Julia volunteered at Watoto Wetu in Kimara, Dar Es Salaam, for 4 months and arrived in Winter 2013.
She is originally from Sweden and at the time she was a nursing student at university.
1. What was your first impression when you arrived?
I was overwhelmed and excited at the same time! Dar Es Salaam seemed to be such a vibrant city with lots of people and movement.
2. What was your hosting situation like?
I was living with a host family that was very close to the orphanage where I was working.
I was sharing the room with another volunteer from Switzerland, which I was very happy about. We talked about everything and soon enough we became very close friends.
3. What did your typical day look like?
I used to wake up at around 7 a.m. in the morning. After breakfast, we would head to Watoto Wetu to spend our day there and help out with several tasks - sometimes we even had dinner at the project, because we were staying there until late.
My role was to look after the children, help them with their homework and play with them.
A good thing about Watoto Wetu is that there are plenty of activities you can do - you can discuss with the staff what your skills and interests are and plan your schedule accordingly.
4. What were you up to when you were not volunteering?
When I was not volunteering, I travelled around Tanzania as much as I could: I climbed Uluguru mountain near Morogoro, visited the area around Kilimanjaro, went to Zanzibar, did a safari in the Serengeti and explored the city of Dar Es Salaam, together with its beaches.
The different clubs in Dar Es Salaam were one of the things I enjoyed the most! Also the streetfood was great and I miss it so much..
Tanzania is by far the best country I have ever visited (and I have travelled a lot) and I would love to repeat my experience again any day without thinking twice.
5. What was the most difficult thing about your experience?
Two things mainly: the first was the cultural differences between my country and Tanzania; the second was blending in as a Scandinavian girl - sometimes it was fun, but other times it was overwhelming.
I also got homesick quite a lot, but I surrounded myself with the warmth of the local people, so I soon created my own Tanzanian family there! The time flew by so fast, before I knew it I was back in my home country and my heart was just so full of emotions.
Lastly, I found it hard to get to know the children and their backgrounds properly - I guess the only thing I could do was being there, laugh, play with them and show them love!
6. What was the best thing about your experience?
I'd say the length of time I chose to be there for. Fours months allowed me to have enough time to get to know the people I was working with and to build a close relationship with the children at the project. It also gave me time to experience Tanzania on my own during weekends.
The children were absolutely amazing and I was surprised by how happy and full of life they were, even though they had experienced a tough start in life.
The people in Tanzania are incredible, and the support you get from United Planet Tanzania is also extremely good!