Volunteering is a powerful and fulfilling way to impact the world, and the Reaching Children’s Potential Program (RCP) in Tanzania offers a unique and transformative setting for contributing to meaningful change. Tanzania Mental Wellness Education Manager Regina Mhagama invites students, professionals and those with lived experience in mental wellness to assist her as a two- or three-week volunteer on ground-breaking initiatives in mental health. She offers six compelling reasons for volunteering in the Ukwega Ward in 2024 and beyond.
By Regina Mhagama, RCP Senior Caregiver and Mental Wellness Education Manager
I was privileged to introduce Global Volunteers’ village-based Mental Wellness Initiative to stakeholders and mental health supporters at Tanzania’s national Mental Health Day conference in Dodoma on October 8-10, 2023. Participants included Tanzania Network Against Alcohol Abuse (TAANET), The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Elderly and Children, Tanzania Non-Communicable Disease Alliance (TANCDA) Members of Parliament, and local representatives of WHO and other NGOs. The transformative discussions on improving mental health services in communities ignited my desire to draw ever more volunteers to my country to support our great efforts. The Guest of Honor, Ayoub Magimba, Deputy Director of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, impressed on all attendees the importance of integrating mental health into the primary care system, especially in maternal and child development.
This focus on mothers and children is precisely at the center of our RCP Mental Wellness Initiative. We’re now poised to create a national model for effective village-based mental health interventions. I’m especially proud of this, as I was born and raised in Tanzania, educated in the Iringa Region where Global Volunteers serves, and am raising my children in the Ukwega Ward where volunteers work. With YOUR personal service, we can extend our success to every family requesting help. Consider how joining a Tanzania Service Program benefits you as well as the mothers and children you serve:
Community Engagement: Villages in the Ukwega Ward of Tanzania value collaboration and empowerment. By volunteering here, you become an integral part of a movement dedicated to uplifting the community, fostering self-sufficiency, and creating sustainable solutions to challenges. The community in Ukwega is actively involved and excited about the positive changes brought about by volunteers in the Mental Wellness Initiative. The sense of gratitude and collaboration from local people creates a warm and welcoming environment, making your volunteering experience both rewarding and memorable.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”Margaret Mead
Setting a Mental Health Agenda: The Ukwega Ward is at the forefront of mental wellness efforts, with a specific focus on addressing depression, anxiety, alcohol and other substance abuse, gender-based violence, and suicidal ideation. As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of individuals by participating in interactive mental health workshops and group and individual mental health therapy. Many other volunteers support newly formed Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups, which, through collaboration with area resources and experienced volunteers, have learned how to effectively conduct therapeutic meetings. The wider community is now actively engaged in AA, with members reporting significant improvements in their mental wellness. The positive impact of these AA groups is spreading rapidly, with local residents expressing excitement about the support they receive. Many have achieved sobriety for days, weeks, and even months. Recognizing the severity of alcohol abuse and substance misuse in their community, local families are urging Global Volunteers to expand the AA groups to all villages.
Long-Term Partnerships: Working in partnership with local leaders, we provide a structured and supportive framework for your volunteer experience. With a goal of making a measurable difference, we can assure you that your efforts align with the community’s needs and that your contributions have a lasting impact. Families enrolled in the RCP Program receive free healthcare at the Ipalamwa General Clinic (IGC), built by Global Volunteers, and access to workshops and technologies on health, nutrition and child development. IGC focuses on preventive care and education and offers acute care in conditions such as epilepsy, psychotic features, and many more diseases. Alongside the IGC medical staff, a cadre of well-trained RCP caregivers travel daily to the homes of these families to reinforce healthy practices and offer interpersonal therapy (IPT).
Collaboration with Stakeholders: The Ukwega Ward nurtures collaborations with vital district and regional stakeholders, and currently is establishing a relationship with the Tanzania Network against Alcohol (TAANET) and other organizations working towards community development. Your volunteer work becomes part of a broader effort, leveraging collective expertise to create positive change.
Inspiring Personal Testimonies: Volunteering in the Ukwega Ward enables you to share your own personal and professional expertise, and exposes you to inspiring personal stories, such as Global Volunteer Alumnus Nick Philbrook’s journey to sobriety and mental wellness, which inspired the RCP Mental Wellness Initiative. These and other stories not only motivate you, but also demonstrate the real, tangible impact that volunteers can have on individual lives and the community as a whole.
Opportunities for Expansion: The impact of volunteer efforts, especially through the Mental Wellness Initiative, has led to strong recommendations for expanding such programs to neighboring villages. Your knowledge and skills can contribute to the continued growth and replication of successful models for addressing community challenges.
By volunteering with us in Tanzania, you can create a lasting impact on individual lives and the community as a whole. By joining this transformative journey, you become part of a collective force working towards positive change, fostering empowerment, and promoting mental well-being throughout the Ukwega Ward. In the words of famed American cultural anthropologist: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”