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Original Volunteers, Tanzania

Page history last edited by Phil Pierce 10 years, 9 months ago


Partner institution: 

Website: http://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/


Contributors (2013):

Leah Squires



Contributors: for details on what is required in each section, please look at the Guidance Notes


Placement Information



Social life

Things to do, things not to do

Useful Contacts

Before you go


Placement Information

First things first, this placement is AMAZING!


The first thing to mention is if you are going on your own do not be afraid. I was really scared before going however there is usually a lot of volunteers there that you will be able to join in with. When you first arrive, Geoffrey will pick you up from the airport in Dar Es Salaam and will either allow you to stop at his with him, his wife and family, or take you to a hotel. When you are ready to leave Dar, Geoffrey will take you to the coach station and make sure you buy the correct ticket and get on the correct coach. Once arriving in Iringa, Willhard (project coordinator) will meet you at the coach station and take you to the volunteer house. Another person you will be introduced to is Ino, Willhard's friend who helps to show volunteers around the projects. All 3 of these have very good English, but strong African accents so be patient! Once arriving in Iringa, Willhard or Ino will take you to immigration to pick up your volunteer permit and then you are pretty much set to go. 


 Willhard (Project Coordinator.)


 Ino (Friend of Willhard who helps to show volunteers around the projects)


Before going to Tanzania, Original Volunteers will give you a pack on everything you need to know before going such as how to get your visa (and the form to do it) and your volunteer permit so if I have missed something vital out, you will get all the information before going anyway. If you have any questions do not be afraid to ring Original Volunteers or email them as they are very friendly.


Right onto the projects! When I was in Tanzania (Iringa), I did many of the different projects as you don't particularly have to stick to just one. Whilst there I went to the baby orphanage which is around 45 minutes away on a Dala Dala, and the babies there are aged from 0 to around 3? Maybe? But either way they are absolutely gorgeous and as soon as they see you they come running (if they can) up to you because they love touching your skin and they are fascinated by the way you feel. Whilst here you feed the babies, look after them and play with them. For some people this can be quite boring so people tend to go to this project in a morning or afternoon.


Across from the baby orphanage there is a school or orphans and they are gorgeous. They continually touch you and if you get a camera out, they have the biggest grins for their photos (see photo for these gorgeous smiles). When I went to this school, there wasn't any adults per-se there, it was mainly the nuns from the baby orphanage that came over. Within these two projects, the nuns speak a tiny bit of English, but there is a 'head nun' that speaks better English and can help you if needed.


 Children (across from the orphanage)    Baby from baby Orphanage


The other project I attended was a school called Faraha, where the children appreciated the volunteers teaching them. The children are so gorgeous, they stand at the front of the class and sing songs such as 'wind the bobbin up' and a song I have never heard before but is really catchy. Whilst at this school you teach them the alphabet by going round the classroom and pointing to the letter (it has a picture with it, e.g. B for Ball). Within this time, they learn Kiswahili (their language) which volunteers can teach too even if you do not know any Swahili. You teach them the sounds such as 'Ka, Ka, Ka' etc. I donated some pencils to this school as many of the children didn't have them and couldn't complete their work so any school supplies you want to fetch would be great. Within this school also is corporal punishment so do not be alarmed if you see the teacher (NOT volunteers) 'punish' them. There is a couple of the teachers that speak English but they may not understand you completely.


 Teaching at Faraha                              Children at Faraha    


FISCH is another of the projects I attended. Here you have (can't remember his name) who speaks amazing English. If you need anything he can help you easily. This project is for the street children of Iringa and through the week there isn't much interaction with the children, however there is a lot of refurbishment that needs doing to make it inviting, but also there is admin that a lot of volunteers handle as the people there do not know how to. If you want to make a difference and see it (through paintings and taking pictures) then this is the project for you. At FISCH, there is also a Saturday club where the street children come and the volunteers play games on the football pitch them. Volunteers also help to prepare food and serve it to the children.


 Saturday Club at FISCH, feeding the children.


 Children at Saturday Club


There are other projects that you can get stuck into whilst being here, however some of them prefer you to be staying a longer time in order to be fully dedicated to the project. There is the HIV clinic and another orphanage called Saba Saba. Moreover, if you decided to go for a substantial amount of time, you could set up your own project. If you need any help or guidance then ask Willhard as he is so helpful and lives in the house (Mikimbizi house, the one I stayed at) so he is accessible a lot of the time.


