Visiting Tanzania has been a dream of mine for a long time. Climbing Kilimanjaro was the real draw but I wanted to come here as more than just a tourist. I decided to explore volunteer teaching opportunities at the secondary level where I could teach more than just English. From this decision I found PoD with the perfect placement for me, with Village Africa. Gemma was excellent at providing me with the information I needed and helping with all the paper-work. I had six months to build up the experience in my head and when I arrived I wasn’t disappointed. Yamba was almost exactly as I had imagined it, although a lot larger, but I didn’t expect such a warm welcome and beautiful, wonderful people. I didn’t know what to expect of Milingano and Kwemsiga but again I wasn’t disappointed. Mibukwe Secondary School is full of amazing students with a keenness to learn. I taught them Biology and Maths, but they taught me what it means to be a teacher here! It took almost my full stay to start to see the results of my teaching, and although the change is small – it’s definitely there, and these changes in ability and attitude will only increase as more and more volunteers come to share their knowledge and experiences. I am so glad to have been a part of it!”
- Age: 28
- Nationality: Canadian
- Placement: Secondary Teaching
- Length of Placement: 3 months
- Location: Kwemsiga
I had heard so much about Village Africa and Yamba from Babu Doug, Bibi Moe and Stephen (her boyfriend and boyfriend’s parents – all previous volunteers) – still nothing can prepare you for how beautiful Yamba is, and how amazing and friendly all its people are. Nothing is too much trouble and I have never met such a lovely community. Despite seeming to have so little, everyone has so much in their lives. I had a good time building with Ste, but absolutely loved speaking English to the staff of Village Africa, getting to know to the staff of Village Africa, getting to know John, Edmundi, Magda, Maiko, Melania, Anjela and everyone else here! They are all so lovely, and the experience has changed my outlook on life. I know I will be back again as I know I have some good friends here and definitely want to see everyone again!”
- Name: Amy-Lea Gardiner
- Age: 27
- Nationality: English
- Placement: Teaching Sport and Building volunteer
- Length of Placement: 3 weeks
- Location: Yamba
“This was my second placement in Yamba. I was here the same time last year with my dad and having had a life-changing experience last time, I decided to return with my girlfriend. Once again I’ve had an amazing time – Yamba is the most beautiful place I have ever seen and is populated by the kindest, happiest and most caring people I have ever met. Village Africa is well run and nothing is too much trouble for the management team. It has been brilliant to see the progress made in 12 months by individuals and by the village as a whole. I haven’t even left yet and I already know this won’t / can’t be the last time I visit Yamba. AMAZING!”
- Name: Stephen Brazenall
- Age: 28
- Nationality: English
- Placement: Teaching Sport and Building volunteer
- Length of Placement: 3 weeks
- Location: Yamba
I am writing this from my house in Kwemsiga, staring out across the mountains with a clear blue sky and children playing all around me. I have had a brilliant time living here and cannot believe it is already time to go home!
The children and teachers at Milingano Primary School have become my very good friends and I have had lots of fun teaching English to Standards 2 and 5. The children’s enthusiasm and never-ending smiling faces made it a pleasure to go to work every day.
Our neighbours at Kwemsiga were warm and welcoming and I have made some true friends whom I will never forget.
I am luckier than most volunteers writing this as I already know that I am coming back next year! I guess that says more than anything I could possibly write. If you are thinking about it then I can’t say “DO IT!” quickly enough!”
- Name: Emily Curtis
- Age: 29
- Nationality: English
- Placement: Teacher (Milingano Primary School)
- Length of Placement: 13 weeks
- Location: Kwemsiga
I feel so incredibly lucky to have spent 3 months with Village Africa in Yamba, surrounded by spectacular scenery and truly lovely people: it’s such a happy place to live! There’s never a dull moment … from dancing with my housegirls, attempting Kiswahili conversation, playing netball in the rain, brushing my teeth under the stars to the countless hours spent playing games with the children and reading them stories … I’ve had so much fun! Teaching has been challenging but fantastic; the children work so hard and their enthusiasm is infectious, they never fail to make me smile. Teaching jewellery skills to the ladies at the knitting group has been an added bonus – I’ve really enjoyed getting to know and laughing with some of the incredible local women. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to experience life in such a different and amazing place and to be part of such a worthwhile project. Thank you Village Africa for making it possible and for your support throughout my time in Yamba. Hopefully I will return one day to this special little village in the mountains but until then ‘asante sana’ (thank you) for 3 fantastic, unforgettable months.”
- Name: Linsey McGregor
- Age: 23
- Nationality: Scottish
- Placement: Primary Teaching
- Length of placement: 3 months
- Location: Yamba
I am about to leave Yamba after six weeks, although it seems like just yesterday that I stepped out of the car and began the most incredible experience, with the positive, loving welcome that I received from the very start enough to make anyone feel instantly at home. The people here are unlike any others, with the children in particular providing constant entertainment, energy and love. A simple greeting means so much and a hand-shake is more heartfelt than words could ever be. With their lovely smiles, loud laughter and amazing energy it is easy to forget there is any language barrier at all.
My first two weeks of incredible Yamba life were spent immersed in community activities, everything from dancing in the church choir to getting my hands dirty with some brick-making – and even though this was all such fun it only got better!
My last four weeks were spent working with the carpenters, and this was brilliant. I learnt a lot and even when the work was repetitive the company was always fun and enthusiastic, leaving absolutely no room for boredom. Each day was brilliantly different and given the chance I would live any one of them again in a second.
Having seen how much the inspiring management team has achieved in such a short time leaves me excited to see how far it will have developed in a few years!”
Jessica Broughton, Summer Camp and Carpentry Volunteer, August-September 2011.
Super. Smashing. Great.
This was my third visit to Milingano, and every time it gets better. I had a brilliant time and I have made lots of very good friends. The people here are amazing and their kindness and hospitality are second to none. Village Africa is making a huge difference to these villages. Will definitely come again!”
