After quitting her job, Anna O’Neal embarked on four months of solo travel to figure out what she wanted to do next in her life. In her choice to travel solo to Tanzania, she joined our Global Volunteer team in Ipalamwa, Tanzania to help mothers and children. She said she sought an opportunity to challenge herself and gain new strengths and experience while challenging her global perspective in a way that only travel provides. In this interview, Anna recalls the highlights of her “journey to self,” starting with her decision to volunteer to help others abroad.
What led you to Global Volunteers in Tanzania for your trip abroad?
When I started planning my trip, I decided that I wanted to incorporate a service element to it. I wanted to travel to a place and experience a country that I wouldn’t have necessarily traveled to on my own. It was important to me not to be just a traveler though countries and cultures examining things from afar, but rather for me to be “still” in one place, learn about that country and culture, and perhaps help or contribute in some capacity. I strongly believe we learn more about ourselves when we give of our time, energy, thoughts, skills – and of course, money. I was in search of a well-established organization and volunteer program with specific goals outlined as it pertained to the work that they were trying to accomplish. What I learned and really came to appreciate during my time working with the other amazing Global Volunteers on my team is that each person had a different reason or motivation for volunteering and that when those individual motivations come together amazing things can transpire and be accomplished!
“I strongly believe we learn more about ourselves when we give of our time, energy, thoughts, skills – and of course, money.“Anna O’ Neal
What did you hope to contribute through your service?
I had decided to travel solo to Tanzania, and for me, serving with an organized group was a means to meet new people and find positive, inspiring ways that I can be of help and service. Having never worked with Global Volunteers before or having never traveled to Ipalamwa, I wanted to be of use in any way possible while keeping my expectations of what I would be able to contribute as open as possible! Joining Global Volunteers in Tanzania was all I hoped it would be.
Did you achieve your goals? Did the service program change you?
I believe I’ve become a more reflective and understanding person. This experience helped me to examine some of my own cultural assumptions about what is important to having a happy, healthy and fulfilling life. It has helped to redefine or further highlight the importance of connection and community, human need and search for connection and the joy and fulfillment you can experience when you seek out connections with people and cultures that are different than your own. Serving with Global Volunteers in Tanzania was personally challenging, positive and rewarding. It was the capstone in my personal four–month solo travel to Tanzania and afterwards. I really came to appreciate the Tanzanian people and culture. It was a chance to be involved in a great project that contributed my personal development and my pursuit of being a global citizen.
“This experience helped me to examine some of my own cultural assumptions about what is important in having a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.“Anna O’Neal
In what way were you able to use your skills to assist the community?
I was able to use my love of learning and play to help teach in the Makalanga Primary school working with the 1st year Kindergarten students. I was also able to bring my skills from my finance profession to help in the Health Clinic by looking at the electronic health records and data collection as well as to help give feedback to the women’s co-op.
How do you describe your interactions with the local people?
The people were amazing! The local Tanzanian culture for me can be characterized as respectful, contemplative, spiritual and happy. The people in Ipalamwa were kind, welcoming, engaging and appreciative. I met so many great people in the community. I encourage others to join Global Volunteers in Tanzania for a trip of a lifetime.
What is your advice to others who may be considering a short-term service program with Global Volunteers?
Do it! You’ll be rewarded with a life-changing experience to carry with you for forever. You will learn much about yourself and the others around you. You’ll take what you learned home with you and it will serve you in your life back home. The team leadership on my trip made sure that all of the volunteers in our group had the space and time for reflection and discussion and that was an aspect that I really appreciated. Making time to share a message of the day as well as having time to reflect about our experience at the end of each day really as a group really was a special aspect of the volunteer experience.
“Do it! You’ll be rewarded with a life changing experience to carry with you for forever.“Anna O’Neal