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Our time in Tanzania With The Florentina Foundation

In this blog, our Global Experience Opportunity interns will be writing a series of weekly blogs from their experience of working with the Florentina Foundation in Tanzania, a non-profit development organisation in developing countries in Africa. They aim to contribute to the educational and medical development of children, mothers and their immediate environment, including parents and family. This blog will be based upon their experience of local culture, sights and their work on the internship. Our students will also be updating you on what they have been getting involved in and enjoying each week!

Week 1

On the way to our final destination of Tanzania, Veronica and I first got to meet in Dubai, which allowed to us to get to know each other – this helped making the arrival to Tanzania less daunting as we could support each other.  

There was some miscommunication regarding the time of our arrival, however, we were able to overcome this by contacting Sister Immaculate. On the first night, we tried to not to sleep too much, allowing us to make the most of our first day and get used to the time difference.

The first day was exciting, we explored the centre and met all of the sisters. They are all very welcoming and friendly, preparing delicious food for us three times a day. The food was not what either of us expected, with there being a diverse range of tastes and selections to choose from. Also, we met a couple of the kids that are staying with the sisters and they’re all very friendly and it has been nice bonding with them through learning as well as playing Frisbee and football. 

During the weekend, we went to Arusha and were able to experience some of the city. However, we were only taken to a supermarket and Pizza Hut, which didn’t feel that we were really experiencing the culture of Tanzania like we had hoped. Sister Immaculate may have done this to ease us into their culture, as our next trip later in the week allowed us to explore their market, which was much greater than the local one to the centre. We really enjoyed seeing the various fruits and friendly people that would make conversation with us as we walked past. 

On the Monday, we both sat down to try to plan the project out in order to come up with a comprehensive schedule and plan for the ensuing research. Whilst waiting for the two students from Groningen to join us, we were pre-emptive about setting out a plan for the four of us to all abide by. Instead, we made a good start planning our project without covering all components of the rest of our research – in doing so this enables us to work collaboratively with the Groningen students upon their arrival. In our initial plan we covered whom we will aim our research at and the logistics, such as; where, what time, as well as what types of questions would be appropriate in order to best utilise our time conducting research. We felt like the timing of our report would be an important aspect for our safety at night as well as from the sun. Moreover, we started to plan people that would be interesting to interview, however, addressing the need for one of the sisters to translate during our interviews. 

Today we got to know the other two students on the internship. It has been a pleasure to meet more students and show them what we have seen and learnt of the local culture and language – Swahili. We have been eager to book a Safari for the following weekend, discussing with the sisters which ones were recommended. It was a nice day welcoming them, ending with us climbing a hill and taking pictures of the sunset. We are really looking forward to exploring more of Tanzania, such as the Hot Springs and national parks.

Week 2

Karibu! Time flies and we have already spent two weeks here in Tanzania! Although our research project had a slow start, it is now coming together quite well. The past week our team has started to interview the villagers to find out about their perceptions towards the Elizabeth Centre and how it contributes to the local community. We have heard many inspiring stories and opinions from the sisters, teachers and former students as well as the village leader.

We have worked a lot on the project, however we have also had a bit of time to enjoy Tanzanian nature. In the beginning of the week we had a relaxing afternoon visiting nearby hot springs, which was such a refreshing experience. It has only been seven days since Fleur and Lars joined us, however it already feels like we have known each other for ages!  Also, the children started school on Monday, which has made the previously quiet centre full of life. The primary school students are always really excited to see us, running to us and holding our hands while we walk through the school yard. Despite our Swahili not being fluent enough to have a full conversation with the younger kids, we still enjoy playing with them.

On two days this week we have taught secondary school students, first on Tuesday I taught form 3 students debate. On Wednesday, Fleur and I introduced them the basics of interviews and impromptu speeches. Meanwhile Ryan was teaching form 1 students directions in English, and Lars was opening up the world of geography to form 2. With all the hard work we have been doing the past few days, a bit of fun is needed and so I am writing this post in backseat of a Jeep, on our way to the three day Safari we are about to have this weekend! Really excited to see the Big 5 – I am sure Ryan will tell you all about it next week so make sure you read his blog to find out what happened!