- Name: Philip Eastham
- Age: 43
- Nationality: English
- Placement: Visitor
- Length of Placement: 2 weeks
- Location: Milingano
Adam Shapton and Lucinda Hammond
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to live and work in Milingano for the past four weeks, coaching sport and helping to build toilets for Milingano’s Health Centre. From the musical welcome at Yamba (followed by the astounding sight of some very small people carrying our very heavy bags up a very steep hill) to our final netball, football and building sessions in Mili, the people have been warm, welcoming and thoroughly entertaining.
The excitement and enthusiasm of Milingano’s children, whether for organised sport, an informal chance to practise their English or simply to wave hello from any distance is unfaltering and will always bring a smile to your face.
We have been proud to contribute to the work being done here by Village Africa, the benefits of which are significant and tangible, and are clearly appreciated and understood by all members of the community.”
- Name: Adam Shapton and Lucinda Hammond
- Age: 29 (both)
- Nationality: British
- Placement: Teaching Sport and Building volunteer
- Length of Placement: 4 weeks
- Location: Milingano
Sophie Greene – 2011
“An unforgettable experience. Yamba is the most beautiful village, set high in the Usambara Mountains. The warm welcome that I received on arrival at the village continued throughout my stay. Everywhere you walk around this wonderful place you are greeted by children, adults and village elders as if you are part of the family.
The building work that Village Africa funds and co-ordinates in Yamba, Milingano and the surrounding areas is a fantastic thing to have been a part of. The buildings are built to a high standard and the work that is provided by each project is vast, benefitting a wide range of local people.
I am delighted to have been involved with the work of Village Africa and to have worked and lived with the most kind, generous and friendly people I have ever met.”
- Sophie Greene (Aged 22)
- 1 month Building Volunteer in Yamba
- March – April 2011
Charlie Kenzie – 2011
“A truly amazing experience! Thank you, PoD. The best part about building was the builders. They made me feel so welcome and they made me laugh every day. It was also hugely gratifying to teach English to three Village Africa office staff and to coach football to the school children.
Another highlight has been my various walks into the surrounding countryside. The views are truly gobsmacking. In addition you always end up getting invited into someone’s house and a half an hour walk turns into a three hour trip. Whether you end up peeling cassava, pounding maize or taking hundreds of pictures, the local villagers are so hospitable that you always leave with a smile on your face. Thanks again to Caroline for giving me this opportunity.”
- Charlie Kenzie (Aged 18)
- 2 months Building Volunteer in Yamba
- February – April 2011
Helen Bolton – 2011
“I had no idea what to expect despite trawling through countless testimonials and photos before I came, but whatever my expectations were, my experiences in Yamba and Milingano far surpassed them. I came here to see another culture and if I could help in some small way that would be amazing. Other than teaching the housegirls ‘5 little ducks’ I have taken so much from my time in Tanzania. I was fortunate to be able to experience teaching in Milingano and Yamba and I wouldn’t change a moment of it. From the moment I was told that there were 125 registered students in my Std II class to teaching my last Kindergarten class, I have loved teaching the children here. I have been challenged far more than I thought I would be but to win round a class of children that I initially thought I wouldn’t cope with is one of my favourite achievements.
The people in both villages amazed me. How they hold on to hope, to the values of family, friends and religion when faced with a life of poverty and a drought to compound matters. It humbled me to see how much of my life’s ‘necessities’ I can do without. To see the nurses in the health post work with minimal medicine and equipment treating people who may have travelled for 6 hours to see them and who don’t have the back-up of nearby doctors and hospitals that we take for granted makes you realise how truly lucky we are to have been born in the developed world. However the ‘necessities’ I would bring here if I could start all over again are:
- Hiking boots
- Mobile phone
- Camera (and a solar charger/spare batteries for all)
- Long skirts
- Alarm clock
- Big marker pens and stickers
The housegirls cook amazing food. I’ve learnt how to cook lentils, roast potatoes (without an oven) and chapattis, and will try to recreate these when I get home, although I doubt how successful I’ll be! One thing I was worried about before I came out was the long drop toilet, despite having been to many music festivals. I can honestly say I would prefer a long drop toilet to festival portaloos! It’s also incredible how quickly you get used to a bucket shower and how clean you feel after.
Milingano was very hot (we were there during the drought) but being immersed in village life made it worth it. Zakaria, Joyce and Paulina (our watchman and housegirls) became our Mili ‘family’. We were so well looked after. It is a very different experience from living in Yamba. The villages are so different as to be almost impossible tocompare. Milingano is noisier and busier, and the market on Thursdays is lively and colourful with foods I’ve never seen before being sold from sacks on the floor. One of the shopkeepers taught us Kiswahili (well he tried!) which was brilliant. The school is bigger, the children more streetwise but equally welcoming, funny, cheeky and inquisitive. Being more isolated from other wazungu (westerners) in Milingano (there were 2 of us) meant we threw ourselves into talking to the villagers. So many wanted to practise their English and talk to us, we were never alone. We taught choir in school which was a riot – definitely recommended – they love singing. Views of the surrounding mountains took me by surprise every day at how beautiful they were. I’ll never forget cleaning my teeth outside every morning, watching the sun come up over the mountains.
Yamba is completely different. Quieter, more peaceful, with incredible views, but looking across and down at other mountains. The people are just as friendly and welcoming. The school is smaller but I enjoyed teaching equally as much in both schools.
I am so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time in Milingano and Yamba and will never be able to find the words to thank Caroline and Village Africa sufficiently. A big thanks also goes out to Emma for all her support and to my fellow volunteers for helping to make this an unforgettable experience! ”
- Helen Bolton (Aged 27)
- 3 months Teaching Volunteer in Milingano and Yamba
- January – April 2011
Mel Warner – 2011
“Welcome home: those words express Yamba best. The people are as kind and generous as you will ever meet. It is impossible not to laugh while you are in Yamba. There will be times when you are not laughing simply because your jaw is dropped in awe at the beauty around you. The mountains are breathtaking, the clouds amazing and the nights magical.
