MAD & SFDC Volunteering, Volunteers of MAD

Day 6 Volunteering with MAD

Happy Independence Day to America! July 4 is a day of celebration for us as Americans, but a bittersweet day as volunteers – it’s our last day with Make A Difference Now in Tanzania.

A volunteer trip with MAD offers opportunities for cultural learning and exchange, so we started our day with a trip to the local market. Simple wooden food stalls offered fruits, vegetables, beans, maize (corn), meat, and animal feed. We were on a mission to buy plaintains to make a typical Tanzanian banana stew – ndizi njegere. We were also tempted by the huge avocados (now in season), tasty tomatoes and the yummy papaya.

Tanzanian market
Local market in Moshi
Banana seller
Bananas are a staple crop of the Kilimanjaro region
Morning shopping basket
Not a bad haul for a morning’s shopping!






Back at the guesthouse, we were met by MAD scholarship students with the traditional greeting – double hugs with a friendly “Jambo” (hello). The students are on summer break now and eager to hang out with the volunteers. Our first order of business was to catalog the needs of the students before they go back to school – clothing, shoes, toiletries, school supplies, and more. As the MAD students are orphans from impoverished backgrounds, they largely rely on Make A Difference donations to get properly outfitted for school. Next we worked with the students to finalize their latest blog post updates. You can check out the posts from each student using the categories at the top of this blog.

Continuing with the cultural exchange, our amazing house cook, Flora, taught us how to make ndizi njegere (that’s the banana stew). Plantains, onions, carrots, tomato, potatoes, coconut, and peas make up this hearty local dish. I can speak for all of the volunteers when I say we will greatly miss Flora’s delicious cooking!

Flora, MAD house cook
Flora teaches us to make banana stew – ndizi njegere
Banana stew
Banana stew







We ended our day, and this incredible trip, with a traditional Tanzanian send-off, complete with cake, songs, dances, gifts, thank you notes, a prayer, lots of photos, and many hugs all around. One of the traditions is to feed a small piece of cake from a toothpick to a person who has helped you, so the students took turns offering cake to each of the volunteers. Every volunteer was also awarded a certificate in recognition of their contributions to MAD and Tanzania, along with a khanga (sarong), which is a traditional Tanzanian wrap for women with a saying embroidered on it. Janeth, our house manager, explained that khangas with sayings such as “Congratulations” or “Thank You” or “God Bless” are kind of like the greeting cards of Tanzania. Our sole male volunteer, Ali, was given the traditional cloth of a Maasai warrior in recognition of his expert “tech warrior” assistance leading the setup of the computers for the MAD Computer Certificate Program this week. And finally the students taught us a local dance called the kwaito, which is suspiciously identical to the Electric Slide.

Cake eating
Peter offers Catherine a piece of cake on a toothpick as a traditional way to thank someone who has helped you
Eliona and Ali
Eliona congratulates Ali with a traditional Maasai warrior cloth

As we prepare to say “Kwaheri” (goodbye) to the MAD students as we depart on Kilimanjaro treks, safaris, or back home to the USA, I can say that none of us will ever forget the welcoming and friendly nature of the Tanzanian people, the beauty of the Kilimanjaro region, the resilience and determination of the MAD students to improve their lives, and the difference that Make a Difference Now is having on education in Tanzania.

Group photo
Kwaheri (Goodbye)!
MAD & SFDC Volunteering, Volunteers of MAD

Day 5 Volunteering with MAD

Today we got off to an early start and walked the mile to the Moshi Community Centre. We met again with the 10 young women who recently graduated from the pilot MAD Computer Certificate program. This time, we gathered in the new lab we set up, which they will use to practice their computer skills in the future. The women are excited to be able to use the lab to continue to improve their skills.

We then each met with one of the young women to help them practice their English. It was a great opportunity to get to know them by collecting information about their background, family, living situation, education, exposure to computers and career aspirations. We had a wonderful time getting to know these young women better, learning how they feel the computer program will help them, and how much they enjoyed learning about computers. The information collected will be used to help improve the computer certificate program as we look to expand and offer it to more vulnerable girls in the future. As mentioned before, most of the young women had never used a computer before this certificate program.











