Tanzania is one of the most stunning countries in Africa. It has beautiful beaches, magnificent wildlife and incredibly positive, friendly and hardworking people. It is also a country where 1 in 8 children will die before the age of 5. Is it any wonder that there is a strong need for dedicated people to volunteer in Tanzania?
Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in Africa, a country where the majority of people live on less than US $1 per day. However, Tanzania is also a beacon of hope, a country that is slowly developing through the hard work and ingenuity of its people. There are a number of different charities that provide opportunities to volunteer in Tanzania. Typically these opportunities tend to be in remote rural areas where there is a strong need for support.
The town of Babati is one such area. Located in the Manyara District of Northern Tanzania; this is the area described by Baron Blixen (of Out of Africa fame) as one of the most beautiful parts of all of Africa. Babati nestles at the foot of Mount Kwaraa on the shores of Lake Babati. It is home to an assortment of different tribes, including the nomadic Barbaig.
However, despite these natural advantages, the area is a microcosm of the difficulties facing the country as a whole. Communities live in extreme poverty, with many people experiencing a lack of water, food security, educational opportunities and adequate health care. It is in these areas that you will find good charities with reputable programmes that are seeking to fight poverty.
If you are looking to volunteer in Tanzania, a good rule of thumb when looking for a charity you wish to support is to assess whether they develop and run projects based on a community's own needs, or whether they impose "Western" solutions on a community. Hint: The former attitude is what you want!
When you do find a charity that works in real partnership with a community, you then need to assess whether there are any volunteering opportunities that offer the chance for you to really get involved and make a lasting and positive contribution. Volunteering used to be defined as "willingly working without payment". This is still very much the case, but when you are volunteering in a poor community like Babati, there are other very important issues to consider.
For example, there are costs involved. Where will you stay, what will you eat? You also need to consider what you will do. What skills can you offer? Whether you are a brain surgeon or a student, there is usually something positive you can do if you have the desire to volunteer in Tanzania.
Remember, most developing countries are not short of manpower. What they lack are the funds to pay for the inputs they need to develop. For example, most people in Tanzania live on less than US $1 per day and as such communities cannot afford to pay to renovate their schools or build new classrooms.
This is where a planned volunteer programme comes into its own. A well run charity volunteer programme will ensure that the needs of the community are placed above all else! For example, local people's jobs should never replaced by volunteers (it does happen elsewhere!), but instead, volunteers should work alongside local people, both learning from them and sharing their own skills and knowledge.
Volunteers usually help by making contributions towards items such as building materials that a local community cannot afford. Then, working hand in hand with the community they can not only help to build a classroom but a new future for the children as well.
However,volunteering is not only about building new schools, important though that is. There are so many ways that a passionate volunteer can contribute. Volunteers can help to teach children and adults, work on school farms, plan water engineering and sanitation projects, advise local businesses and farmers, train the local teachers... in short, Tanzania needs people with all kinds of skills.
Whether you are a GAP year student, a professional looking for a career break or retired and looking to continue using the skills that you have spent your life developing, you will find that becoming a volunteer in Tanzania is rewarding, challenging and even life changing.
Above all, it is an opportunity for you to contribute in the fight against poverty, so that in the long term people aren't dependent on handouts but can develop their communities through their own hard work, with dignity and pride.