I experienced friendship in its purest form. That is rare indeed and I am grateful to have been a recipient. Yamba has nestled in a corner of my heart where it will stay forever, singing. ”
- Marilyn (Mel) Warner (Aged 68)
- 3 months Teaching Volunteer in Yamba
- January – April 2011
Teaching volunteer – 2011
“To write my testimonial I need the words for no words – the touch of a small child holding your hand walking you to school; the burning smell of cooking fires; the fruits; the animals; the emotions you feel when a student hands you a letter telling you how your teaching has changed his life. The beauty and love one experiences here cannot be described. It’s the greatest treasure I’ll keep in my heart forever. And the other moments, the little everyday moments, will keep my memories and imagination rich and thriving forever.
I was pushed, challenged and inspired. I cried, sang, danced and laughed. I laughed a lot. Booty dancing in church, hearing the most high pitched voice from my night watchman, watching as bugs hatched their eggs inside my mosquito net, getting my hair braided, cooking/dancing with my housegirl and being nicknamed ‘tembo’ (elephant). Those are the moments I’ll miss.
I went through the entire spectrum of human emotions on this trip. I expected to be challenged and to miss home but more importantly I laughed. I felt so loved by all the villagers who took me into their homes and made me a part of their families; I made a difference to people.
I will forever cherish my experience with Village Africa and never once doubted my decision to come here. It will never leave me.
‘Tanzania nakupenda sana!!’ (I love Tanzania very much!!)”
Doug Brazenall – 2011
“If you are considering volunteer work in Africa, look no further. Worried about how your personal skills may be of use? Don’t be
Everything with Village Africa is taken care of. All done in a quiet, efficient and discreet way which just leaves you to enjoy the whole experience. You will be invited into the homes and lives of these lovely people. Just enjoy it.
I believe that your time in Yamba or Milingano will help change lives, including your own. I have just completed my third visit and feel part of the Yamba family which I take as a great honour. I hope I can ‘live up’ to just some of the values of these amazingly welcoming, friendly people.”
- Doug Brazenall (Aged 63)
- 3 months Admin / Football Coaching Volunteer in Yamba
- January – April 2011
Dr Helen Penfold – Sep 2010
A privilege to have such a chance for insight into the life of an African village. A very humbling experience – we have so much and the villagers have so little, yet can still smile, laugh and look after each other. A time for thought and reflection – enjoying the area and awe inspiring beauty of the village of Yamba set into the mountain. So many new friends – helping me with my Kiswahili – and the joy of Baby Helen being named after me.
- Dr Helen Penfold (Aged 57)
- 2 week Doctor Volunteer in Yamba
Phil Atkinson – Jun-Sep 2010
I came to Village Africa to do building work for ten weeks and I found it a great experience. I was building toilets at a primary school for five or six weeks; then I went to Milingano Primary School, where I was helping to build two classrooms. If I could change one thing it would be the time I was here. I would have stayed for longer, perhaps six months, because it would have been good to see the classrooms finished: I will come back.
- Phil Atkinson (Aged 29)
- 10 week building volunteer in Milingano
Dan Atherton – Aug-Sep 2010
I have had a great trip from start to finish, the work has been very hands on and I feel I have accomplished a lot in even a short trip. The Village Africa team does a fantastic job; nothing is too much trouble and everything is so well organised. I feel I’ve been in safe hands during my stay. The accommodation is excellent and the food has been delicious. A fantastic adventure! I would recommend anyone to come and experience this amazing place with Village Africa and its team.
- Dan Atherton (Aged 26)
- 4 week Building/Carpentry Volunteer in Kwemsiga/Milingano
Jane Baker – July-August 2010
After deciding to do something different for my 2010 summer holiday, I spent five memorable weeks in Tanzania with Village Africa, dividing my time between volunteer placements as a builder in Milingano and a marketeer in Yamba. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the warm and generous villagers in both locations, been amazed by the beauty of the local landscape and the stunning sunsets, and been inspired by the work carried out by the Village Africa team. Facilities are excellent – comfortable accommodation with spectacular views, local cuisine cooked by our bubbly housegirls, safe drinking water and hot water washrooms. If you too are happy to swap a few hours a day for a truly authentic African experience, a placement in Tanzania with Village Africa comes highly recommended.
- Jane Baker (Aged 33)
- July-August 2010 Building/Marketing Volunteer in Kwemsiga/Yamba
Luke Tattersall – Sep 2010
Although my stay with Village Africa has been short, the experience has certainly been enjoyable. It’s clear that the sense of community within Yamba and Milingano has been one of the main factors that has allowed me to feel so welcomed by the people in an otherwise lonely location. If only we could take attitudes like these back home and allow people to realise that community lifestyles do create happier living. It has made me aware, living around the local people, that the few things they have still allow them to be happy. They are content with what they have and are so grateful for anything more on top. Material things seem so less important, yet when I return home they will regain the grips over my life, which is somewhat upsetting. I’d like to thank the whole of the Village Africa team for allowing me to experience life in this way. Thanks.
- Luke Tattersall (aged 20)
- 3 week Building Volunteer in Milingano
Karen Nivala – Summer 2010
I could not have imagined a more fulfilling and touching experience: ….teaching children, some without shoes and jumpers, others without pens or paper, most on an empty stomach, yet still in school, ready and eager to learn. ….discovering that so much could be shared in song, dance, sport, play and of course, all the laughter…. I found myself experiencing a strange mix of sadness, at the reality of the poverty; joy at the beauty, courage and spirit of the villagers; and hope from the passion and commitment of Caroline and the Village Africa staff. Thank you Yamba and Milingano and Village Africa for making me feel so safe, valued and so very welcome. This is truly an amazing place and you are truly amazing people.
