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!

Soccer Conquest and Rescue: From Winning The World to Saving It

By Osprey Hunter Brown

So, you won the World Cup and ­­every major European championship that the soccer world cares about— what do you do now?  Well, aside from maybe renegotiating your Nike contract, you go back to your place of origin and empower the children there through the sport that has done so much for you.  At least that is what one of the best defenders in the game of soccer, Marcel Desailly, decided to do. After retiring from soccer in 2006, Desailly began his humanitarian work.  He became a UNICEF representative and began partnering with several different organizations that he felt passionate about.

Though he would eventually return to his homeland, Ghana, to assist the youth there, he began his journey as a prolific French footballer.  Soccer is a sport where the goal scorers often get all the glory.  But Desailly helped win the World Cup on a French national team that was not receiving production from its star strikers.  In fact, it was the defense that kept France in the tournament; and game winning goals came from the defense and the midfielders.  Desailly played center-back.  This means he was often the last tackle that prevented the opposing attackers from shooting on goal. As a center-back, he was the most important defender on a World Cup winning team that held the most prolific scoring nation, Brazil, scoreless in the championship match.  He holds the record for appearances for the French national team at 116.

After conquering the soccer world, Desailly set his sights on curing the ails of his native country.  Without a doubt, Marcel Desailly has done a tremendous service for the game of soccer.  But he has not forgotten how much soccer has done for him, and he is trying to give the youth of his country the opportunity to benefit from the game as well.   His recent venture is to represent the OrphanAid Africa project in his hometown Accra, Ghana.  While Accra is the capital of Ghana, and the center of politics and economic trade, the majority of people in the greater Accra area live in its outskirts in shanty towns.  In the outskirts of Accra, most people are farmers or fishers who make their living by selling their goods on the dirt roads which lead to the metropolitan center.  In these rural areas outside the metropolis, a high value is not placed on gaining academic knowledge.  Children are valuable farm-hands, and so they are not encouraged by their parents to pursue an education.

In these impoverished rural areas, with many different burdens on family life, it is difficult to prioritize school. OrphanAid Africa works to alleviate some of these burdens, and  prevent children from being put into institutional care.  Many times, when one or more parents in a family die, it becomes too difficult for the remaining members to support the children.  For this reason, children are often placed in orphanages.  OrphanAid fights to ensure children stay in the familial context by providing aid and placing children with other members of the family.  In addition, OrphanAid has put a considerable amount of work into institutional reform to improve the care and education that children who are placed in institutions receive.  Desailly became the spokesperson for OrphanAid when OrphanAid partnered with the Laureus Sports Academy to jointly promote health and education through soccer in Ghana. The sports aspect of the Laureus program, which includes other sports like basketball, provides a means to access the community and its youth.

The partnership is meant to provide at risk youth in rural Accra with needed structure and incentive to attend school.  It goes without saying that Desailly is a national hero.  After leaving Accra as a young boy he realized unparalleled achievements in soccer.  He is a fantastic role model and he takes that job seriously.  He visits the small villages and spends time with the children in the program to teach them discipline and focus through soccer.  Through the beloved sport of his country, Desailly is able to help start a conversation with his people about reaching a way of life they had not yet envisioned.