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!

Could the Americorps Be the Answer to Escaping College Loans?

Today’s post is from guest blogger Maria Rainier.

This is the story of how one of my best friends found a way to make college more affordable by enrolling in the Americorps. I’m taking this opportunity to say I have no affiliation with the Americorps whatsoever; I’m solely sharing his story to demonstrate how volunteering can be the gateway to earning a higher education. To learn how you can pursue your diploma with help from the Americorps or another nationally recognized volunteering organization such as the PeaceCorps, continue reading below.

As early as 6-years-old, Matthew Daniels knew that earning a college education was something that he needed to pursue. He never worried about finances that much—that is until he got older and began to realize that his single working mother barely made enough to make ends meet. Scholarships and grants would be the route he knew he was going to have to take—loans were not an option. As a freshman in high school, Matthew made sure he enrolled in advanced classes and all of the extracurricular activities he could so that he would impress not only college admission officers, but scholarship and grant awarders too. In 2004, Matthew won a full academic scholarship to the University of Texas in Austin.

Two weeks before graduation, Matthew began to question what he was going to do with the rest of his life. Sure, he would earn a bachelor’s degree in finance, but he just wasn’t sure if that was his true passion. He needed some time to “think” perhaps even travel before he went off into the real world. Because Matthew was always a philanthropist, he decided that until he really knew what he wanted to do career-wise, he’d volunteer his time and labor to the Americorps.

Because Matthew minored in Spanish and spoke the language fluently, and because he wanted to help families in need of financial assistance (something he could easily relate to), he was immediately accepted into the Americorps VISTA program, a domestic version of the PeaceCorps. For two years, Matthew traveled the U.S. restoring and building homes, helped the homeless get back on their feet, and mentored impoverished children.

While his daily tasks were rewarding emotionally, the job didn’t pay much. In fact, he barely had enough money to live on—Matthew and his team members would pool their stipends together just to be able to afford groceries. It was by no means a “glitzy job.”  But in the end, Matthew was given an education credit valued at $5,500. His experience as a volunteer made him see that he was destined for a career greater than finance and so he decided to put his education credit towards earning a master’ degree in public policy just a few short years later. He wanted to be able to influence policy making so that he didn’t have to see as many people suffering in poverty as he did during his two years with the program.

The education credit may not be enough to help you pay for your entire education, but at a time where students are facing the highest loan debt in history, anything will help.  For more information how you or your child can benefit from volunteering, make sure to check out Americorps.gov.

Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.

Teaching Abroad

By Brittany Horwich

Before moving to San Francisco, I had the most eye-opening experience backpacking through Southeast Asia. I was in Thailand at the time and thought to myself, “5 months here is NOT enough… I need to see more.” I bought a 45 litre orange off-brand backpack, filled it with as little, and as much, as I thought necessary and was on my way to Laos.

From there I had amazing adventures through Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, Cambodia’s Killing Fields, Indonesia’s hidden Gilli Islands and Bali’s rice paddies, all the way back to some of Thailand’s most beautiful islands and northern mountains. It all felt so unreal and movie-like. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, because honestly, none of this would have happened if I didn’t start with making the leap to go teach English abroad first.

I remember finishing my grad program and feeling a bit lost. I craved to see the world but I also wanted to do something meaningful and important. All of a sudden I remembered a conversation I had with a friend. He had told me about how he found an organization online that seemed to need his help in Cambodia, explaining that he volunteered to teach English there. Perfect. I speak English, I love children, and Southeast Asia is definitely abroad and new!

I entered “teach English in Asia” into my search bar. I was stunned by the amount of websites that came up. I think I spent about 3 months doing proper research into each organization, reading all of their reviews and volunteer testimonials and even trying to find these reviewers on social media. I wanted to make sure I was working with a safe, credible organization. Finally, I found a girl on Instagram who had worked with the organization I was interested in. I immediately messaged her, asking her to tell me everything she knew. We spoke about her experience and I was hooked! That night I sent in my application, completed my interview, and that was that.

My experience teaching kindergarten in Nonthaburi, a town about 40 minutes northwest of Bangkok, Thailand, was strange and beautiful. Everything was new to me. The food, people, culture, language, even the toilets! There were some hiccups along the way but how could there not be; I had just submerged myself into a whole new dynamic. The rewards were infinite. Nothing feels more gratifying than having a room full of adorable Thai children, who spoke no English before, now being able to recite specific fruits, veggies, animals and colors without missing a beat. Also their smiles and excitement over stickers and hugs didn’t feel so bad either.

