A week in Review
Monday, I went back to the hot springs with two friends to celebrate their last week of 3 months volunteering in hospitals in Arusha. It was lovely to see the spring when it was less busy and a great way to enjoy some of the final days of their company.
Tuesday was more work at the hospital. I also had a meeting with my professor and academic advisor during a power outage. On Wednesday, after a day of work at the hospital, the hospital staff bus stopped for exercise, which was a 12-kilometer run on the side of a major road complete with music and some walking. Some hospital staff even set up fruit in water stations with the Salien ambulances. It was great community building and nice to be a part of, but I really wish I had been warned, so I didn’t have to run it in scrubs and a long sleeve shirt.
On Thursday and Friday at the foundation, I was able to get oil to finish fixing the wheelchair donated to one of the children with cerebral palsy and brought the same friends from the hot spring to meet the children before saying goodbye to them that night at group dinner.
Saturday and Sunday were spent helping my roommate pack and preparing for the next one before attempting to handwash laundry again. Sunday, I went to several markets with my host mama watching her prepare to feed six volunteers and her entire family for the week.
While goodbyes are difficult for everyone, I realize how lucky I am to have made connections and friends with other volunteers that makes every Thursday dinner a little bit sad. This week I said goodbye to the last of the volunteers that arrived before me and taught me so much about navigating Arusha and what weekend excursion to go on.
Instead of genuinely saying goodbye we say see you later with an invite to visit our home countries, from France, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, and the UK, to a state over from where I live all the way to Japan and New Zealand. It’s been wonderful making friends and connecting with others over volunteering and life in Africa before comparing our home countries. This is all thanks to Projects Abroad. I underestimated all the benefits of traveling through an organization. Airport pick up, help with a SIM card, and help learning how to get to my placements were all expected. However, a staff that checks in on me weekly and treat me like family is beyond lovely and weekly dinners or Swahili and culture classes to help me get the full Tanzanian experience and build friendships with other volunteers. Not to mention giving me a wonderful host family and all the previously mentioned new friends. When applying for Lumos I was incredibly critical of international volunteer organizations, as the whole concept of voluntourism and white savior ideology is something I don’t take lightly. It was important to me that whoever I chose to travel with and volunteer theough did it in a holistic way that supports the community and local professionals. My objective while here is to learn and observe different occupational therapy treatments and education of disabled people and children while challenging myself to learn a new culture and language. I feel that projects abroad allow me to do that without fear of harming the community or diluting the culture I am here to learn from and help a little.
Mary Kate Parmer