Week 3

During our third week in Tanzania, we had just come back from a three-day safari, which had motivated us to continue making good progress with the research. The safari started on the Friday, where we were picked up and taken to Tarrengetti. The park’s landscape was flat, with the sort of terrain that you would expect during a safari, we saw many Zebras, elephants, giraffes, baboons and gazelles. The food provided was not ideal, and we think that it made one of us ill. However, the general experience of this park will stay with us for the rest of our lives, particularly the last 20 minutes where a herd Elephants passed our car and played in the water.

The second day of the safari offered one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Ngorogoro is a very large and beautiful park. The day started with us ascending 2000 metres to the top of the crater; driving through the mist to be rewarded with an amazing view of what was awaiting us below. The crater was much larger than any of us had anticipated, with a flat terrain once we had descended. Due to the vast size, our contact with the animals was limited and provided a different view of the wildlife as were not as close as Tarrengetti. However, we got to enjoy a wider range of animals including lions and buffalo. We even saw a Rhino – although even with the binoculars, it was difficult to see it!

The last day of the safari was at Lake Manyara. This park was very different to the other parks, with the size being much smaller due to the lake taking up a large proportion of it. There were many monkeys, baboons and birds to see in this park, also coming in close contact with a family of elephants. Unfortunately, whilst we did manage to get up close to the flamingos we did get to leave the car to see the hot springs and an old bridge into the lake.

Once we got back, we were motivated to conduct research the next day. We took a translator into the village with us and managed to get a couple of responses. Over the next few days we went with several translators to gather more data, obtaining over 35 responses. We are happy with the results gathered from these interviews and it has allowed us to begin writing up the report.

On the Friday, we travelled to the West side of Kilimanjaro, where some Sisters were running one of nearby Hospitals. It was interesting to see the differences from the hospitals in the UK, also helping us to consider options for the Elizabeth Centre. The landscape was beautiful and impressive, but we could not see Kilimanjaro due to the clouds. Furthermore, it was really interesting to see how the workers would separate the beans from their stalk!

Overall, it has been a very busy week. It has been one that has offered a diverse range of events and provided some of most memorable moments during our trip. We are looking forward to finishing the report as well as planning some of the last trips within Tanzania.

Week 4

After days of analysing data and writing up our findings, we finally finished our report at the beginning of this week. The feeling of accomplishing our goal is uplifting and this atmosphere has allowed us to spend rest of the week playing with the children and exploring the area. On Wednesday we went to the eastside of Kilimanjaro to explore the waterfall in Marangu region. A former student of the Elizabeth Centre joined us to be our guide for the day, which was very helpful. Thanks to him, we were able to gather more information of the area and explore places we otherwise would not have known about. After the waterfall, we visited a small coffee plantation to learn how coffee is actually made. I have never tasted coffee as delicious as this – considering my country Finland is the number one coffee drinkers in the world so I do drink a fair amount myself. We bought some coffee beans to take home and ended our trip with a visit to Moshi – the town right on the bottom of Kilimanjaro.

We also had our last week of teaching which made us realise how quickly the time passed. We had a little goodbye party in the class and to our surprise the students had got us little leaving presents. Tomorrow is when we part our ways, me being the first one to leave for a little Zanzibar holiday. The bond we have built amongst our team has grown so strong it will be sad to say goodbye to everyone. However, I strongly believe we will meet someday despite living countries apart.

Although four weeks is a short time, it is safe to say that this has been one of the most memorable experiences in my life. Working on the research project with this wonderful team and with the locals has been rewarding in multiple ways, not only boosting our employability skills but also by increasing our personal development.

I am sure to speak for the whole team when I say that we all have gained great amount of experience during our time in Tanzania and we would love to come back one day!

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