I Want to Help!! Laura's Blog

 

"I want to help!“

Like for most of the young people deciding to volunteer, this was the main reason for me to come to Tanzania four years ago. Of course I wanted to see another country and a different culture. And not yet knowing what kind of profession I would like to perform later on, I wanted to experience as much as possible. But the main reason was helping. 

At this time, I was not sure what “Helping” exactly meant in this context. Maybe showing them the German way of teaching or raising children? Or showing them the German way of working, because what we usually learn in Germany is that our way is the most efficient and most accurate way of doing things. Encouraged by several friends and family members, who have never been to Africa, but who knew for sure that by going to Tanzania, I would help (there it is again) lots of people there, I started my journey with a very vague idea of what I was going to do over the next ten month.

Now, four years later, and recently having returned to Karibu Nyumbani for the third time, I am happy to say that for me, the meaning of Helping has changed completely. And this changing started with understanding that every culture has its own advantages and disadvantages. 

As a German girl, I always appreciated punctuality and accuracy. I was used to work eight hours without diversion and as fast as possible. And to be honest, I was always a bit stressed. In Tanzania, things are different. Everything is slowlier and more relaxed. You might wait hours for your bus to go home, and when choir practice is supposed to start at 5pm, you don’t need to stress yourself out, because the other singers will be there at 6pm. In the beginning, waiting really drove me crazy, but later, I started to use these times for reflecting and thinking about what I had experienced all day long. It was always a good opportunity to calm down a bit. Another, at first bothering, part was, that whatever kind of work we did, it took so much time. Cooking took hours, as well as watering the garden or getting a parcel at the post office. I was continuously counting how much time you could save if work routines were planned properly and workers would not chat all the time. But little by little, I started to understand, that for Tanzanians, this is not wasted time at all. While waiting for the water to boil, you can have a little chat with your colleagues asking about their families or share news about your village. And when you find out, that someone is having a problem, you comfort him or her, which is very different to our country, where you always try to sort your things out on your own and where you can feel very isolated from time to time

There are lots of other differences between Europe and Tanzania, and there is one thing that they all have in common. In the beginning, everything is unfamiliar and seems strange. You often have the feeling that nothing makes sense. But when you are open-minded and venture to get into the culture, you might find lots of positive sides in it. Funnily enough, what I personally miss the most since I’m back to Germany is the point that annoyed me the most in the beginning. Taking enough time for conversations in your daily routine, even if it means that you might need one more hour for doing whatever you are doing. Because I think that this is an important reason for why people in Africa are so full of joy and satisfaction.

To come back to my changed understanding of Helping: You don’t need to help Tanzanians to become more European, as their way of living, although different, is as good as ours. What you can do is being yourself and supporting the community of Karibu Nyumbani with your own gifts. If you’re a good teacher, come and help the children to learn Maths or English. If you are good at comforting, come and hug the kids when they hurt themselves. If you are good at gardening, come and help Aaron and Lucas with the vegetables. You will be appreciated and the children will love getting to know your culture as well as they love theirs.

I think that Ester, Fiona and Ludmila have found a really good way of bringing their children up in the typical Tanzanian way, which is so important, as that’s the country where they are going to stay and spend their future life. As the main aim is to help them being able to be part of the Tanzanian people, there is no need to raise them like European children. But still they stand to benefit from the amount of storybooks, craft supplies, games and educational books, which visitors bring regularly, and which gives them the possibility to test their abilities and to find out what they are interested in.

I enjoyed my time at Karibu Nyumbani so much, because having spent such a long time with all the Mamas, Aunties and Children made them a second family for me. I hope, that they’ll keep their joyful, colourful and relaxed way of living until I’ll find the time to come back for a fourth time. And I’m praying, that they will always keep their unrivalled mixture and acceptance of different cultures, because it’s this diversity which makes our world so beautiful and interesting.

 

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