United Planet volunteer, Hilary Hampton, recently returned from a Quest to Tanzania where she volunteered at an orphanage. Here is a blog post recapping her exciting and fulfilling trip:
Hilary was strolling through the lively streets of Zanzibar when she and her friend decided that it was time to eat. She took a look at her options: octopus, barracuda…the list went on. Her friend had tried octopus before and insisted that it was scrumptious.“You’re only going to be in Zanzibar once,”’ Hilary said to herself, and after a moment of hesitation, she dug into the grilled, chewy, tender kabob and never looked back.
As an outsider during much of her volunteer Quest to Tanzania (including her exciting weekend trip to Zanzibar), Hilary stood out, yet, despite her foreign status, Hilary said that the villagers were extremely friendly and welcoming. She learned to bargain with the locals and tried exotic foods.
As a social work major with a focus on adoption, Hilary had wanted to volunteer at an orphanage in Africa for years. After researching programs, Hilary decided to volunteer with United Planet. She spent most of her time teaching children at an orphanage and living with a host family on her three week Quest to Tanzania. By the end of her Quest, she knew that her work made a difference in the largely impoverished country.
Volunteering at the orphanage from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. every week day, Hilary taught the students basic math, science and English and helped them with homework. She also taught them songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “I’m a Little Tea Pot”, along with other catchy American jingles. Hilary and the children often danced and jumped around as they belted out uplifting tunes.
As so many volunteers before her, Hilary left Tanzania with a greater appreciation for the joys, as well as the difficulties, of volunteering abroad. She grew to appreciate how she could impact people’s lives without making huge changes, explaining, “When someone thinks about volunteering somewhere they want to change the world or change someone’s life, but it’s not really about that. When you get there, it becomes clear that every little bit helps–they appreciate you even if you don’t do anything as ‘big’ as you may have expected.
“Just helping them with their homework assignment for the day-they’ll be so appreciative. You don’t have to necessarily build a house. For me, it was finding the little things to be grateful for and to be rewarded through.”
While all of the kids at the orphanage made her experience in Tanzania special, one four-year-old boy named Barracka had an incredible impact on her overall experience. Despite the 16-year age difference, language barrier and unmistakably different backgrounds, Barracka and Hilary became inseparable. While Hilary worked on writing proposals to get grants and donations from businesses, Barracka sat on her lap as she typed. It was touching for her to connect so much with this child.
Another kid she had the pleasure to meet during her Quest was Manuel, a three-year-old in her host family, who they lovingly referred to as Killy Koo, (meaning “troublemaker” in Swahili). Killy Koo had a reputation for always making dinners memorable. Aptly named based on his feisty personality, Killy Koo was “very wild, but cute,” said Hilary. “We’d be eating dinner and he’d stand up on the chair and just start screaming Swahili songs that he knows.”
For Hilary, the most challenging aspect of her trip was the language barrier. As she explained, “It was pretty hard because you’re just thrown into the culture. Especially with my host family, but in a lot of ways, it’s good because you have to get creative with the way you talk to each other and you have to learn to be patient.”
Though her host mother didn’t speak English, she and Hilary would often watch TV and cook together after work. Her host father was an accountant and had a prominent job in the city, but he was very calm and sometimes even strolled down to breakfast when he was expected at the office—things weren’t so uptight in Tanzania–and Hilary found it refreshing. She noticed that things are much more casual and free-flowing in Tanzania, and that people are really laid back and calm compared to people in the United States. She connected well with her host family and was grateful for their warmth and kindness during her Quest.
Hilary’s Quest to Tanzania served as an impetus that has ignited a spark within her and will hopefully be the first of many volunteer trips abroad.