All of the projects in Iringaa are amazing and if you can, try to visit all of them to be able to choose what best suits you. You are required to go to a project Monday-Friday, however the Saturday club at FISCH is optional. If you are religious, there is a Church that Willhard or Ino will be able to take you to, and also a Mosque but I don't know much about that.



When I first arrived in Dar Es Salaam, I stayed with Geoffrey for the night as it was too late to get a coach to Iringa. This is an option for your first night (or however long you want) if Geoffrey offers it to you. If not, he will take you to a hotel that is safe so you needn't worry about finding somewhere to stop. Once in Iringa, there are 3 volunteer houses (when I was there) which were Mikimbizi (where I stayed), the town house and the new house. I didn't go to the town or new house so I have no idea what the accommodation is like. I will say one thing, do not expect to live in luxury. At Geoffrey's, he has a simple concrete house with a living room and a bedroom. There isn't drawers or anything like that, just your basic things. The toilet at Geoffrey's is outside, same as the shower (which is a bucket of water for the shower and a hole in the ground for the toilet). In Mikimbizi, you have a living room with a coffee table and settees, a toilet and a shower, a kitchen with a basic travel hob (no oven, microwave, kettle etc) and you share a bedroom with 3 (usually) other people. This all may sound really daunting but it is such a great experience. I want to mention also that in this house, Willhard has chickens which were little babies when I was there and I suspect that when someone else goes in 2014, he will either have older chickens or some more babies.

Before going, you pay £125 (I think) for accommodation, and this includes your water, gas, electric and anything else you need. If you prefer, you can live with a family in the town for £25 which Willhard will be able to sort out for you. If you are in Mikimbizi, you are required to get a Dala Dala into town to get to the projects but it isn't that far.


 Typical African toilet. (Quite a remarkable experience)


 One of the bedrooms at Mikimbizi





In Dar, you must go on a TukaTuk, they are so much fun. They also have motorbikes and taxi's if you would prefer but while in Africa, why not experience their life style? The main form of transport is a Dala Dala. Whether you are in Dar or Iringa, a Dala Dala is the transport as this is their version of a bus. Dala Dala's can be very cramped as they do not have a limit as to how many people can get on one. Sometimes you can expect to be rubbing bums with a local and it is perfectly normal. A piece of advice though for a Dala Dala, do not be afraid to push. If you are sat/stood near the back and need to get off, just push your way through everyone as this is normal to them. There isn't a way of saying excuse me, you just have to wriggle your way out, which is hilarious! The coach from Dar Es Salaam to Iringa is 15,000 Tsh and 8 hours long so make sure you have something to occupy your mind with.


    Dala Dala                                                                TukaTuk


A Dala Dala costs 300 Tsh which is very cheap. A TukaTuk can cost anything up to 15,000 Tsh as you aren't sharing with anyone else and is kind of a luxury form of transport. Also, a taxi can cost up to 45,000 Tsh which is what is used to transport your luggage as the other forms of transport are not equipped to carry large items.

Original Volunteers will tell you the transfer cost is £45, however I didn't pay a particular sum. I paid for the taxi from the airport to Geoffrey's which was 45,000 Tsh, and then a TukaTuk from Geoffrey's to the coach station which was 30,000. Just ensure you have enough money stored to pay for transport to and from places.


Social life

I must admit, I am a little bit of a recluse when it comes to going out however the volunteers that are there (usually the ones that are there for a length of time) will know the best places to go out for drinks. You will find that you may spend a lot of time with the volunteers in the house, playing card games or other types of games which are good to get to know one another. There is restaurants (not restaurants that we would expect) where you can go for food such as Mama's Kitchen and Neema's (you must buy a Rolex from here, it is an omelette wrapped in a chapatti, which is gorgeous! They also have WiFi which you can buy for 1000 Tsh here too). There is opportunities to go on Safari's while there, just ask the other volunteers who wants to go and you can all chip in together. Ask Willhard about finding a good person to go on a safari with as he knows a lot of people who are very cheap, similarly, if you find none of the volunteers in your house want to go, Willhard can find other volunteers that you can go with.