- Karen Nivala (Aged 24)
- 2 week Summer Camp Teaching Volunteer in Yamba
Kristen Handreck – Summer 2010
It has been a huge eye-opener to see the poverty amongst the villagers, but neverthless they are still always smiling. Teaching has been a whole new experience itself. It has been great to see the children so eager to learn and enthusiastic to embrace the English language. Being a nurse back in Australia, it has been a bit of a challenge to get into the swing of having to prepare classes daily, but no matter how and what we taught, the students truly appreciated us. Thank you to all the staff at Village Africa, in particular Caroline. Keep up the good work and good luck!
- Kristen Handreck (Aged 24)
- 2 week Summer Camp Teaching Volunteer in Yamba
Gabrielle Hyman – Apr-Jul 2010
I have had the most incredible 3 months of my life and my only regret is that it has come to an end. When I was looking into volunteer placements abroad, my two main criteria were that it had to be with a relatively small grassroots charity/NGO and that it had to be rural. As an organisation, Village Africa is impressive; it really is making a difference to the communities of Yamba and Milingano. We were always made to feel like our concerns were a top priority, the staff so friendly and hard working. They are extremely professional and place a high value on their volunteer programme. Both villages are very welcoming and open to Westerners and thanks to Village Africa’s programme, I have had only a positive experience with them. There is ample opportunity to get involved – whether learning to cook chapatis with your house girl, going down to help dig the road on a Saturday morning, or walking around the village and constantly being invited into people’s houses. So if you think that you want a rural village project that immerses you in a community representing the heart of East African life and culture, choose Village Africa. I promise that you will not regret it.
- Gabrielle Hyman (Aged 20)
- 3 months Teaching Volunteer in Yamba
Lesley Henderson – March 2010
The experience I’ve had over the past few weeks has been fun, inspirational and extremely humbling. The people have got to be the most friendly and welcoming people I have ever met. Despite not having much themselves, their generosity is amazing, giving you gifts of eggs, mangos and avocados, carrying your bags or water for you wherever you go and welcoming you into their homes. Building has been great, learning new skills and using muscles I never knew existed! Spending time with the extremely friendly building team has been fantastic and lots of fun! Village Africa is doing a great job improving the lives of the Milingano and Yamba villagers and I’m glad to have been able to support the charity through my placement and will continue to support them in the future.
- Lesley Henderson – UK (Aged 34)
- 4 week Building Volunteer – Milingano
Jaana Hede – March 2010
Time has just flown – I can not believe I have got to know the village of Yamba so well, I can truly call it home in just 2 months. It has been an amazing experience to get to know the villagers and interview them in their homes in order to collect first hand information about the local customs. I never thought researching could be as rewarding as it has been here – I really feel I have done work that matters.
- Jaana Hede (Aged 25)
- 8 week research volunteer – Yamba
Jane Higgins – March 2010
Village Africa is a hardworking and decent charity that I have been proud to help. The support from PoD and the team out here has been superb; they have made me feel comfortable and safe despite living out of my normal comfort zone. I have met great people, experienced an amazing way of life and very much enjoyed myself over the last 3 months. It has been a time of my life I will never forget and I hope many others are lucky enough to be welcomed into the villages of Yamba and Milingano.
- Jane Higgins – UK Aged 18
- Primary School Teaching Volunteer – Milingano Jan-March 2010
Harriet Gould – March 2010
If you want to work on a project that doesn’t wrap you in cotton wool, that lets you experience what life is truly like in a remote village in Tanzania, choose Village Africa. If you want to feel valued and receive the warmest welcome of your life, choose Village Africa. I can’t thank enough the friend who recommended this to me. Teaching such beautiful children every day has been my pleasure and I can’t wait to return.
- Harriet Gould – UK Aged 19
- Primary School Teaching Volunteer – Milingano January-March 2010
Tom Dickin – December 2009
I first volunteered with Village Africa for three months in 2008 and when the opportunity arose to spend another six months teaching in Yamba I did not hesitate to return. I had an unforgettable six months. My neighbours became my family and although my career will prevent me from returning for such a lengthy period over the next few years, I am keen to spend what little holiday I have visiting my friendly and playful former neighbours. Although I am sure that as a guest you would be made to feel welcome irrespective of the popularity of the charity; Village Africa has the full support of the villages in which it is working and I profoundly felt that welcome extended to me. All three strands of the project – building, teaching and healthcare are vital to the development of the villages. Having volunteered for six months, I was able to see a classroom from foundation to completion and although I was not involved on the building side of things, I did feel a sense of pride in working for a project which was making such a tangible difference to the communities in which it was working. On a personal level, I found charting my pupil’s progress in English very gratifying but I think the real mainstay of the charity is its work in improving access to healthcare and providing an ambulance to villagers who might not otherwise make it to hospital. It is rendering a service which is truly life-saving and I am grateful for the opportunity to have played a small part in the Village Africa narrative.
- Tom Dickin June-December 2009
- Teaching Volunteer – Yamba
Avis Mulhall – May 2009
As long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to go to Africa and volunteer; the most difficult thing to decide was who to volunteer with as I wanted to make sure it was a worthwhile project. After months of research, and feeling more than a little apprehensive, I finally decided on Village Africa. To this day it’s the best and most life-changing decision I’ve made. Teaching in Milingano was amazing and fulfilling in more ways than I could have imagined. I got to teach in both the primary and secondary schools, set up a football team, opened a village library, helped set up the choir as well as helping to teach the local women how to knit; and more importantly I really became a part of the village. The help and support you get from Village Africa is fantastic; the local staff and the villagers make you feel so welcome that it’s hard to face leaving…so I didn’t!! At the end of my teaching placement I stayed on for a further six weeks, when I worked with the local building team and helped to build toilets for the primary school in Milingano as well as helping out in the office in Yamba. Everyday life in Milingano and Yamba is fantastic and it’s the small things I’ll smile about and remember for the rest of my days. Listening to the booming voices of the choir on a Sunday, waking up to a fabulous sunrise, eating with the local families who became firm friends in their homes, laughing with the neighbours in Kiswahili, teaching the housegirls and local women to bake…every minute of my time has been unbelievable. I’ve had the time of my life and can’t wait until the day I get to return. I couldn’t find a negative thing to say about Village Africa even if I tried. It’s an entirely worthwhile project and one which really listens to the people and the villages it helps support. The charity is making a massive difference to the daily lives of the villagers but there’s a long way still to go, so they need as much help and support as they can get. My advice is: if you are thinking about going, just do it. It will be the best experience of your life.
