As a pre-medical student in college, I came to Moshi, Tanzania seeking a volunteer experience in healthcare. My idealized visions saw myself helping people in a clinic or hospital. After a few weeks in a local government hospital where I only worked half days, I came to the realization that the hospital did not need more staff instead they needed more resources and training. Things I was not able to provide. Although a number of people had already told me, I learned the best way to make positive change in the healthcare industry is with an MD at the end of your name. While still working mornings at the hospital (everyday when I left for lunch they said, “See you tomorrow”, i.e. we do not need you in the afternoon), I was seeking out volunteer opportunities, not limiting myself to healthcare.
I met Theresa at one of her potluck dinners and immediately saw the hop in her step and the spark in her eye. She was here to make a difference and she had the professional background, caring heart, and strong work ethic to make it happen. I expressed interest in helping her with her cause and sent her a copy of my resume. When we finally met to figure out how I could help Make A Difference (MAD), she had looked at my resume and identified my skills and strengths matching them with the needs of MAD. She had a list of things from painting rooms in the guesthouse (I spent last summer painting) to updating the website (I was a computer science minor in college). She understood that I was going to be most beneficial if I was enjoying what I was doing. She gave me the option to take up a project I felt passionate about. I performed administrative work for a week or so before focusing on redesigning the website. I have always wanted to design a website. I have just never had a complying enough reason to do one. Theresa wanted the website to have certain aesthetic and functional features, and I was able to translate those to the web designer. In addition Theresa and I have had numerous conversations about MAD marketing and communications with the donors, especially related to social media. We are actively working to streamline and outsource as many administrative operations as possible, so Theresa can focus on the important activities of running the organization.
To supplement my administrative work, I have accompanied Emmanuel, Theresa’s local Tanzanian assistant, to the orphanage in Himo several times. I enjoy partaking in the reading program and simply playing with the children. I am constantly amazed how polite and happy the children always are. Spending time with them gives the work I do for MAD a lasting significance and really puts my whole life into perspective.
With roughly two weeks here in Moshi, I am starting to wrap up my work with Theresa and making sure the next volunteer is able to pick up where I left off. I can honestly say I have enjoyed working with Theresa and her staff and have learned skills that I will use in my future jobs. It’s funny. I came to Africa looking to help others and I can honestly say I have done that. But this experience has helped me grow as a person and instilled in me a desire to maintain a relationship with Africa and Make A Difference which I believe will facilitate a greater impact than anyone can do in three months of work.