Finally, we used the information we gathered from speaking with the women to help them create an example resume which shows their education and volunteer experience, computer skills and career plans. The women appreciated learning what a resume typically looks like and practicing their English. They also showed great interest in our lives back home and where we were from, and we enjoyed showing them pictures of our home



We then headed back to the guest house for another tasty but quick lunch from Flora. In the afternoon we went to one of the local orphanages run by Catholic sisters and donated art supplies and games to the children there in the orphanage. While there we learned about the hardships these children have to deal with and how difficult it can be for the sisters to locate the parents or any relatives of the children in their care. We closed out the night back at the guest house with a rousing game of Celebrity which featured clues as varied as Big Bird, Isaac Asimov, David Cameron, and Taylor Swift. Tomorrow is our last full day here at the Make a Difference guest house. We will all certainly miss the students and warm Tanzanian people who have extended such a warm karibu (welcome) to all of us during our stay.

MAD & SFDC Volunteering, Volunteers of MAD

Day 4 Volunteering with MAD

As we started Day 4, we headed back to the Moshi Community Center to meet with ten older girls who are participating in another computer course at the center. The 3-month course focused on learning many Microsoft programs including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Publisher. The class favorite program was definitely Microsoft Publisher, which the girls love using to make cards for birthdays and religious celebrations like Confirmation.

After a quick presentation about what the girls had learned during the course, volunteers and students paired up to see the girls using the different programs in action. The girls demonstrated their Excel knowledge with a quick budget, and showed off their PowerPoint chops with short presentations on any topic of their choosing. The girls also showed off their typing ability by copying a quick letter in Microsoft Word and formatting it to match the original.

Here’s Lucy working hard in Microsoft Word and showing off what she’d learned during the course.

After showing off all they’d learned Theresa asked the girls about how many of them had previous exposure to computers, if they had any computers back in their villages, and how many hoped to complete an internship (called field work here in Tanzania) after finishing the course. None of the girls had computers back in their villages, and they were extremely grateful for the opportunity to complete the computer course and learn new skills for their futures.

MAD plans to continue expanding the program in the future to reach more girls and give them exposure to computer skills.

And here are the first graduates of MAD’s computer course from the Moshi Community Center!

Once we’d said goodbye and congratulated the girls, we headed upstairs to set up the new computer lab at the Moshi Community Center. Both these ten students and the 50 younger students we met earlier in the week will have access to the computer lab to practice their new computer skills on holiday breaks. We spent the later part of the morning setting up all the computers in the new lab with new user accounts, Microsoft programs, internet browsers, and other programs the students learned during their course so they are ready to go when students come to practice what they learned.

MAD volunteers setting up the new computer lab at the Moshi Community Center.

After a fun morning at the Moshi Community Center, our group headed into town for a casual lunch at a favorite café of Theresa’s. We enjoyed some particularly tasty Kilimanjaro coffee while we were there! We spent the afternoon ordering some custom-made skirts and dresses from a shop in town that we’ll be picking up later in the week. We finished off our day with some tasty sodas right down the street from the guest house.

MAD & SFDC Volunteering, Volunteers of MAD

Day 3 Volunteering for MAD

Today was a full and informative day. We set off to visit a typical government primary school, which teaches approximately 1000 students with 60-100 children and only one teacher in each classroom. Classes are taught in Swahili, except English class, which is a concern as the exams are all in English. There are not enough books, so the children have to share. These schools typically do not have electricity or running water. Many of the buildings have crumbling foundations, and the government does not generally maintain them once built. Many of the children are orphans, and some walk up to a mile and a half each way to school, and somehow pay for a uniform, books, and school lunches. School lunches typically consist of corn and beans cooked over open fire, and are often the first meal of the day for many. It is no wonder that only 30% of the children graduate to secondary school, and why programs like Make a Difference Now are so needed.


Next we headed to Royal Academy, a private boarding school attended by 25 of our students. Here we were greeted by Headmistress Ndjike, Head Teacher Minja and MAD student Eliona. At Royal Academy they instruct and board 600 students, with approximately 25 children per classroom. They graciously showed us the library and computer lab, with over 2000 books, 15 iPads, and 20 computers donated by Salesforce. Next we saw the science lab and the 8th grade classroom for which Saleforce employees built the foundation. Before leaving, we dispersed donated books and drawing supplies, and lastly viewed the basketball court (also donated by Salesforce) where some boys were enjoying a game.