- Avis Mulhall
- Teacher, Builder and Office Worker Jan-May 2009
Jessica Hand – September 2009
Three weeks building in Yamba was easily the hardest three weeks I’ve ever worked and I’d do it again tomorrow. I have become completely in awe of the women who carry bags of cement and buckets of water on their heads and the children who walk 3 hours to get to school. I’ve had an amazing time that I’ll never forget and I hope many more people will be lucky enough to experience Yamba life and its people.
- Jessica Hand
- Building Volunteer 10/09/09
Caroline Pugh – August 2009
I spent 4 weeks in Yamba during July/August 2009 and had an absolutely wonderful time there. I was able to sing with the choir at the Catholic church as well as teach recorder to some of the children. The villagers made me feel so welcome and I can’t wait until 2011 when I hope to go back.
Francesca Docherty – June 2009
After reading past testimonials of volunteers who had gone to Yamba and Milingano, I still wasn’t certain of their sincerity – was it really all quite so memorable? 3 months of teaching at Milingano Primary School on, I know I can now echo all of their glowing sentiments and say that I have had the absolute happiest time here. The support provided by Village Africa (and PoD before getting here) has been comprehensive and understanding throughout. The charity’s staff work extremely hard to ensure the volunteers are happy and healthy and of course to try and forge a parth towards the development in both villages. The project celebrated its third birthday whilst I was in Milingano and it was humbling to see how much Caroline and her team have achieved in three years. Village Africa has been welcomed and celebrated in Yamba and has already made very real and tangible advancements towards improving healthcare in particular. There is still widespread poverty throughout both villages however so the project is still vital to those who have come to rely on it. The strengthening of existing projects and the addition of new ones such as the child sponsorship scheme “Simba Club” provides hope to all involved that Vyaadahikana will reach its ultimate goal. I have felt honoured to be a small part of Village Africa for 3 months and know that I will always support it however I can in the future.
- Francesca Docherty (aged 18) April – June 2009
- Primary School Teaching Volunteer – Milingano
Paris Ackrill – June 2009
Having spent 10 weeks as a teacher in Milingano I have seen how worthwhile the project is to these communities. The villages truly appreciate all the work done by Village Africa. The project has truly influenced many lives, though emergency trips, improved healthcare and simply giving hope. I would thoroughly recommend volunteering for Village Africa. It is a wonderful project, set in beautiful surroundings. You are placed in the heart of such a welcoming place and looked after extremely well by the Village Africa staff and villagers. There are many new and exciting projects in the running. The Milingano Library, the water project, the “Simba Club” (child sponsorship) and many more. Having seen the widespread benefits of Village Africa I will look to support it as much as i can in the future. It has a fantastic team, always trying to expand the project in a sustainable way. Good luck and all the best for the future.
- Paris Ackrill
- Primary School Teaching Volunteer – Milingano April to June 2009
Katie Gales – August 2008
My time in Yamba was probably the best two weeks of my life. Along with nine others from Exeter University RAG, I travelled to Yamba in August 2008 to live among, work with and begin to love the people and village. Arriving in Yamba was extremely exciting and rather scary. The trip up the mountain with a large group of us crammed into a small jeep was hilarious, bumpy and very narrow. When we arrived the whole village had come to welcome us and sang and danced with us before taking our bags up the very steep mountain. As soon as I arrived I felt at home and so happy to see so many smiling faces. The accommodation was amazing and I felt rather guilty to be staying in such a wonderfully comfortable house. The house girls Stella and Teddy became very good friends and we enjoyed singing and learning Swahili with them as the weeks went on. The food they prepared was amazing, though we did all miss chocolate a lot! The village itself is the most beautiful place I have ever been to with fantastic views, sunsets and sun rises. Cleaning my teeth with the sun rising over the mountains and hearing the children laughing every morning made me so happy to be there and excited for the day ahead. Then you couldn’t ask for a better end to the day, all sitting around a camp fire with our friendly guard, watching the shooting stars over the mountain. Teaching in the school was challenging yet incredible. We were given free rein to teach to children what we would like and found that they loved singing more than anything. They exhausted our knowledge of songs very quickly! I felt so relaxed with all the children; they were polite and eager to learn, and made me smile all day. We became very close to certain children who came to play at the house every day and shout through the door ‘we want tennis!’ (Meaning they wanted a tennis ball!)They taught us Swahili, gave us presents of avocados and eggs and loved having their photos taken. Other highlights of the trip were our two Sundays in church, where the beautiful singing almost moved me to tears. Being invited into local homes and offered Yamba Chai was also an experience! A trip up the mountain to view Kenya was also highly memorable and finishing the kindergarten build was exhilarating. Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I can’t express in words how much I enjoyed the two weeks. I think about Yamba every day and wish I could see the children in class and outside the volunteer house right now. I wish Village Africa the best of luck; they have done so much already and I know I will return to Yamba very soon to see how things have developed. Thank you for everything.
