How I funded my journey to volunteer in Tanzania

When I was a junior in college, I decided I wanted to use my winter break of college to volunteer in East Africa. I had been studying Swahili for almost three years and I wanted the opportunity to really immerse myself in the culture and language of Tanzania, while being able to volunteer my time in the community.

I began researching volunteer programs, but once I found Cross-Cultural Solutions, I knew I had found the perfect fit for my goals. The volunteer work paired with the afternoon cultural and learning activities was exactly what I was looking for. Not only would I be able to give my time and talents to a local nursery school, I also would be able to strengthen my language skills, explore the community, and truly immerse myself in the culture and people of Tanzania.

Group of young Tanzanian schoolchildren smiling for the camera

I knew that CCS would allow me to experience things I wouldn’t be able to do on my own, like hear lectures from professors and doctors in the area as well as visit a market place that is usually blocked off to tourists. I couldn’t wait to enroll and begin preparing for what I knew was going to be an amazing journey!

When I enrolled, I knew that it would be my responsibility to fundraise for my program contribution. To be honest, I was very overwhelmed at first. I knew fundraising would be a long journey and I really wasn’t sure how to go about asking my social network to help support my journey of volunteering abroad.

After some brainstorming sessions, I decided to host a cultural dinner for my friends and family. My mom and I researched some traditional East African dishes and did our best to bring the recipes to life. With a table set with delicious smelling meat stews, rice, beans, fruit, ugali and a jug of ginger beer, we opened our home to family and friends. During the dinner, I gave a presentation about why I chose to volunteer in Tanzania and what I would be doing while there.

My guests were happy to contribute towards my program, as I explained how their contribution was going to help support a sustainable teaching position in a local nursery school for a month and that their contributions were going to improve education for about 40 students. Their donations were going to give children a better opportunity to learn and grow. Ultimately, I was able to fundraise my entire program contribution by inspiring others to pay it forward and give their yearly charitable donation to improving the lives of children in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

As word got out about my program, more and more people from my hometown were inspired to contribute. After my grandmother casually mentioned my upcoming travels to her close friends, I even started getting checks in the mail from her friends I never met. They were so inspired by my passion to help that they wanted to be a part of the experience. I even received a note from one of her friends that I still have today. In it, the sponsor told me she would have loved to have an experience like this when she were my age, but by donating towards my program she felt like she could be a part of my efforts.

While teaching in Kilimanjaro, I took a picture of every student. When I returned home I sent a thank you note to everyone who contributed towards my program, not just from me, but from my students, too. Each sponsor now has a picture from a student they directly helped.

Fundraising might seem intimidating at first, but it is important to remember that these donations are not going just to support your time abroad, but towards the much larger goal of supporting a community that is in need of a teacher, a nurse, a business professional, a friend, and so much more.

Kids playing on the teeter-totter in Tanzania


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