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Kaylyn Hobelman, Volunteer in Tanzania
United Planet Quest to Orphanage
Kaylyn Hobelman, 20 years old, Tanzania in 2009
What did you hope to gain from and achieve during your United Planet Quest?
I really wanted to experience a new world. I felt a little caught up in my own life and studies and I just felt like it was time to open my eyes to the reality of how other people live.
I’d had the drive to go to Africa since about my sophomore year of high school, it was always this little burning thought in the back of my mind.
It seemed to me that if you wanted to see a world that is the polar opposite of typical American life, then you go to Africa. I wanted to have my life flipped upside down for a while and devote that whole experience to something bigger than myself. I think the ultimate devotion to something bigger than yourself should be the devotion to helping other people.
Describe your volunteer work experience.
I participated in all kinds of programs at the orphanage. Week days I could work in the garden, do housework, cook, help in the construction of a high school and library, do crafts at the preschool, or participate in the Foster family program. My friend Laura and I also taught an English class to pre-form 1 students for two weeks out of the trip.
Every week was completely different, we had an option of what we wanted to do. We met every Monday and made a plan for the week; who would go work on the garden, do housework, aids testing, building at the high school. We also taught English and started working on a landscape project for the orphanage during the last weeks of our volunteer trip. I liked teaching; you could make a lesson plan or you could just kind of ‘wing it.’
It took about three to get into the mindset that you don’t always have to be working. When we first got here we were in the mindset of, “let’s take on the world!” You get there and you realize they don’t necessarily need their whole world changed; they’re so happy and so inspirational!
What did you enjoy most about your Quest experience?
Being completely immersed in another culture; I got to learn so much about people and just life in general.
The girls at the orphanage were amazing and I am so glad that they became a part of my life. I also chose to sponsor a little girl in one of the villages in Ilula. Meeting her was a moment I will never forget. We got really close with the housekeeper at the orphanage, she was sort of like our “mom” abroad.
Tell us how you feel overall about your experience.
I really don’t think that it could have gone any better. Being placed in rural Tanzania gave me the opportunity to live a completely different life for 12 weeks.
Even though at times it was difficult, culture shock was definitely a struggle at times, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. All those difficult moments; like babies crying when they saw my foreign white skin, or children chasing us demanding “pipi” (candy) just made the positive moments all the more beautiful.
The truly hardest part of the trip was saying goodbye to all our good friends in Ilula; the staff at the orphanage, all of the amazing girls in the orphanage and the other volunteers. All of these wonderful people, as well as the country of Tanzania as a whole, will always hold a special place in my heart.