- Katie Gales Aged 21, Exeter University RAG
Doug and Moe Brazenall – Dec 07
Our 3 months in Yamba have been the most incredible and rewarding time of our lives. It is one of those rare experiences which are impossible to describe to others. You must see for yourself. We loved it – so will you. Whatever your skills or age get in touch with POD and go and meet, work and live with these wonderful people. We miss the many friends we made in Yamba (young and old) and are planning to return.
David Elms – Dec 07
I was a little unsure of what the building team in Yamba would have in store for me. Speaking little Swahili also brought a degree of anxiety as I anticipated using all my charades ability! However, as soon as I met the team I knew there would be no problems, the team were friendly and welcoming with a small english vocabulary. They did work extremely hard but were happy for me to take regular breaks. I was posted at the school aiding the regeneration effort of both the toilets and classrooms. These were great projects to be a part of as they will obviously bring so much ongoing benefit to the village. I have been lucky enough to experience rapid progression of these areas during my short stay and had a chance to see the huge amounts that have been accomplished by VA this far, for this I feel very privileged and thankful to those who made it possible.
Ellie Saltrick – Aug 07
Ellie Saltrick visited Yamba as a member of an expedition from Godolphin School. She says of her time with Village Africa: My experience there was incredible, life changing even! The children taught me a lot about myself and everybody made me feel so welcome. I enjoyed every single moment of my time there. Just being with the children automatically made me smile; they truly are amazing. I think you’re doing a fantastic thing for these people, and these little changes make dramatic improvements. I hope that I contributed to this if only in a tiny way by teaching. I just wanted to say thank you now. It really was the best time of my life; words cannot describe any of it!
Silke Buhr – Aug 07
Silke Buhr visited Village Africa as a marketing volunteer in July 07.
To view photos of her visit please click here.
Leila Jeffries – July 07, Jan-April 07
Village Africa is a very special project; it is in its first year of taking volunteers. It’s all new and exciting, watching and having an input to the project taking shape. Village Africa or as it’s locally known “Vyaadahikana”, works in two schools at the moment with possibilities of working with more. Yamba Primary school has about two hundred pupils on average, with twenty five pupils per class. Yamba is like a local village school from home. It is a tightly knit community; everyone knows everyone and many are related one way or another. It’s a lovely place to work. We are treated like one of the locals or even better like kings. Milingano Primary School has over nine hundred pupils. It is more like a large town primary school from home, but there are on average seventy children per class, which is rather daunting the first time you walk in front of the class, though I soon became used to it. The children are willing to learn and are keen to please you. They loved to help carry my school bag and bottle of water and they loved singing the English songs I always finished my lessons with. I know that I have helped the children of Milingano, even if it was for a short time. I am sure they will remember us as I will always remember them. We as TEFL teachers work Monday to Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. This gives us enough time to relax a little and plan our lessons for the next class. Then it’s play time with the children that live near by. This can be anything from reading, puzzles, extra English lessons to football in the market square. Village Africa has the volunteer, work, play and explore balance just right, with enough teaching time to feel you are making progress and having an impact, but not too much, so that you feel overcome. It also gives you time to relax in the community and really get into village life and get to know the locals. Every other weekend, there is a planned trip so you get to see a bit more of the country too, as well as enabling you to stock up on the supplies, as not much can be bought locally. I really enjoyed my time in Tanzania and working with Village Africa made the experience extra special. I have memories that will stay with me forever, thank you for helping make my dream come true.
Becca Stagg – July 07
Wow, what an amazing experience! When I first started researching volunteer projects in Africa I wasn’t sure if teaching was what I really wanted to do but after the first week in Yamba I felt like a natural and I’m so glad I chose this project. From the very beginning we were welcomed into the community and could never be found without a loyal bunch of children in our wake. The school is remarkable and teaching in Yamba was just a delight. I’ve never come across such keen and hard-working children. At first I found it hard to keep up with lessons preparation and marking; and having never taught before I was a bit nervous and worried I’d run out of ideas on different teaching methods. Things soon fell into place, however, and by the end of my time on the project I happily took extra lessons and realised the children just want a teacher- you really can’t go far wrong. As big music fans, Rose, Becky (fellow teaching volunteers) and I took the chance to begin an English choir with some of the older girls at school; we had such fun! Although we got off to a bit of a shaky start (they weren’t really getting my ‘Beatles’ efforts) things soon got better and it was great to see them learning without even realising it. Another huge advantage of this project is the fantastic location. You will not find a more dramatic or stunning setting than Yamba and Milingano. Waking up to find yourself right at the top of a beautiful African mountain is truly amazing. The views from Yamba were some of the most striking I saw throughout the travels I made through Tanzania: photos just cannot do it justice. I couldn’t have wanted a more challenging, fulfilling and exciting experience and being so immersed in the community makes the experience all the more authentic and special. The people were so welcoming and the kindness and generosity they showed us was unbelievable and so humbling; these people have nothing yet they’ll always find something- be it rabbit, sugar cane or pumpkin – to offer you! We truly have a lot to learn form such a close-knit and friendly people. I will definitely be back to Yamba in the future.
Tina Freeman – June 07
I have fallen in love with Yamba – the place – the people – the children and the peace!
To view Tina’s weblog please click here.
