Nathalie Oestmann and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Anna, decided to volunteer in Tanzania to learn about a new culture and work on meaningful service projects. Nathalie and Anna traveled from London to Ipalamwa, Tanzania in July of 2019. Nathalie said, “I came to Global Volunteers to do humanitarian work in a country different from those I know. This experience exceeded all my expectations in the most positive way.” In this interview, Anna talks about her experience in Tanzania and how it differs from the other travel she has done. She describes her service with kindergartners in Tanzania, being pushed out of her comfort zone, and her gratitude towards her mom for this learning experience.
Why did you decide to volunteer in Tanzania?
I am happiest when I am travelling and discovering a new place or culture. I also love to help people as a regular volunteer in my town. When my mum suggested that we might go abroad to volunteer, I was more than excited! We learned about Global Volunteers through a friend who had been a part of the programme in America. Together, we ran through the list of countries that we could travel to from the Global Volunteers website. Africa definitely stood out to me as I have never been there, and I was curious to learn about a new culture. We particularly liked the idea of being in a village and helping in a school or with the effort to raise children’s potential. We also looked at the pictures of the village and the accommodations and knew immediately this is where we wanted to go – even if getting there required multiple flights and a long dirt road car ride!
Why did you feel it was important to participate in an experience like this?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamt about going to different countries and exploring new cultures while helping different communities out. This year I got the chance to end school a few weeks early so my mum and I hopped on the chance to travel to a new country and volunteer. I have always been open to trying new things and I have never volunteered in another country and in a different language! I loved the sense of adrenaline, while not knowing what to expect but having a burst of excitement within me.
What have you learned from this experience?
There are countless things I have learnt from this experience that will stick with me forever. The one that stands out to me is that no matter where you are around the world, no matter what problems you are facing in life, people can come together and help each other no matter their differences. We can sometimes live in our own bubbles, only focusing on ourselves and not recognising the help and support others need around us.
“The one that stands out to me is that no matter where you are around the world, no matter what problems you are facing in life, people can come together and help each other no matter their differences.”– Anna Oestmann
What does it mean to you to share this experience with your mom?
I adored sharing this experience with my mum, as it has brought our bond to a much deeper level as we were able to share the ups and downs of this experience that will stay with us for a lifetime. Having my mum with me through this gave me someone to share the emotional roller coaster with, while also having someone pushing me out my comfort zone every day. I felt that we have grown together and I am forever grateful that she has given me this experience.
“I felt that we have grown together and I am forever grateful that she has given me this experience.”– Anna Oestmann
What was one of your favorite moments while you were in Tanzania?
The moment I will forever treasure is when we would drive up to the Ipalamwa Primary School and having every single kid waiting for us with pure enthusiasm on their face. The passion and energy they had for learning was inspirational. I also have to say that we had an amazing team. Ipalamwa Team 22 was so hard working, funny, and inspirational. We still communicate regularly updating one another on our lives back home.
What surprised you about Tanzania?
From the minute I landed to the second I left, every single person in the community was welcoming, warm, and joyful. They brought around a presence that was mesmerising and something I hope other countries can follow.
Did you feel you were of service to the people in Tanzania?
Although I was only in Tanzania for a short but rewarding week, I do feel l have brought something to the community. Whether it was making a few kids laugh or helping a mother learn the importance of hygiene, it gave me the confidence of helping people around the world, even if it’s a small impact I am contributing to help someone.
Do you think you have created lifetime memories while in Tanzania?
I believe that my trip to Tanzania is definitely the one trip that has brought me the most inspiration and love. I have created lifelong memories that will stick with me no matter where I go. I have also made lifetime friends with my fellow peers, who taught me so many amazing lessons in life, feeding me wisdom and encouragement for my future.
What is your advice to other people who may be considering a volunteer opportunity?
If anyone was on edge, I would tell them to definitely go for the experience, as it is one you will never forget. I was only able to be there for a week (too short, definitely go for 2 or 3 weeks!) but it has taught me more than anything I have experienced so far. I was totally thrown out my comfort zone, and it forced me to grow as a person and acknowledge so many new aspects of my life. I absolutely loved my experience in Tanzania, fell in love with the country and the people, and learned so much from all the volunteers and local community members I worked with.
“I believe that my trip to Tanzania is definitely the one trip that has brought me the most inspiration and love.”– Anna Oestmann