by Brigitta Enyedi (Caritas volunteer 2014/15)

It is always difficult to summarize a time like 10 months. It is even more difficult if you have spent a time like this in a different country surrounded by different people and a different culture speaking a different language. When I look back at this time, the first thing I realize now is that Tanzania does not seem to be as different or strange to me, as it felt like 10 months ago. Tanzania has become familiar to me. The people are my friends, the culture is no longer a mystery to me and neither is the national language, Swahili. Here, the language seems to be the key to everything.

I lived and worked in an orphanage in a small village near Dar es Salaam. The orphanage is called “Karibu Nyumbani”– “Welcome Home”. These are the words with which Theresa and I were welcomed. I did not need much time to settle in and to feel at home in this family. The family includes following people: three “Mamas” (Ester, Fiona and Ludmila), four “Aunties” (house girls), two “Uncles” (watchman and gardener) and 15 1-7 year-old lovely children.

Theresa and I had the privilege to be a part of that family for 10 months.

 

Our work was always multi-layer and diverse. We never got bored, neither did we run out of ideas about how to spend our time. For the first seven months, Theresa and I ran a kindergarden for the children from our village, Boko Temboni. That was one of our first surprises.

To be honest, I had never wanted to teach children, especially in Africa. I always thought that I would not be a good teacher. In the beginning, it was a little bit difficult as we could not really speak Swahili. But soon I found joy in encouraging the children to write, sing and draw. They were very enthusiastic.

Although sickness played a big part in my voluntary service and although it was often tiring and exhausting to satisfy a horde of about 20 children, I always got smiles, hugs and love back from them. This made me forget every unpleasant moment.

Swahili played a central role in our Tanzanian life. Although our language school in Germany had been very helpful, I felt as if I didn’t know a word of Swahili in the beginning. However, the children helped us with learning the language until we were eventually even able to bargain self-confidently for bananas, knew how to ask for the correct bus, a safe place to sleep and so on. The people were happy to hear why I had come to Tanzania in their language. This brought joy to my heart. But Swahili was also the key to friendships and the connection to everyone in Karibu Nyumbani. There were many volunteers from England who stayed for one month on average but none of them knew Swahili. It was really visible how much easier communication is, when you know how to speak the local language, even just a bit. Moreover, it was such a gift to understand the stories and fairy tales the children were telling us.

If I now have a look at the homepage of Karibu Nyumbani, it is a completely different feeling than it was just one year ago, when I tried to imagine the orphanage, the children and Tanzania. It is helpful to have a certain picture of that country, to be able to disapprove of clichés and to know that I was a “dada” – “sister” – in the Karibu Nyumbani family for 10 months. And the best part is that no one can take this experience away from me. It is in my heart.