A guide to volunteering abroad

Want to volunteer overseas, but don’t have a clue where to start? No fear – Laura Chubb meets the people who are working to show you how

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You may remember how a few weeks ago we told you about Volunteer in Dubai (VID), the not-for-profit organisation that supplies local charities with volunteers, and makes sure that those volunteers are used properly. You may also remember that VID was hoping to expand with VIDA, or Volunteer in Dubai Abroad. The idea is that VIDA staff research volunteering opportunities overseas before recommending anything to Dubai’s would-be volunteers. VID’s Stephanie Belair recently spent a week doing just that in Tanzania. ‘It’s useful because I can give a first-hand account,’ she says. ‘If someone wants to go, I can talk them through where everything is and how much it will cost. I even made maps.’ Kind of like a Time Out guide for volunteers, really. Here’s what she found.

Amani Centre, Morogoro

‘This is both an orphanage and a day care centre for children with special needs. There are about eight orphans there and also 10 kids from the surrounding areas who come in for the day care. From 8am until noon they have school and you go in and just sit with the kids. There wasn’t much to do, to be honest. But you can also go to the homes of disabled kids and help out with physiotherapy. The centre trains you and they send someone with you who speaks Swahili. However, you have to pay for transportation to get to these homes and you’re told to take a present, like soap or sugar. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there long enough to do the home visits and physio.’

Communication: ‘They speak good English here.’
Accommodation: ‘Volunteers pay US$15 a day to stay in housing across the street from the orphanage. There are no fans and the windows don’t have mosquito screens on them. It’s really essential to have the windows open to get air in there because there isn’t a fan, but it’s very loud. People play music in the street outside so I found it really hard to sleep here.’

Darul Muslimeen, Morogoro

‘This is an orphanage for Muslim boys. They have 31 boys ranging from five years of age all the way up to 18. All the boys are extremely well mannered and I immediately felt at home. They hardly ever get volunteers here so they wanted me to play with the kids. I really got to know the children on a one-to-one basis. They loved it because they got to teach me Swahili and were amazed to see someone new! I tried to teach them things and I drew them a map of the world. They’re very inquisitive. They’re also big on football – I played football with them until I couldn’t move any more!’

Communication: ‘The children here don’t speak great English, but Mahmoud, who lives at the orphanage and takes care of the children, can speak Arabic.’
Accommodation: ‘They have two guest rooms with personal bathrooms and mosquito nets. They even picked me up from the airport! The warmth that I got from these people was amazing.’

Mgogoli, Morogoro

‘This is the oldest orphanage in Morogoro – it opened in 1936. It’s run by Roman Catholic nuns. There are 50 kids and the majority of them are aged six and below. The moment you walk in they run up to you and throw their arms around you. They’re really starving for attention. They don’t get a lot of volunteers there – maybe one or two a month. You won’t really be playing with the children that much, as there’s only free time between 4pm and 5pm. Mostly you’ll be washing clothing, cleaning the rooms and helping to prepare the meals. I definitely felt like I helped, but I wanted to bond with the kids more.’

Communication: ‘They really don’t speak English here.’
Accommodation: ‘There aren’t facilities at the orphanage. They do own a place where volunteers can stay, which is a 10-minute drive from the orphanage, but I didn’t stay there. It’s very basic and you can’t walk
to the orphanage from there – you have to take a taxi. I found plenty of other hotels for the same price or less that were nearer.’
To find out more about volunteering in Morogoro, Tanzania or for any other opportunities with Volunteer in Dubai, call 04 432 1876 or see www.volunteerindubai.com. VID would like to thank Air Arabia for sponsoring Stephanie’s flight to Nairobi.

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