James Tarplett – Nov 06
I’ve had such a great experience working with Village Africa in Yamba. I put a big emphasis on sport in the learning environment. My girlfriend and I managed to receive lots of sports equipment as donations. It was great to come over and play sport with the children. They don’t have the exposure to a lot of different games and sports and their ball normally consists of plastic bags rolled tightly into a ball tied together with anything to hand – old bits of string, banana leaves etc. So it was amazing to see their faces when I pulled out new leather footballs! They love to play sport and there is a real competitive edge in the village. From pre-school to adults, they all want to learn new sports and different ways to improve. After school and in my spare time around the village, I played sport as much as possible. We could keep the children entertained for hours with just a simple tennis ball. We ran after school clubs with the teachers, showing the children different training exercises to improve. We introduced badminton, cricket, rounders, volleyball and netball to the children in the village. The only problem we had was keeping the numbers down. Everyone wanted to play. We would start off playing a four person game then word would get round there was sport to be played! Soon we had big groups of children watching, eager to participate in any way they could. We introduced a big piece of circular cloth used in UK primary schools called a parachute. We would have people standing around holding the edges and shaking the parachute up and down. On top would be tennis balls. When the parachute was shaken they would fly all over the place for the children to catch and throw back on. When this was introduced to the local father, he thought we used it to parachute down to the villages at the foot of the mountain! The children have a real energy and enthusiasm. They enjoy just spending time with you and the sports equipment is a bonus. Like most children in England, they love to play and teaching them a sport they have never seen before with brand new equipment will have them chanting your name and they will have smiles on all day. You will definitely tire before they are bored and want to stop. Yamba has a lot to offer and you can really experience an African way of life in the village, away from the towns spoilt by tourism and commercialism. Just the walks alone offer marvellous sights and with a guide he can explain how they use a lot of nature’s products: leaves for medicine, wood and banana leaves to build houses etc. I have helped out on farms, learning the daily life and diet of these subsistence farmers. I have even used a sugar cane press with some of the locals. When any meat is served for dinner, a boy from my Standard V class and I will slaughter the smaller animals for the housegirls. You can get as involved as you want in the community. The people are truly friendly and welcoming and can make you feel that Yamba is your home. When it was coming to the end of term, all the volunteers and teachers worked alongside each other for a sports day in school. We played the years against each other in football and netball and even had relay races for the whole school. As the football and netball matches were being played, numerous activities were set up in the background for the spectators from volleyball to hoops round a stick. Everyone was involved and it turned into a memorable day.
Roy Gee – Nov 06
As a backpacker over the past years I have travelled around the world, which included three teaching projects in Bali, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Now in my late 60+ years I was very privileged to become part of ‘Village Africa’ teaching English at primary level for three months on the roof of Africa in ‘Yamba’. Real, rural Africa! What an unforgettable, amazing adventure even at my age. Age proved to be no barrier with the children (watoto) and the warm hearted, welcoming farming community of Yamba.
Not to be missed.
It is possible.
Rebecca Lander – Nov 06
This week I have been ‘shadowing’ our house girl Stella. She has been teaching me to cook African food, wash clothes in a stream, cut and cook spinach (from the field to the table in 2 hours) and carry things on my head!!! Great fun!
Joanna Elgar – Nov 06
Joanna has summed up the experience she is having living in Yamba with the following: “a dream fulfilled…I never expected to be so involved and included in a rural African community, the people are amazing and just by being themselves they make you reflect on the whole meaning of life and good values”
Allison Yearsley – Nov 06
A Typical Day in Milingano
I wake up most days at around 6am with the sound of the cockerels and the housegirls Melania and Jois, busily preparing our breakfast in the kitchen which is separate to the house, just outside my bedroom. M and J are both fantastic and I love them to bits. In spite of the loud greetings I hear them calling to passersby, I usually doze off again until they start clonking cutlery around in the living room. When I say living room, what I mean is a room with an enormous wooden table, which the carpenters recently made especially for us to save our backs, as compared to them we are giants! We have four bright orange plastic garden chairs to sit on and a very small side table. It is sparse but so much better than I had imagined it would be!
I usually climb out of my mosi net at around 7am, get dressed and go outside to the ‘bathroom’. On the way I greet the housegirls, who always say ‘Good morning sister, how are you?’, and the children playing outside the house next to ours. I use a cup to get some warm water out of the bucket (heated earlier by the housegirls on a charcoal stove) and pour it into a plastic bowl to wash my face. The loo is a hole in the ground in the middle of the bathroom (a bit like a shed!), with a wooden cover. It smells a bit pongy but it’s not too bad. Going to the loo in the day is far more pleasant than at night as you don’t have to deal with the cockroaches that come running out to see what is being deposited!
Usually by the time I have washed my face, breakfast is all laid out on the table. A plate, a glass (or a jar as we keep breaking glasses!) and a cup and saucer for each of us, usually a plate of bread in the middle and a flask of boiling water for our tea. It has taken some time, understandably (especially considering they only have a large pan and a charcoal stove to cook with!), but M and J now make pretty fantastic bread in the form of a kind of bun round. When we first moved in you could probably have knocked someone out with it or otherwise had hours of fun making playdough shapes! Now though, it is light and almost the texture of cake but less crumbly. I’m so impressed! Thankfully we have discovered you can buy Marmite and jam in Tanga otherwise it would have been a very dull breakfast. We occasionally have a bowl of ugi for a change, which is a runny porridge a bit like semolina, made from maize flour. It takes some getting used to but with plenty of sugar it’s pretty good! We use powdered milk in our tea which also takes a bit of getting used to but it’s not bad.
School is only 5 minutes walk away so we head off at about 7.45am. As soon as we reach the market square we are surrounded by children eager to carry our bags for us. It took a while for them to understand how our backpacks work but now they just sling them on their backs, stick their own bag on their head and off they go! Most children wear school uniform although they do not have to. Usually their shirts only have enough buttons as they need to retain their dignity and sometimes not this many! They are generally an off-white, verging on brown colour, often with at least a few holes or even great big rips here and there. The girls wear royal blue skirts below the knee and boys wear long shorts. Most children wear flip flops or plastic sandals, some are barefoot and occasionally I spot a pair of shoes and black and white stripey socks! Most school bags are old plastic carrier bags or very poor quality draw string bags, which always reveal through the holes the dirty books they carry in them.
When we arrive at school most children have already been there since 7am and are doing chores or standing to attention in assembly outside. We often witness caning at this time which is horrible to see, and something the school is working on eradicating. We greet all the staff by shaking their hands and either saying ‘onga’ (kisambaa) or ‘good morning’. Most of the staff speak basic to good English so that makes things easier. We have to sign in, writing the Kiswahili time rather than English time, which is 6 hours behind. Their clock starts when the sun rises at 6am (0:00 Kiswahili time).
