Monday 2 Feb, 2015

The EF Service Learning Experience: Tanzania

Have you ever wondered what an EF and Me to We Service Learning tour is like? Our international partnerships with Me to We and Free the Children, their award-winning charity, give you and your students local access to communities around the globe.

Get a glimpse into Tanzania with Jodie Collins, a Free the Children employee who has lived in Kenya and Tanzania for five years. Jodie directs Free the Children projects that support the development of their Adopt a Village model, as well as the communities in which Free the Children works. Here’s a look at Longido, Tanzania, just one of the many communities you could be helping on a Service Learning Tour.

Arriving in Kilimanjaro—Your Journey Begins

As you fly into Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport mid-afternoon, you may be lucky enough to see its stunning namesake, Mount Kilimanjaro. Most people flying into this airport will be preparing to climb this legendary mountain, to endure the effects of altitude, and to test their physical and mental strength.

For those beginning an EF and Me to We Service Learning Tour, the journey takes them in a different direction—unlike the thrill-seeking mountain climbers, we are headed towards an experience that will immerse us in the people, culture, and diverse lands of the country. So we head toward Longido region—Free The Children’s newest focus in East Africa.

The Road to Longido

The drive is breathtaking, with spots covered in lush forests, hills and mountains dotting the horizon. As you enter into Longido and approach the village of Engikaret, you realize how this small place got its name—literally meaning “a dry and thorny place.” The dust kicks up as you drive along a crooked and bumpy road, making sure to avoid low-lying acacia bushes. Although you may not see any homes at first glance, children begin to emerge from what seems like nowhere and wave at you excitedly as you drive past.

When you look closer, you will find traditional homes of mud and dung speckled across the dry land.  Families in Longido are predominately Maasai; a semi-nomadic people whose diet consists of occasional meat, locally grown vegetables and fruits, and ugali—a  dense cake made from corn flour and water.

A Day in the Life of Nalangu

While you are there, you might meet someone like Nalangu. After waking up on a bed of sticks next to her many siblings, family members and small livestock, her day-to-day is not easy. Before she heads to school, she is required to help get water for her family. This entails a 20-minute walk to a water source, and a physically demanding trek back to her home while carrying the heavy buckets.

In Tanzania, only 44% of people have access to clean water, and in the rural area of Engikaret, it’s estimated to be closer to only 10%. This means not only is the water hard to access, but can also be a cause of many illnesses.

Although school enrolment isn’t a big challenge within Tanzania, and Nalangu has access to a nearby elementary school, there are not enough classrooms to accommodate her and her peers. Some teachers may conduct classes under a tree, or take turns sharing the classroom. These are two of the main reasons why Free The Children began to partner with these communities, and why it’s the location of one of EF’s newest Service Learning Tours.

After the school day is finished, Nalangu will head home to help fetch more water, assist with her younger siblings, take her family’s goats and cows to graze, and also try to squeeze in her homework before it gets dark, as the family gathers around a few small candles to keep the night out before they head to sleep.

Your Service Learning Tour Experience

Though a typical community member’s day might look like this, EF and Me to We will try to provide visitors to Tanzania with foods they are more familiar with, as well as a few comforts of home.

On your Service Learning Tour, you will, however, get the chance to walk in the shoes of a child like Nalangu, see a home much like the one she and her family live in, spend time at her school, and learn as much as possible about the way of life in Engikaret.

By the time you are preparing to head home, we hope that you will have had experiences that go far beyond that of a typical tourist in Tanzania, and as you head back towards Kilimanjaro to catch your flight, it’s possible that you will never look at your life at home in the same way again.

Change the lives of a community, and the lives of your students on an EF and Me to We Service Learning Tour.