Three weeks ago, I returned to the UK after spending an eye opening and fulfilling three months in Tanzania – and it turns out that it can be difficult to find the words to describe such an incredible experience. So much happened that it’s hard to know where to begin, or how to fully explain a world that’s so different from my own. It’s going to take take more than just one blog post, that’s for sure.
So, to begin with, I’ll start with an easy topic. What the hell did I do there?
I was volunteering with Raleigh International, through the governments International Citizenship Service (ICS), on a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project. The primary aim of the programme was to improve understanding of WASH issues in rural communities in Tanzania, where such topics are often misunderstood.
Only 1 in 5 Tanzanians, for example, use soap to wash their hands prior to preparing food – yet Unicef estimate that hand washing can reduce the spread of diarrhoea by a colossal 47%.
The answer is simple; by educating people, especially children, we can encourage better habits and considerably reduce preventable diseases. Small scale WASH programmes are central to creating this change, and charities including Raleigh are running projects across the developing world in an attempt to improve standards of living.
My own project was based in Iyembela, a small village in the Njombe region of Southern Tanzania. My group of 16 UK and Tanzanian volunteers focused on providing education and improving infrastructure, giving people the knowledge and practical examples to change their habits.
During the programme we also lived with local families, truly becoming part of the village. Not only was this an incredible experience and allowed us to fully embrace the culture, but it meant that we really got to know the community and they got to know us. This was essential in encouraging engagement and participation with our work.
I’ll be posting more about life in Tanzania and my experiences abroad in the next few weeks, but for now I’ll leave you with this video we created during the project, which explains exactly what we did in Iyembela and why it’s so important.
You won’t see me in it very much; I was mainly behind the camera and responsible for the script and editing. But to find out more about WASH projects and see what we achieved, take a little look.