"I want to be someone who does more" - my volunteer experience
I always planned to travel. I have always been fascinated by people and love experiencing new cultures and ways of life. When the opportunity to travel to Africa presented itself I immediately said, “YES”! And after celebrating the fact that I would be traveling to a place that is so opposite from my everyday reality, I began to panic. I’ve read all of these stories about voluntourism gone wrong, and about how most tour groups tend to hurt rather than help the communities they work in in the long run. My anxieties stemmed from the thought that I was really underqualified to volunteer and that I was going to make a fool of myself for trying. Who am I to go and try and save the day? Do I have any of the skills necessary to make a positive impact? Am I making a huge mistake?
So, here’s what I’ve figured out so far. BeSomeOne is super transparent with its volunteers. All of the money goes directly to the people that need it most. Funds go towards scholarships for students, salary for teachers, building materials for projects and general upkeep, and more. All of the work being done in the village is facilitated by the villagers themselves. BeSomeOne is a tool used to facilitate the work that the Maasai people want to see done in their village. This is not a mission trip in a religious sense, there is no religion tied to the trips being taken. (I’m not a religious person, so that would have been an issue for me.) The school has become an integral part of the lives of the villagers and has given more children than ever before the opportunity to receive a quality education that works hard to maintain the culture of the Maasai tribe.
In recent months I have become increasingly concerned with women’s equality and the bridging of the gender gap. How do I maintain my beliefs and fight for them in a village that culturally and traditionally upholds practices such as FGM and child marriage? This one was/is a tricky one to come to terms with. The best answer I have received is that it is something that is on track to be changed. With the school that was built in the village, young women are able to receive an education, and with that comes the choice to deny child marriage. With education there are more opportunities to take on leadership roles within the Maasai community. With the jewelry project, KIPAWA, women of all ages are able to take ownership of their own business and become empowered to live a life that is more free. Change happens on a small scale, and things take time, but the efforts of BeSomeOne are making a difference. A difference I may not be able to see if I volunteer for a week or two, but change is happening.
My biggest concern when I was deciding to volunteer in Tanzania, was that I want to actually make a lasting positive impact. I want to be utilized for the skills I actually possess. And I really don’t want to make a fool out of myself when I go to the village as a silly white mid-westerner with little to no experience with volunteering.
So after existing in this dark and stormy cloud of dread and doubt that I am not actually going to make a difference (And I won’t really know until I have gone and done the thing) I have decided to try. I am not a builder, but I am a fast learner and I know how to wield a hammer. I am not a teacher, but I am an actor and improvisor and I love working with kids. I am not a jewelry maker, but I do have years of experience working at a crafting store. This is the first non-profit I have ever worked with, and I think that I am choosing right. I want to go, I want to be wanted, I want to be someone who does more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty excited to go on safari and travel to Zanzibar Island and do all of the touristy stuff that Africa offers. But that is nowhere near as important to me as using all of the skills that I posses to improve the lives of those who have asked for help.