Hugo volunteered at Mehayo in Morogoro, central Tanzania, for 3 months and arrived in Autumn 2014.
He is originally from Sweden and at the time he was a university student.
1. Why did you choose to volunteer?
I have always loved travelling and experiencing new cultures, but this time I wanted to do something different and meaningful - I felt like being a volunteer in Tanzania was the perfect opportunity to explore Africa for the first time.
When it comes to why I chose Mehayo as a project, I did it because I had previously worked with children and enjoyed it a lot; on top of that, I never experienced working with kids with disabilities, so that was a new challenge for me.
2. What was your first impression when you arrived?
My initial impression of Tanzania as a whole was extremely positive: the open-hearted people, the contrasting lifestyle, the food, the culture.. I loved it all from the very first second!
It took a while longer to get used to working and living as a volunteer, since it was quite different from what I expected. < br/> The work at the centre wasn’t as structured as I thought - the staff gave me the freedom to decide how I wanted to contribute to the project. It didn't take long before I got used to this lifestyle - especially thanks to the amazing workers and children at Mehayo.
3. What was your hosting situation like?
At the beginning I lived at Mama Linda's house - she is the founder of Mehayo Centre. I was happy to live with a local because it allowed me to fully experience the Tanzanian lifestyle. She was definitely a wonderful host!
During the last few weeks, I stayed at Mehayo's guesthouse, where most of the volunteers live. That was also a great housing situation.
4. What did your typical day look like?
On a typical day, I would go to Mehayo at around 10 a.m. About an hour later, I would go to the nearby school to meet the children who were able to attend classes and bring them back to the centre. After that, I helped the other workers and the children with everyday duties. Usually, we did some activities in the afternoon - we would go to the nearby football pitch to play or to the pool for an hour of swimming.
5. What were you up to when you were not volunteering?
I often went to Morogoro town to hang out with the other volunteers at a restaurant or a café. When it was nice weather, which happened most of the times, we would go to a hotel to relax and swim. On the weekends, I went on a few trips: I hiked Uluguru mountains, visited Mikumi National Park, spent a weekend in Dar Es Salaam and did many more activities.
6. What was the most difficult thing about your experience?
Life was so different from what I was used to, so sometimes I would get homesick. Although this cultural diversity was the best thing about my experience, I also felt it was the hardest thing to witness. At the beginning, I found it tough to figure out my role at Mehayo as I was given the freedom to decide my work schedule.
7. What was the best thing about your experience?
It is impossible to say what the best thing about my experience was, because everything was so amazing! The country itself was incredible, but the children and the workers at Mehayo were what I loved the most during my 8 weeks as a volunteer. I am extremely grateful I decided to go to Mehayo and to Tanzania, it is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.
8. What did you learn or gain from your volunteer placement?
Coming to Mehayo opened my eyes. It was such an invaluable experience to see how people from this part of the world live and how children with disabilities manage to conduct a happy life despite the hardship of their situation.
I learned a lot about the country and its culture, its language and its customs. Not to mention, I learned a lot about myself.