– by Michelle (volunteer September-October 2015)

What comes to your mind when you think of “orphans in Africa”? The faces of little “African” malnourished, hopeless, ill or even dying children with snotty noses? Children covered in dirt, wearing torn clothes, if any at all? Hopelessness? Poverty? Pity? Thankfulness that you enjoy a more “privileged” life? An urge to do something about this while simultaneously feeling suffocated by knowing that you cannot “save the world”? A feeling of insignificance when you realize that there is only so much you can do? I do not know about you, but I am guilty of all of these thoughts and associations.

From a very early age, I have had a heart for HIV/AIDS orphans in East Africa. But this dream of mine to one day meet the children I had been thinking about so often seemed too big to ever come true. There were too many obstacles, like sickness, relationships, fear, the comfortable life back home etc. that seemed to be holding me back from following my heart. But, the Lord had bigger plans for me and He won me over last summer. I had all these pictures or, if you prefer, “stereotypes” in my head of what Uganda and the children there would be like. I was on a mission, full of passion and vision to “help the poor, dying orphans”.

It was not until I held baby Agnes in my arms after a 2 hour bumpy car ride that my world was shaken. I had been working in a baby’s home for HIV/AIDS affected and infected, abandoned, neglected and/or dying and mostly orphaned children and was going to pick her up from the police station. Agnes was a beautiful three day-old babygirl who had been dumped in a pig’s den by her mother. This should have been her death sentence. But, through a miracle, the pigs did not even touch Agnes during the three days she layed there, still having her umbilical cord attached to her.

– by Melanie H. (volunteer September 2015)

“No, what? Africa? No, no that’s not for me – I’m not coming!” That was my initial response after Michelle, my friend and roommate for 3 years, asked me to join her on her next trip, this time to Tanzania. But the following months I found myself thinking about it every now and then – so I started praying about it earnestly … and … here I am – half a year later and probably a million experiences richer – just returned back to Austria from 8 weeks in Tanzania.

I won’t lie – the past two months weren’t always easy. On the contrary, there were challenges and struggles along the way and there were days when I thought about taking the next plane home. Why? Because life was just so different there, because it was hard to communicate with people, in regards to language AND culture, because I didn’t like the feeling of sticking out, because plans kept changing all the time, … because I was forced to reflect on certain attitudes and mindsets, because I had to acknowledge how selfish I often am in my thinking and how much I am trying to be in control instead of trusting Him with everything.

 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.