For a long while, I had been thinking about escaping London and doing some voluntary work abroad. Having reached and exceeded the ripe old age of 30, I figured now was a good-a-time as any to do so. I have absolutely zero regrets regarding the decision I made – I have really enjoyed myself out here!Prior to joining Cedar Tanzania, I worked as a consultant for a FinTech company in London, and, prior to that, I spent 8 years in glorious Bristol, studying a MSci and PhD in chemistry.
What inspired you to volunteer with Cedar Tanzania?
An up-to-date website is a rare thing for NGOs in these parts. It was great to get a real-time feel for the amazing and inspirational work that Cedar Tanzania are doing here in Mwanza/ Nyamatongo District. I had a chance to speak to Claire, the Executive Director, who was a delight and very reassuring with regards to what I might be able to contribute to the team. The diversity of projects being run here was immediately appealing, as well as the clear vision that Cedar Tanzania sets out, which I also don't find with many other NGOs that I researched.In addition to that, I was quite keen to skip a cold, bleak, grey British winter for once.
How long is your volunteer placement?
Three and a half months.
What is your role at Cedar Tanzania?
I'm helping transition the Cedar Tanzania Accounting Team from MS Excel to an off-the-shelf accounting software system, which will provide significant improvements to their accounting abilities as well as efficiency savings for accounting team and the NGO. I've also been involved in writing an application to a section of the Tanzanian Government and teaching some of the staff at the Kamanga Health Centre how to cook chilli con carne (which isn't strictly speaking in my job description, but it's been fun).
Can you mention highlights of some of the activities that you have been involved in whilst you have worked for Cedar?
Well, all of my colleagues are great, which is always a good start. It was immediately evident when I started working here that everyone is really passionate about their work and about delivering upon Cedar Tanzania's vision. I've been given a lot of autonomy over what I do, but with plenty of support when I've needed it. Accounting isn't a particularly glamorous job, but it's been really rewarding supporting an NGO and knowing that my small contribution helps the NGO operate more efficiently and continue to deliver their outstanding work within the Nyamatongo community.
What things have challenged you so far?
Navigating in the dark around the potholes in the pavements here. And not succumbing to the temptation of eating ‘chips mayai’* every day.
What things have you found enjoyable or surprising about Tanzanian culture either socially or at work?
I love the Tanzanian attitude to life. It's much more relaxed and friendlier than what I've experienced in the majority of Western Europe. Almost everyone here is keen to chat and seem to enjoy my very broken and limited attempts at speaking Kiswahili. No one seemed to enjoy that on the London Underground. Also, the food you find at the little hawkers dotted along the roads or in the villages is delicious, and almost everyone here is a great dancer. I'm not a great dancer, if you were wondering. But I've picked up some moves that I execute poorly.
What would you say to anyone who said that they could not volunteer because they didn't have a skill to offer?
If you are already interested in volunteering abroad, if you already have that desire to take yourself out of your comfort zone and do something different, if you want to immerse yourself in a totally different culture and give your time and energy to help others who live a very different and likely less fortunate lifestyle than yourself, then you already have what it takes to volunteer at Cedar Tanzania. There is no shortage of work to be done, no shortage of inspirational projects to get involved in, and I don't doubt that you'd have a great time volunteering here. I certainly have.
*Chips mayai – a Tanzanian dish of fried chips in an omelette.
Written by Mwanza head office volunteer and self professed excellent chilli con carne chef, Adam Nunns!