The locals are very friendly and will always talk to you when you are walking around. It is very easy to make new friends whether this is with other volunteers or the locals. Just get out and experience everything you can whilst you can. The social life is what you make it. If you are a quiet and reserved person then there is the restaurants or looking round the Masai markets, or if you are a party-person then the pubs there are just as good. 


Things to do, things not to do

  • Go on a safari
  • Visit all the projects
  • Learn some Swahili as it is respectful and the locals admire it
  • Keep hydrated
  • Take malaria tablets
  • Do not be afraid to ask for help/advice
  • Take lots of suncream and inspect repellent
  • Be vigilant. You are more likely to be a victim of theft if you wave your money and valuables around
  • Be prepared to eat with flies and live with cockroaches
  • Be prepared for walking lots and being cramped on journeys
  • Be prepared to haggle for things as they believe that because you are Western you have a lot of money. DO NOT BE FOOLED!
  • Go to the Masai Market
  • Respect clothing wishes. Ensure you do not have tight clothes on and if you are a guy, DO NOT take your top off, no matter how hot it is. It is offensive.
  • Bring a torch as there are no street lights and if you do go out for the night with the other volunteers, you will not be able to see anything
  • Be careful when crossing the road as there isn't many traffic lights. Just keep your wits about you and follow the lead of the locals. Also the traffic is constantly beeping (their horns) so if you are in the way they will beep at you before hitting you!
  • Buy a Tanzanian phone and Sim Card. These are very inexpensive as can last you a very long time. Alternatively, buy an unlocked English phone from here and take it to Tanzania to use with their Sim Card.
  • Ask Geoffrey about the beach near Dar. You pay 200 Tsh to travel on a ferry (nothing like in the UK) to the beach about 10 minutes away. The views are stunning. (I forgot the name of the beach, sorry!)  


 Beach, 10 minutes from Dar Es Salaam on a Ferry


One of the many animals you will see on the Safari (Ruhaha is a MUST go. Amazing)


  • Travel alone at night
  • Keep all of your money and valuables with you
  • Drink the water unless you have tablet to purify it. The bottled water is really cheap as a 1L bottle of water costs only 1000-1500 Tsh
  • Be afraid to talk to the locals. They are very friendly and the majority of the time they just want to hear you talk 


Useful Contacts

You will be given the number of Willhard before you go so do not be worried about getting lost or not being able to contact someone whilst there. Obtain Original Volunteers' email and phone number so you can ask questions before you go. 

Before you go


Look at the Original Volunteers website as there is a lot of information on it, however it is also a wise move to read about Tanzania and check out the government website about what is the recent happenings in Tanzania. If you can, find a Travel Buddy if you are going alone, these are on the Original Volunteers website too. Buy a phrase book as this can help you a great deal. This isn't a necessity as you can easily pick up the language whilst out there and also Willhard, Ino and Geoffrey will help you. Swahili to learn: 


  • Mambo - How are things
  • Poa - Cool
  • Habari - How are you
  • Nzuri - Good/fine
  • Karibu - Welcome
  • Asante/Asante Sana - Thank you/Thank you very much
  • Mzungu - White person (said a lot to you, however they do not mean it maliciously)
  • Shikamo - (Do not know what it means but it is a respectful greeting to an elder)
  • Marahaba - (Response to Shikamo. Children may say Shikamo, to which you reply Marahaba)
  • Maji - Water
  • Kwaheri - Goodbye
  • Tafadhali - Please

Make sure you have all the recommended tablets and injections. These can be obtained from the doctors, however there are some you will need and others you don't. The doctors will say you need Rabies but it isn't necessary. I would recommend to have Hep A and B and Typhoid. I had Malerone as my malaria tablet and it was around £1.60 a tablet, however there are cheaper versions of malaria tablets but these tend to have more side affects.


If possible do some sort of fundraiser to gather some money before you go as although Tanzania is cheap, the projects are running out of funding making it very difficult to provide the best they can, therefore if something needs doing such as painting, rebuilding something, buying chickens, you have to pay for it in order to help. Although this sounds rather cheeky, it helps the locals tremendously.


Ensure you have enough money. You can take US Dollars or English money and get it changed at the airport in Dar Es Salaam. The exchange rate (although ever changing) is 2500 Tsh to £1. If you do not have enough money, you can easily take money out of their cash machines or use the local banks if you have extra Dollars or Pounds spare, although the exchange rate is meant to be lower here.










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