My adventure was one that I will never forget and I can’t wait for the day that I can keep exploring. Until then, if any of you are feeling inspired or have a bit of travel bug as well, UniversalGiving  has some amazing opportunities for you to teach English abroad! Supporting Kids in Peru, is a nonprofit organization that helps economically disadvantaged children in Peru to realize their right to an education. Their volunteer program has opportunities as short as 6 weeks, as well as longer semesters. They even need a sports coach!

If you feel like this is for you, or even just want a bit more information you can check out their opportunity on our website!

 

Take a Volunteer Trip in Thailand

The Little BIG Project_LogoUniversalGiving has recently been working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), who have launched a contest to promote voluntourism, The Little Big Project.  One winner will receive a two-week volunteer trip to Thailand.  But everyone is invited to volunteer: TAT is partnering with other organizations, including UniversalGiving, to share volunteer opportunities.

Sound appealing?  Looking for adventure?  Here are some top opportunities to volunteer in Thailand with UniversalGiving’s vetted NGO partners:

And if you can’t resist the lure of winning a free volunteer trip from TAT, here’s an excerpt from their recent press release, describing The Little Big Project:

The mission of The Little Big Project is to help others, but it is also a competition: one overseas visitor and one Thai will team up for 2 weeks to work on anything from helping Save the Elephants at a nature park in Chiang Mai, to a community development project for Hill Tribe Children, to Marine Conservation in Koh Talu.

And, they’ll have the chance to share their philanthropy efforts with a world‐wide audience by making blog posts, uploading photos and videos, and telling their story through social media.

Prizes will be awarded, too!

  • The team with the most votes for their blog will win $5,000 USD for donation to their project for continued funding, plus a hotel voucher valued at $500 USD for their personal enjoyment.
  • The visiting competitor whose video receives the most views will win an Apple gift card worth $1,000.

TAT believes The Little Big Project will give people looking to do something different on vacation an opportunity to have a life‐changing adventure, and anyone interested should visit http://www.thelittlebigprojectthailand.com for details on how to enter.

TAT Banner

Could the Americorps Be the Answer to Escaping College Loans?

Today’s post is from guest blogger Maria Rainier.

This is the story of how one of my best friends found a way to make college more affordable by enrolling in the Americorps. I’m taking this opportunity to say I have no affiliation with the Americorps whatsoever; I’m solely sharing his story to demonstrate how volunteering can be the gateway to earning a higher education. To learn how you can pursue your diploma with help from the Americorps or another nationally recognized volunteering organization such as the PeaceCorps, continue reading below.

As early as 6-years-old, Matthew Daniels knew that earning a college education was something that he needed to pursue. He never worried about finances that much—that is until he got older and began to realize that his single working mother barely made enough to make ends meet. Scholarships and grants would be the route he knew he was going to have to take—loans were not an option. As a freshman in high school, Matthew made sure he enrolled in advanced classes and all of the extracurricular activities he could so that he would impress not only college admission officers, but scholarship and grant awarders too. In 2004, Matthew won a full academic scholarship to the University of Texas in Austin.

Two weeks before graduation, Matthew began to question what he was going to do with the rest of his life. Sure, he would earn a bachelor’s degree in finance, but he just wasn’t sure if that was his true passion. He needed some time to “think” perhaps even travel before he went off into the real world. Because Matthew was always a philanthropist, he decided that until he really knew what he wanted to do career-wise, he’d volunteer his time and labor to the Americorps.

Because Matthew minored in Spanish and spoke the language fluently, and because he wanted to help families in need of financial assistance (something he could easily relate to), he was immediately accepted into the Americorps VISTA program, a domestic version of the PeaceCorps. For two years, Matthew traveled the U.S. restoring and building homes, helped the homeless get back on their feet, and mentored impoverished children.

While his daily tasks were rewarding emotionally, the job didn’t pay much. In fact, he barely had enough money to live on—Matthew and his team members would pool their stipends together just to be able to afford groceries. It was by no means a “glitzy job.”  But in the end, Matthew was given an education credit valued at $5,500. His experience as a volunteer made him see that he was destined for a career greater than finance and so he decided to put his education credit towards earning a master’ degree in public policy just a few short years later. He wanted to be able to influence policy making so that he didn’t have to see as many people suffering in poverty as he did during his two years with the program.

The education credit may not be enough to help you pay for your entire education, but at a time where students are facing the highest loan debt in history, anything will help.  For more information how you or your child can benefit from volunteering, make sure to check out Americorps.gov.

Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.