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!

How a Day of Volunteering Changed the Way I Travel

UniversalGiving is proud to support Give a Day Global, an amazing organization providing short-term volunteer opportunities for people who want to enrich their travel experiences. Below is a post from our guest blogger, Kerry Rodgers, who is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Give a Day Global about the story behind this organization.


While traveling in South Africa 6 years ago, I volunteered for one day at a wonderful non-profit in a township outside of Cape Town. It was serendipitous – one of my traveling companions had a personal connection and invited us to join him for the afternoon. The experience was transformational – I walked away deeply inspired about the work of community-based nonprofits. Although we were only there for a couple hours, I became an ongoing supporter of the organization. It occurred to me that this one day was a win-win: the nonprofit had a new contributor and for me it was the most memorable day of my vacation.

I sat on the idea of replicating my experience in South Africa for many years. In the meantime, I began volunteering every chance I could get. I went to Haiti for weeks at a time. When I came home, I became intently focused on the question: How can I work to get more people to care about what is going on in Haiti and in other places in the world facing enormous challenges?

I realized that my interest in global issues began on that one day, in South Africa. Maybe experiences like mine could be replicated across the globe? I shared this idea with some friends who had similar ideas, and then Give A Day Global was born!

By donating one day of your vacation to a local nonprofit, you can make a difference in international communities while creating meaningful memories and life-long friendships. We believe that it’s not what you can finish in a day that matters – but what you can begin in a day!


So, what are you waiting for? Click here to plan your journey today!


Vacation Time

By Anis Salvesen

Earlier today I was browsing through my Gmail, and at the top of my screen was the following quote:  “Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.” (JFK)  I’m not sure what the context of that particular speech was, but the words certainly apply to my life.  I often associated giving of my time, volunteering, as giving something up – giving up a Saturday to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, giving up a lunch hour to volunteer at a soup kitchen, giving up a weeknight to help a child learn to read.   Don’t get me wrong, I did not believe volunteering was some great sacrifice made possible only by extreme dedication to a particular organization or cause.   I believed that the rewards far, far outweighed anything I had to give up in exchange.   My point is, I saw volunteering as equivalent to simple (albeit  not necessarily huge) sacrifice.

I confess that associating volunteering with even just a tiny bit of sacrifice made it harder for me to volunteer.  Sure I wanted to help a child learn to read, but did I really have the ability to give up one night a week?  In written form it seems rather selfish, but in the real-life context it seemed much more legitimate a concern.   What if the kid lived in a gang-ridden neighborhood so that I needed my husband to drive me there and back, but he had to work late on that particular night?   What if at work we got a new project or I was going on vacation, so I had to work late?  What if I had the most stressful day imaginable at work and got one of my migraine headaches and just needed to be home and rest?  What if it was one of those weeks that my husband and I really needed a date night and that was the one night we had free?

I admit that I tend to be more of a worrier than most, but I suspect the notion of giving something up in order to give to others is not unique to me.   That is why I was so excited when I came across a blog post all about the topic of voluntourism. I encourage you to read the blog post itself, but I will mention here some really great statistics mentioned in the post.

It seems that more and more people are catching on to this trend of combining work and play in one trip.  “According to the Travel Industry Associations of America (TIA), more than 55 million Americans have taken some form of volunteer vacation and nearly twice as many are considering doing so.”  To put that number in perspective, 55 million voluntourists is roughly the equivalent of every person in the states of California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Arizona combined!

I’ll let that number sink in for a minute.  Then I’ll share just one more impressive statistic mentioned in the blog post.   A survey sponsored by and Condé Nast Traveler, which polled more than 1,600 people,  revealed that 20% of those polled had taken at least one volunteer vacation, and 62% more said they are likely to take one.

After reading the Travelanthropist blog, I naturally went on the UniversalGiving website, and I found a wealth of great volunteer travel opportunities!   How about volunteering in Belize as part of a bio-diversity conservation project?   Or how does a coral and coastal ecology volunteer opportunity on Silhouette Island, a little-visited island in the Seychelles archipelago sound?  For those who prefer to stay a little closer to home, we also have volunteer opportunities in the United States.   For example, we have a volunteer opportunity called “Development Projects in Native American and First Nation Communities,” which would allow  travelers to volunteer with the Navajo nation in Arizona, among other opportunities.

I could go on about various volunteer + travel opportunities, but I’ll let you check out our site for yourself.   Thanks so much for reading this blog post.  Happy travels, and don’t forget to pack sunscreen!