My Volunteer Experience in Tanzania

By Nicola Da Silva 

The phone buzzed and it was my mom. “Guess what? Nic, Andrew, and Lex booked a trip to Zanzibar, Tanzania and invited me to join. We wish you and Daniel could join to – any chance of that??” Sometimes you get invitations to events and you weakly offer to try your best to make it happen and other times you get an invitation to something and you know that no matter what you will be going! This was one of those. I don’t know why I felt so strongly about going on this trip, but as soon as I knew about it, I couldn’t think about anything else. I started making plans the very next day and everything fell into place perfectly in the 3 weeks I had to pull it off.

I also decided to contact UniversalGiving and see if they could set me up to do some volunteer work while on vacation. Amazingly they helped me find Embrace Tanzania. I emailed them and they got me in touch with Selestin, who is based in Zanzibar and manages the volunteer effort there. 2 days before I left on the trip I emailed Selestin and told him I was coming and would love to have a look at what they  were doing in Zanzibar and see if I could help and also get them connected with Universal Giving. Selestin replied straight away and gave me the address and his telephone number. By the time I checked into the hotel, he had already spoken to them to help organize a day I could come see the different volunteer sites.

On Monday April 28th, my mom and I stepped out of our hotel and into a cab and went to Bububu, Zanzibar. Selestin met us there and showed us around the building where volunteers stay and then Selestin, his colleague Edward, my mom, the cab driver, and I went for lunch. We chatted about the different volunteering options and how my mom and I could get involved. Next stop was the orphanage where Mama Suz looks after about 30 children. The house is a school in the morning; then some of the children go home and others stay at the orphanage. Some children are orphans and others have parents in the sober houses nearby.

I could see that Mama Suz tries her best to look after all these children, but I also noticed that she was conscious of the state of the building and the lack of beds for all the children. We met the kids and then had a “business meeting” in the shade of the tree. I explained what UniversalGiving does and that I would get her connected with them and then asked what her ideas were. Wow – she has such amazing plans and knows what’s important. She said, “these children are orphans and the best thing for them is to have a stable home.” She wants to buy a house so that the children feel secure; buy a bus and have other children in other villages attend her school and pay school fees; and have the school fees as an income so she can afford to look after the children in the orphanage. I loved the idea and we started chatting about what she needed for that to happen. We figured out that the best thing would be for her raise money to buy a piece of land and have a volunteer project set up to build a house for her and the children.

The next step would be to raise money for the bus and get the new children from other villages enrolled in her school. She may need to get more volunteer teachers or hire some more teachers. I offered to do all I could to help her with this dream… and to be honest ever since I got back a month ago, all I can think about is how to help Mama Suz and the children have a home.

Inspired by this amazing story? Click here to change a child’s life by volunteering in Tanzania!

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Spread your kindness and take our quick RAK Day survey. It’s fun!

Walk down the street and smile at a stranger. He’ll smile at the next stranger passing by, and then the whole street is smiling. And no one knows why.  — Juliana Margulies

This is one of UniversalGiving’s CEO Pamela Hawley’s favorite quotes!

Pamela believes “The only reason why we need to smile…is simply to give joy.  Give joy to ourselves and to others…it’s one of our main reasons for being.  And while people may not know why you are smiling, they’ll soon find out:  It makes the world go around with peacefulness, graciousness and lovingkindness.  That’s reason enough. :)”

At UniversalGiving we are celebrating Random Act of Kindness Day with lots of smiles! If you want to join us and make people all over the world smile, check out our giving opportunities. And don’t forget to take this fun survey (you could be featured on UG’s social media!)

If smiling is not enough, here are more ways to spread kindness on Random Acts of Kindness Day!

NGO Spotlight: Pandas International



Pandas International (PI) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit to help the magnificent Giant Panda. Unlike other organizations, which serve many animals, Pandas International is exclusively devoted to the Giant Panda. As part of PI’s mission, they work closely with Chinese scientists, doctors and keepers to determine what types of support are most needed. In particular, PI has been assisting the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas (CCRCGP) by providing both funding and personnel/sponsors to support Chinese research focused on how to more effectively respond to health and habitat challenges – both known and unknown.

At the CCRCGP’s Dujiangyan Giant Panda Research Center, Pandas International supports research that focuses on several areas including pandas rescued from the wild who are sick or injured so they can receive medical care and rehabilitation. Another major focus area is senior and disabled pandas, serving as a panda “nursing home” where pandas are able to receive specialized geriatric care. For elder pandas, it is important to ensure that, as they reach their twilight years, they are provided with the necessary care to keep them comfortable and as healthy as possible. At the Dujiangyan Base, the older pandas are housed in a separate wing where the staff prepares special meals such as formula with ground bamboo (since they are not able to chew due to tooth decay and loss.) Formula helps them live a healthy life and meet all of their nutritional requirements. Once such geriatric panda, Hero Father Pan Pan was the oldest CCRCGP Panda living at Dujiangyan. Sadly, on December 28th, 2016, he died after a battle with cancer. He was 31 years old, sired over 30 cubs and is related to over 170 pandas (estimated to be one quarter of the panda population today). The staff at Dujiangyan began studying the elder Pan Pan’s health and behaviors to be better equipped to not only help him but other elder pandas as well.

The Dujiangyan Base also supports the CCRCGP’s important efforts to both raise awareness with and educate the public about the need to support Giant Panda Conservation. The base includes a Giant Panda Rescue and Education Center.  The Center includes interactive displays that help to inform the public about the lives of Giant Pandas.  There are also exhibits that provide a look at how Giant Pandas are rescued and brought to the panda base for treatment.

Pandas International supports the Dujiangyan Base and Staff by supplying formula for sick and elderly pandas and supplying vaccines and other medications to both prevent and treat panda related diseases.  PI also sponsors technical experts and scientists who travel to the base to conduct training sessions and assist with research projects.  In addition, PI assists in sponsoring conferences and studies to raise awareness and better understand the challenges that Giant Pandas face during their lives including diseases and how to treat them, the re-introduction program into the wild and how to assist in “reconstructing” panda habitats to support efforts to increase genetic diversity.




Driving Change


Our team wouldn’t be half as strong without our staff who work so hard to train interns, manage finances and clients, and keep UniversalGiving running like a well-oiled machine! Below is a testimonial from our Senior Corporate Services Associate, Kristara Bring! We are so grateful for your work, Kristara!

“When I found UniversalGiving, I was intrigued by the idea that our work drives change through partnerships with NGOs, corporations, and individuals. It is amazing to know our team is truly making a difference on a daily basis and I love working with such diverse, inspiring individuals.”

-Kristara Bring, Senior Corporate Services Associate



The UniversalGiving Vision


The UniversalGiving vision is to “Create a World Where Giving and Volunteering are a Natural Part of Everyday Life.”™ We hope that our mission can inspire others the way it inspired Marina! Here is her testimonial:

I needed to have an internship because of my school, and when I saw the UG vision, I knew I would love to be part of it. Being able to work at a place where somehow I’m helping to create a better world is so gratifying. The process of doing the interview was really great, too. The people who I talked to were very nice and really happy when they introduced UniversalGiving to me.”

-Marina Maluf, Executive Assistant Intern


We’re so grateful to have you, Marina! Keep up the great work!