Next we set off to the beautiful Kilimanjaro National Park. The drive up the winding roads afforded us gorgeous views of valleys and mountain forests. We saw many roadside shops made of corrugated tin boasting souvenirs, electronics, food, and more. Village folk walked along the road carrying baskets, buckets and large bunches of bananas balanced on their heads. At the park’s Marangu gate, our tour guide shared some fun facts:

*Kilimanjaro loosely translates to “White Mountain”.

*Hans Meyer was the first European to summit Kilimanjaro, in 1889, led by local man Yohane Lauwo.

*The ancestral tribesmen often sacrificed goats on Kilimanjaro in hopes of plentiful rain and crops.



Next, we visited the Chagga Cultural Museum to learn about the native Chagga culture. With the animated and humorous Edward as our guide, we headed inside a recreation of a Chagga home, constructed with a conical, wooden frame overlaid with dried grass. Edward showed us just how deceptively spacious these homes were, with room for the whole family, all of the livestock and even attic space!








On our last stop, we met our Make A Difference scholarship student Mary in the village of Maande to deliver a mattress (she previously slept on her clean, laid-out clothes) and to see the typical lifestyle of many of our students prior to joining MAD. As our skilled driver Constantin bravely drove us for miles on a rocky, narrow, winding road, we realized that Mary regularly walks all that way to the main road! We greeted Mary’s guardians, her uncle and aunt, and then Mary gave us a tour of her family’s land, complete with enclosures for chickens, goats, cows, and pigs. They also grow bananas, sweet potato, and beans. Mary and her family fetch their water from a nearby stream, or from the neighborhood water spigot. With the deepest respect, we said goodbye to her Auntie, Uncle and family.

Today was a well-rounded, eye-opening experience. I think I can safely speak for everyone when I say that we stand humbled and amazed at the tenacity of school children in Tanzania, and incredibly proud and inspired by Make a Difference Now.






MAD & SFDC Volunteering, Volunteers of MAD

Day 2 volunteering with MAD

We started off our second morning with another delicious breakfast from Flora. After breakfast, we had an orientation session from Theresa and Janeth. It was really helpful to hear how MAD came into existence, the challenges that children face in Tanzania and the difference that MAD has made since 2006. Following this, Andrea and Melanie went to church with Theresa where they met some friends including Pastor Tony, Bill and Greg. The rest of the volunteers stayed at the guesthouse to meet and greet the students who were starting to arrive.

It was time for the volunteers to meet the students. An icebreaker session of two truths and a lie began which was a lot of fun. Before lunch, we gave the students the donations that we brought and it was heartwarming to see how excited and grateful they were. After lunch, we broke into groups to work with the students on their blogs, the volunteers shared career stories and the students shared stories of how MAD has impacted them and their next steps (school, college, etc). It was truly incredible to hear the progress they have made.

A few of the volunteers went with Theresa to participate in a hash hike which Bill hosted. The hike was in Machame where participants followed the flour that had been left along the trail. It was a great practice hike for those doing the Kilimanjaro trek with them even having to navigate waterfalls!

Back at the guesthouse, we enjoyed another delicious dinner of rosemary chicken and potatoes and it was another early night for the tired volunteers who went to bed excited for what Day 3 holds in store!

MAD & SFDC Volunteering, Volunteers of MAD

Day 1 volunteering with MAD

We started off with a quick breakfast, then set off for Moshi. We walked about a mile into town to the Moshi Community Center, where Make A Difference Now has sponsored a computer program for 50 10-12 year old students to learn basic Microsoft Office programs. This is an amazing opportunity for these kids, as many of them had never seen a computer before this program.

When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by Father Dominic and visited the classroom where the kids were hard at work. They sang us a song and presented cards they had prepared using Microsoft publisher that thanked everyone who had helped them. Then one student, named Ruth, presented a PowerPoint that showcased what they’d learned. Mary, a recent secondary school graduate with Make A Difference Now, translated for us. After the presentation, the volunteers went around the room asking the kids about what they had learned and answering any questions. Overall, the kids seemed to be doing very well and had learned basic skills and even more complicated ones! They were very happy to be able to learn using the computers and enthusiastic about meeting us.

