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Project Description


My name is Ruby and I spent 4 weeks volunteering in a community centre in the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam.

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As I was driving from the airport through the pot-hole filled, palm tree lined roads of Dar Es Salaam, my first thought was how instantly the busy, vibrant atmosphere of the city hits you. However my excitement at this thought slowly turned to dismay as I found myself unsuspectingly being driven onto a rickety and worryingly crowded ferry, floating away from mainland of Dar Es Salaam and towards what I realised would be my home for the next few weeks, the community of Kigamboni. The sandy roads and small concrete houses all looked disorientating similar. I arrived at my house, where I was introduced to the 15 odd people living there (I never did quite work out exactly who lived in the house and who didn’t!) and got a quick tour. My clearest memory of that tour was being shown the toilet which to my horror was just a hole in the ground at the front of the house! From my initial excitement and confidence, my heart had slowly been sinking as I stood in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the house and thought “How on Earth am I going to manage this?” Luckily for me at that exact moment my first friend in Tanzania showed up and changed my entire perception of my situation. Faridha my 8 year old Tanzanian sister and, to be honest, teacher, made me smile and laugh so much on my first day that all my initial feelings of excitement came flooding back and I forgot all about the scary toilet.


I worked at Kigamboni Community Centre (KCC) which is run solely by local and international volunteers. In the 5 years since it was founded by local Tanzanians, KCC has developed hugely catering for over 300 members of the community and providing activities for all ages and abilities from acrobatics and dance to English and computer classes.


My initial role was to help teach English twice a day to a class that ranged in age from 8 – 45 and in level from absolutely no English to practically fluent. I spent my first week taking the afternoon and some evening classes and getting to know the students. In between classes I would help other volunteers around the office and sometimes go outside where a whole range of activities would be happening. I got pulled into teaching some boys gymnastics and after a few weeks found myself being taught traditional African dancing too. A couple of weeks in however, my role developed after it became clear to me and other volunteers at the centre that the English classes just weren’t working. So for the second half of my stay in Tanzania some other volunteers and I designed a new curriculum for the English classes, creating different level classes and various lesson plans which introduced new learning techniques to the students and different teaching methods for the current and future English teachers.


Although my days were very long, I usually worked from 9am-8pm, sometimes in the evening I would go to Mikadi beach, a small backpacker’s resort on the beach 10 minutes away from the centre, with other volunteers. On the weekends I would sometimes take Faridha swimming in the sea or go travelling to nearby towns and villages with friends. On my lunch breaks I would go home and help Bahati (the mother) cook over a small charcoal stove in the corridor. One of my proudest moments was when she actually trusted me enough to let me stir the Ugali by myself!


I adapted surprisingly quickly to what I initially thought would be my biggest challenges e.g. the toilet, washing with a bucket of cold water, the food etc. Though I did crave a pizza every now and then what I found most difficult and frustrating was how often I felt ineffectual. I was working mainly in education, providing classes in many cases to try and help children get back into school or to pass their final exams. The problem is the education system for the poorer classes in Tanzania is so ineffectual that even when KCC achieved its aim of one of our students re-entering secondary school, it was disheartening knowing exactly the kind of education system the pupil was entering into. The methods of teaching practiced throughout the country meant that in my classes just trying to stimulate the students to ask questions or offer an opinion was an enormous challenge.


What I most enjoyed about Tanzania were the Tanzanians. The people I was living and working with immediately welcomed me and took care of me. They talked to me about their culture, the politics of their country, their ambitions. They taught me how to cook, how to dance (well, they tried), how to speak their language. They showed me what they loved about their country and what they would change. I instantly felt at home and enjoyed meeting new people and making new friends every single day.

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