My name is Livia Copley. I am 20 years old and I come from a small town called Zug in central Switzerland. I have a diploma in business and have recently completed a one year internship at a law firm as a receptionist and an assistant. I arrived here in Mwanza on the 2nd of October and I am looking forward to spending the next two months volunteering for Cedar Tanzania.
1. What inspired you to volunteer with Cedar Tanzania?
I had thought about doing something for a charity for years but never seriously did anything about it. After visiting the Eskdales, who are passionately committed to Cedar and are very good family friends in Switzerland, I heard all about what Cedar Tanzania is doing here in Mwanza and I was motivated to come and help. The way Cedar Tanzania deals with issues by trying to understand the people and their needs, and by not just imposing a project for the sake of it, is admirable.
2. How long is your volunteer placement?
My placement is for two months.
3. What is your role at Cedar Tanzania?
My role is to assist wherever I am needed. I am working closely with Claire, the Operations and Funding Manager. Currently I am researching and helping to write a proposal regarding the Special Needs Education Project, to be ready for a visit by Interteam.
4. What things have you found surprising?
I have come to Mwanza with a very open mind, so I haven’t really experienced many surprises as much as new insights on the different ways of living between our cultures.
5. What things have you enjoyed?
I have enjoyed just observing my surroundings and taking in all the differences between Tanzania and Switzerland. It has also been interesting to read about the different issues here.
I am hoping to be able to discuss my research findings in more depth with the Cedar team, as this will encourage other view points and will also help me to form new ideas.
6. What things have challenged you so far?
I often find myself wondering if something is safe to eat! I also feel challenged by the lack of personal space here in Mwanza. The lack of hygiene for example that I have noticed around Kamanga village and on the ferry have made me insecure on how close I can get to my fellow passengers! I think hearing and reading so much about health safety has made me a bit overly concerned about infections. Both of these things, I think, will get easier with time as I get used to living here.
7. What would you say to anyone who said that they could not volunteer because they didn't have a skill to offer?
Anybody can help in some way. I have only just finished my business diploma and don’t have a lot of experience in the workplace and none in this field of special needs research, but I can read and write! I have found that with these skills and the general knowledge that I have built up in business school, I can research topics and assist in writing proposals very adequately.
Being interested in what Cedar Tanzania is doing goes a long way too, as anybody can discuss a topic and think of new ideas and ways to help.
In my opinion, skills that are often taken for granted in European countries, can come in very handy here in Tanzania, e.g. skills in using Microsoft programs and social networking etc.
8. Would you recommend this volunteer scheme to others?
I am at the beginning of my volunteering time with Cedar Tanzania, but what I have seen and heard, regarding the way Cedar is trying to help, is something that I feel more people need to come and experience for themselves.