The desire to explore and travel while giving back led Jasmine Hooper, a 30-something African-American and Guamanian from Texas, to join Global Volunteers in a service program in Tanzania. During her service, Jasmine taught conversational English, conducted workshops and home visits, and assisted in the local clinic. In this guest post, Jasmine reflects on how her time in service in Tanzania gave her many cultural lessons and afforded her the opportunity to reconnect with her roots.
By Jasmine Hooper
My name is Jasmine Hooper, and this is my Global Volunteers story. In my story, I think it is important to mention my race/ethnicity, and you will see why. I’m African-American and Guamanian. My African-American father met my mother during his military service in Guam. They got married, and then they had me. Because of my military upbringing and being in the military myself, I’ve always enjoyed traveling, for work and leisurely pleasure. I’ve also always enjoyed volunteering in my local community and wanted to expand my volunteer experience relating to previous advocating activities I was involved with in helping global poverty. Because of this, I specifically wanted to expand my volunteering services to see the on-the-ground work being done in countries of poverty.
In August 2019, I was privileged enough to travel to Tanzania in Africa on a Global Volunteers service program. With that said, traveling all the way to Africa helped me achieve my volunteering goal plus more. It was my first international volunteer experience, and it was a very memorable one.
“During my entire stay, I felt welcomed and guided by the Tanzanian natives. I felt safe and secure. I felt as if I belonged. I felt cared for.”~ Jasmine Hooper
I was able to enjoy another culture by interacting with the local people and working side-by-side with them to build up their beautiful community. In our downtime for the weekend, I was able to embrace the culture even more by admiring the beauty of their nature on an African safari. During my entire stay, I felt welcomed and guided by the Tanzanian natives. I felt safe and secure. I felt as if I belonged. I felt cared for. They seemed to have a culture of caring for people, just like I remember as a kid growing up on Guam and in my own family dynamic.
When I decided to volunteer, I volunteered with the mindset of going into someone else’s home, with no intention of intruding or trying to dominate over their lives. I was coming to help a community with the resources and tools they already have and expand on them as best as possible. I noticed instantly that in order to truly help the community, it was about equality and teamwork, not superiority in expertise. With this mindset, I was able to gain global work experience by collaboratively teaching Kindergarten, Standard 1, and Standard 2 classes with success within two weeks. I also got to briefly experience and understand the struggles of local mothers and how to help them overcome them with even more resilience through the Global Volunteers’ educational workshops, home visits, and clinic visits.
“I noticed instantly that in order to truly help the community, it was about equality and teamwork, not superiority in expertise.”~ Jasmine Hooper
I came with intentions to help, but I truly think they helped me more than anything else. I say this because they helped me see relations to my own life circumstances, family, culture, and roots that I kind of forgot. I saw strength and resilience in the mothers walking miles to get food for themselves and their children. I saw single mothers pushing their way through hardships with a willingness to use the tools and resources given to educate themselves on how to live healthier lives. I saw a family togetherness. I saw the Global Volunteers staff laughing together, standing together with one another, working together. I saw women’s empowerment and leadership in the Global Volunteers staff helping their communities succeed and flourish. I saw a community helping each other.
I witnessed the African proverb – “It takes a village to raise a child.” I used to hear that proverb a lot growing up in the African-American and Guamanian community. I thought I truly understood the proverb, but being in Africa, my understanding of it flows so much deeper. Community is everything. They look out for one another. They look out for one another’s children. There’s no division. There is a togetherness. They help each other succeed. Villages like this prove that proverb.
Since I’ve been home, many people have commented that my volunteer service in Tanzania was courageous and brave of me. People feel inspired to go back to the motherland, Africa. People feel inspired to give more of themselves to communities in need. While the comments have been overwhelming and flattering, I’m not too sure if this was brave or courageous of me. I would say it was more of an honor to be there.
“I am also appreciative of the cultural lessons they gave me to reconnect with my own roots.”– Jasmine Hooper
Tanzania is a community and society just like many others. They have their own style, their own culture, their traditions, their morals, their standards, their laws, and their way of living. It is their home, and a beautiful one at that. I am honored that they welcomed me and continue to welcome Global Volunteers’ services. I am appreciative of the experience of being accepted in their homes to help them improve their lives for sustainability and longer living of the native people. I am also appreciative of the cultural lessons they gave me to reconnect with my own roots. Thank you, Tanzania. Thank you, Global Volunteers.