Andrea Taylor is a recent college graduate from Missouri State University. Andrea grew up in low to middle class single parent home in Joplin, Missouri. As a teenager she was frustrated with her family’s financial struggles wishing she had what others had. Once she reached college she started to realize what truly matters is how one is on the inside not what type of things he/she may own. Doing good became more important than thinking about what “good” things other people may have. Before she graduated she spent her senior year winter break volunteering with two girlfriends in Tanzania. The time she spent volunteering solidified her new outlook and changed her life in wonderful ways.
Why did you choose to volunteer abroad? I chose to volunteer abroad because I was looking for something more. At the time, I wasn’t sure what that something was. I was going through a phase in life that I feel like every young adult goes through. I was graduating in 6 months and I wasn’t really sure what my purpose was. I did an Alternative Spring Break the year before I traveled to Tanzania. I worked with Refugee Family Services which is located Clarkston, Georgia. Refugees from all over the world are brought to America and placed in Clarkston. I learned so much about many different cultures. I think what I enjoyed most was hearing the stories from the families I worked with. I was so moved by their stories. It wasn’t until after that trip that I realized I wanted more. I wanted to travel to these countries and actually experience the life these individuals lived.
Did you work through a volunteer organization? I did my volunteer abroad quest through an organization called United Planet. United Planet works to foster cross-culture communication. I was very pleased with the support this organization had. I knew there was no way I could afford the funds out of pocket. I was able to raise all my funds for the trip to Tanzania. The organization helped me set up a fundraising page, which allowed family and friends to go online and donate. I was also able to raise money through business sponsors as well as hosting fundraising events at local restaurants.
How did you find/choose your particular organization? One of my girl friends that I went with found the organization in some research and after speaking with the trip coordinator, we made the choice to go through United Planet. The organization provided us with all the information we needed: vaccinations to get, a list of their most common terms used, certain laws and regulations that we needed to know, and so much more.
Where, when and how long did you volunteer? I volunteered for two weeks in Tanzania, Africa. (Dar es Salaam)
What was your job while volunteering? A typical day? I spent my mornings working with an Orphanage, where we practiced English and played soccer. I went back to my host families house for lunch, then I’d walk with my host brother to the community center where I spent the rest of the evening. I participated in many different types of volunteer work at the Community Center. This worked varied from teaching social media, preparing for weekly acrobatic shows, learning traditional dancing, reading to the little kids, teaching English to the young adults and helping them understand the proper way to speak.
How did you save/raise money to pay for your volunteer expenses?I raised most of my money from fundraising on my First Giving page. I was also able to get business sponsors. I raised about $500 doing a fundraiser at Buffalo Wild Wings. They donated 15% of the food sales for an entire day to my trip!
Do you feel your presence and work made a difference? I know my presence and work made a difference, not only in the lives of those in Tanzania, but in my personal life. I felt like a different person when I was in Tanzania. There is just a feeling that overcomes you when you are in a third world country. Two weeks wasn’t enough. I was just starting to get used to the lifestyle. I continue to stay in touch with my host family. I send them care packages when I get the chance. Luckily, I am able to stay in contact with my host brother. We communicate via Facebook daily. He reminds me how special of a person I am to him and his family. His mother was in pain because of problems that she had with her knees. I use peppermint oil on sore areas of my body and I had a bottle with me while I was in Tanzania. I would rub the oil on her knees every day and give her 2 Tylenol three times a day. Before leaving the country, I gave my host brother both the oil and the bottle of Tylenol and explained to him how to use both. They were very grateful. I also sent over a bag full of clothes, shoes and books with a UP volunteer last month. She took the bag to the community center that I volunteered at. I remember reading to the kids at the center and they LOVED American books. I told a lady I worked with about how much the kids loved American books, and she gave me about 10 children’s books to send over. I may be miles and miles away from my friends in Tanzania, but I can still make a difference in their lives. I plan to continue sending over necessities to Tanzania through United Planet.
Would you recommend volunteering abroad? Why or Why not? I absolutely recommend volunteering abroad. Your eyes will be open to what life truly is. Life isn’t about material things or how much money you have. The true meaning to life is learning to love and care for those around it. It’s about learning to live in happiness with what little you have. The people I met in Tanzania were so poor. They literally had nothing. But yet they were the most joyful, loving people I had ever been around in my life. Something within you just changes when you are there and all of a sudden your problems seem so small. Volunteering abroad also makes you appreciate the little things you are blessed with here in the US. For example, our functioning Government, the laws and regulations that we have to protect our citizens, clean water, toilet paper, and so much more.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before your volunteer experience started? I wish I would have known more about their government and their beliefs. I also wish I would have known more of their native language along with the different African tribes that were in the country.
I know that my life has forever been changed because of those children and families that I met in Africa. I know that my problems are so minor compared to the problems that many others face. I know that I am able to overcome any obstacle in life. And most importantly, I know how to “love naively. give generously. be foolishly compassionate (artfeeds.org)”
Have you volunteered abroad? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story.