Tanzania, and while many people speak English, learning the basics will go a long way. Greetings are extremely important in Tanzania, and never ask a question before asking how someone is first. The most common greeting, however, and the most informal is “Mambo?” how are things? The expected response is “poa” or cool. Here are some other words and phrases that will get you started.
- Asante - thank you
- Asante sana - thank you very much
- Sana - at the end of any word means very much.
- Safari Njema - have a good trip
- Jambo- hello
- Habari gani - How are you? (more formal)
- Nzuri sana- very well
- Kwa heri/ kwa herini (more than one person) - goodbye
- Lala salama - good night or sleep well
- Karibu - welcome
- Ndiyo - yes
- Hapana - no
How to Get in Tanzania
Like most of us, you may not have an unlimited budget for your trip. Fear not because there are many opportunities and plenty of people who are just waiting to help you volunteer in Tanzania. Crowd funding is a great way to let your family, friends and social networks help fund your trip. The Internet is also full of scholarships and grants for international volunteers. If your town has a local Rotary Club, talk to them. They may be willing to chip in as well. Extra airline miles hanging around? Cash them in for your flight, which can take a bulk of the expense off of the trip.
Volunteer for a couple weeks or volunteer for a year, but whatever you do, volunteer in Tanzania. Not only will it change the way you view the world, it will give you an arsenal of unique stories to tell when you return. What are you waiting for?