After we said kwaheri (goodbye) to the kids (they sang us another amazing song), we went upstairs to another classroom of computers that were being set up. This classroom is going to be used as a computer lab where older students could come in to practice what they’ve learned during their vacations. We checked that all the computers had Microsoft programs and helped organize the room. Then we thanked everyone we’d worked with and headed back to the guest house.

After an amazing lunch (courtesy of Flora) we took a short break, after which Mama Frida arrived to teach us some basics of Swahili. We learned vocabulary like Hujambo (how are you), tutaonana baadaye (see you later), kwaheri (goodbye), and more! We also learned about some of the do’s and don’ts of Tanzanian culture. Did you know that if someone welcomes you into your home and asks you to sit down (haribu kaa) it’s considered very rude not to accept? After the lesson, we wrapped up our day with another delicious dinner from Flora.

This was an amazing first day in Moshi. We met and helped 50 kids in a basics of computers course, walked around Moshi, and learned some phrases in Swahili. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring! Asante sana for reading!

By Lila Shamsi

MAD & SFDC Volunteering

Experience and Insights from Volunteering in Tanzania – Leslie Prevish

In four decades of life, I’ve been fortunate to visit many countries and learn first-hand about other cultures. When I arrived in Tanzania last September, I wondered what effect volunteering would have on myself and others here in Tanzania. As I finish up my five months, I know the experiences I’ve gained will help me both personally, and professionally. I’ve outlined some popular questions, and the answers and clarity I now have…

 Will you come back the same person?

Living in the moment here is a necessity. I’ve learned you also need to be flexible and understand that change happens on a whole different timeline. I think I’ve become more tolerant of situations I have no control over, such as electricity, water, internet and the laid-back “Tanzanian time”!

My time in Tanzania has made me appreciate the basics in life, sift through my “needs vs. wants,” and appreciate simple beauty. Each day more colored flowers appear on the trees here…purple, blue, orange and now yellow. It’s winter back home in Pennsylvania. I am grinning as I think about how sparkly, yet serene, the evergreens will be the morning after a snowfall. I can’t wait to make snow angels with my niece and nephew!

What will you miss most?

As I am packing to return to the States, I keep shedding tears on what—and WHO—I’ll miss. The children at the orphanage are such characters! It was energizing to watch their young eyes light up as they learned to ride horses. I did a Kilimanjaro fundraising climb and my friends and family donated $7200, which will provide sport and health programs for the entire year! When I saw photos of the children’s desperate situations before MAD, I realized how life-changing this organization really is, and how much I want to help improve their lives.

I’ll also miss…Theresa, who I truly admire and am blessed to call a friend…Pina at the MAD Guest House, singing and smiling all day long (her chapatti is delicious!)…and the strong community here, available 24/7, to lean on for support. They have been so welcoming to open their doors for holiday dinners and inspiring conversations.

What will you do when you come back?

I’m excited to start the next phase of my life, filled to the brim with experiences and ideas. As I start my business as a marketing consultant, I know I’ll be working with people of different backgrounds. My Tanzanian time has shown me how to celebrate differences and use them as an opportunity to foster new ideas. Also, nothing goes to waste here. After five months of conserving resources, I should be able to do more with limited time and money, which will help me and my clients!

Would you encourage others to do it?

YES! I’ve learned so much I wish I had done it sooner! I remember an interview a few years ago when I was asked, “describe a time when you had a challenge with someone and how you improved communications.”

Five months in Tanzania has stressed the importance of respectful and clear communication. You can’t assume someone understand you, it’s important to ask for clarify and keep an eye out for non-verbal cues. This has proved helpful for communicating with locals, as well as expats from many nations.

I’d also encourage people to come for the unique experiences, like the safari tours, where elephants and zebras pass within feet of your vehicle! The waterfalls, Chagga caves and coffee tour are must-sees as well. And I’d tell them to make sure to get to the Indian Ocean to watch the waves roll in while writing memories in a journal about the amazing experiences.