Volunteer Impact in Ipalamwa
Reflections in Tanzania from Global Volunteers Team #1 to Ipalamwa
by Ruth Curran, Team #1 volunteer, Global Volunteers board member, and Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) advisory committee member
I know that journal entries are about creating a diary and chronicling the events of each day – that is important and that will give us all a record to look back on. I also know that every time someone writes and reads their impressions of the day, I get a deeper look into their heart and that is such a gift. I am honored to be the first. Here we begin our work and our reflections in Tanzania.
Ruth’s Reflections in Tanzania on Day One
I remember reading the preparatory materials before my very first Global Volunteers service program and chuckling when I read these words: Expect the unexpected. I thought “I am pretty flexible and seriously, what could be so unexpected that it might throw me off my game?” Ha! Silly naïve me! That first day on that first trip and those that followed, delivered on that promise and now, the unexpected and my ability to adapt in situations that I had not imagined, are things I simply look forward to.
Good thing because this trip threw us a huge curve ball and, as the unexpected seems to do, gave us all the opportunity to shine and grow into a stronger team.
When Dan, Emily, Stephanie, and I arrived at the Lutheran Center in Iringa after our early morning flight, Bud greeted us with a warm welcome, coffee, breakfast, and news. There was a little uneasiness about how the rest of the team would react to the unexpected changes, but there was no pessimism, no regrets, no looking back. I could feel that we all knew we had a purpose so much greater than the first hurdles placed in our path.
The second plane arrived, Joe’s car pulled up, we all checked in to our lodging, and we left for dinner. As the evening went on and everyone started sharing their stories, I got the feeling that even though our reasons for being here varied, our hearts were all in the same place. I watched in awe as the team began to form. Each one of us is thrilled to be, as Bud said, laying the foundation for the ground floor of a project that just might shift the balance of the world and make it a better place for children to grow and thrive.
That is staggering and heartwarming and awe-inspiring and is, in my opinion, nothing short of magical.
What a perfect start to TEAM ONE – something I have been looking forward to since this time last year and I am so excited to be on this journey with this group of people. Bring on the unexpected – we’ve got this!
After two full weeks (of three total) of volunteering in Ipalamwa building hand-washing stations, planting container gardens, teaching, and working with mothers and their young ones, Ruth reflects more:
Ruth’s Reflections in Tanzania on Day 14
The end of the second week on this project ended with no boom, no bang – just a gentle poof. According to Dan and Makarios, that is the best possible sound. The last introductory workshop was as unique and wonderful as all of the rest had been – this was a smallish group of moms and caretakers, seven by the end, all with babies in tow. They smiled and nodded through the content, appeared engaged in the conversation, and were definitely hungry for more.
I walked away from this workshop knowing that this week, with this introduction, we took the first baby step on what will be a very long, sometimes bumpy, often slow moving road to somewhere we can’t really yet fully imagine but know it is one filled with the promise of a healthy “someday” for many children.
The teachers and hand-washing expert went off to school, the engineers put the finishing touches on the first garden boxes, and Bud ticked off the final items on the building check list.
The afternoon was filled with report writing, celebration planning, a whole lot of loose-end tying, and a bit of planning for the future. Except of course for Sara, Grace, and Joan who left for a weekend of relaxation and animal spotting at the Hill Top Lodge. Emily, Kelly, Stephanie, and I, hands covered with glow-in-the-dark “germs”, went to the Secondary school to re-enact and film the hand washing – germ transfer game. Such a joy to hang out with both those amazing women and their new friends. On the way back, we spoke about the difference in feeling between working with students in the secondary school who spoke a bit of English and had some goals and aspirations, and working with families with infants who, in many cases, were working to get enough food to get through the day. No judgement – simply different. Both equally needed and important and valuable for both us personally and we hope, this village. We are all, whether we are aware of it or not, leaving our unique imprint on this community.
The end-of-week-two celebration brought a few surprises. The first and probably most unbelievable was that a group of six invited guests actually showed up, on time! The program itself was nothing short of inspiring – that in and of itself was not a surprise but the performances were. Three secondary students just blew us away with two songs. Even I had tears in my eyes as their beautiful voices filled the courtyard. Anna, Winnie, and Regina belted out a song so filled with gratitude and hope it took my breath away. Bud told the story of his friendship with the Bishop and how RCP is the by-product of that trusting relationship. Finally, I knew the Bishop would speak beautifully, but when he made us laugh and cry and think and wonder all at the same time, I turned to Emily and said “that is why I was so inspired to work so hard to come back and be a part of all of this”. Honestly, how could I not…. Excellent food, laughter, and good feelings filled the porch and courtyard.
I remain in awe of the possibilities and promise of this final week and can’t wait to hit the ground running.
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