Lessons start at 8am, and I usually have about 4 a day to teach, using the time in between to make resources, mark books and plan lessons. As most days there are not enough teachers, I often make my lessons overrun or teach extra ‘fun’ lessons in between. When we arrived in Milingano, neither of my classes could say much more than ‘Good morning teacher’. (This is nice as the whole class stands to attention as I enter the room – so Victorian!) So we had to start at the beginning, teaching the alphabet and basic greetings. Here they have about 5 different greetings and several different responses all based on ‘How are you?’ so even teaching ‘hello’ was a challenge! We’ve ended up making up all sorts of cheesy adaptation of songs from the Sound of Music to help children learn simple phrases. My standard 1 class is still the hardest work as the children have not yet learned to read and write. With 80-90 children in one room and not enough desks would be a challenge in their own language, but they are only just learning to write in Kiswahili so English is really tough. One of the things that holds them back is that many come to school without a pencil or only a tiny stub, sharpened by a razor blade which they carry in their bag! Standard 3 is easier as about 2/3 of the 50-60 children who attend can write. I still can’t believe that I enjoy teaching kids who are aged between 10-17 years old so much! We have great fun and I never have any behaviour problems from them.
Just after noon we wander back home for lunch with our little entourage of pupils, and J and M give us some more bread. They sometimes whip up a sauce made from vegetables but we’re not keen on that so we usually have a ‘salad’ of carrots and peppers or cabbage and tomatoes. Occasionally the children give us eggs and when we have been to the farm in Lushoto we have some sweaty cheese or homemade strawberry jam to liven up the bread!
We head back to ‘shule’ an hour later. Many children wait for us outside our house or stay at school during the lunch hour. A lot do not eat any lunch. Some take home made snacks to school and some go home to eat the staple food, ugali. This is a kind of stodgy food made from maize flour. We generally don’t eat this as it takes a lot of getting used to!
Lessons finish at 2.30pm when the children do more chores, such as sweeping the classrooms. They are usually sent home at about 3pm unless we decide to do some sport with them. So far we have taught them the fun of relay races (including egg and spoon, which they love!), rounders, stuck in the mud and football. The school has its own football kit which was donated to them a few years ago but has not had much use as they had no football, so Kirstie’s arrival with a brand new England ball was well recieved! They really want us to teach the girls netball so we are going to make some posts and try to get a ball for them.
Most days when we get home we spend some time entertaining the increasing number of kids who hang around our house, playing games, singing songs, drawing pictures in the dirt… The ground is perfect for drawing on with a stick as it is like red clay so when it dries it goes hard and dusty. I occasionally get some paints or pastels out to do some art work but usually this ends up with me being surrounded by kids so I either give them pencils to do their own drawings or just draw one of them. Recently I have started getting adults knocking on my door asking me to draw a ‘photo’ of them!
Our showers are ready at 4pm as this is the best time to avoid being bitten by the mozies. I say shower, I mean a bucket of maji moto (hot water), collected from the river and heated on the stove. Using a cup you just pour the water over yourself. It actually works quite well and is much better than some of the cold dribbly showers we’ve had in cheap hotels here!
Some evenings I teach an English class for adults. I usually only have 5 or 6 students but it’s fun and most of them are people I now consider to be my friends.
It gets dark at 6pm so Jois lights our kerosene lamps before serving us dinner. After a trip to Lushoto or Tanga to stock up, this is often a delicious selection of vegetables cooked in their own juices, accompanied by potatoes or rice. When supplies are starting to get thin, it is more likely we have lentils or beans with rice and cabbage. Occasionally we are given a gift of a chicken but these are so skinny we don’t usually bother to buy them. We have loads of peanuts and bananas to snack on and usually a good supply of oranges (which are green here!) from our shopping trips. It’s amazing how plain our food can be and yet we enjoy it so much – probably because we know we are eating luxury food by local standards.
We send the girls home after dinner when they are replaced by Godfrey, our night watchman. He is a lovely guy who takes his role very seriously! When he is not killing spiders or other ‘very bad’ insects for us, he is either patrolling outside or sitting reading the children’s books we brought over, to improve his English.
We usually have a few games of cards or Yahtzee in the evening before retreating to our bedrooms ridiculously early to read or listen to music.
Sarah Jones – Sep-Nov 06
The rainy season has started early so our walk to work is now a bit less pleasant On Monday it rained non stop and as a result my class of 50 kids decreased to 9. Very odd indeed. As most of them have a long journey it’s not surprising. Plus it’s hard to teach with the noise of the rain on the tin rooves. Also, most children work hard in the fields sowing maize, hoeing etc. Everything is done by hand (no machines) so it’s all hands on deck once the rains start. We were out there ourselves helping last week! It’s really Spring like here now. Everything is really green and there are ducklings and chicks around.
We’ve started adult classes 2 nights a week, so there’s less time for relaxing now. The pace of life though is still a world away from home. The Africans even find it funny how fast we walk around the place!
All is still going well and the kids have yet to transform themselves into monsters – thank goodness. I’ve been told that I have natural authority in the classroom – not sure where that came from! We must be doing something right as the children keep giving us presents. We received enough bananas last week to set up our own stall in the local market! No more rabbits or chickens have yet to be donated though so our life of beans, lentils and cabbage continues for dinner! Actually, it’s not too bad. It’s amazing what our house girls come up with.
I’ve now taken on a new class as well so am pretty busy. 232 are currently registered but fortunately only about half of that turn up and of those, I only teach half (about 60 odd). There aren’t enough desks to go round so some sit on the floor which is not ideal (particularly given that we are giants compared to the locals!) but we muddle on by.
One of the volunteers (Kirsty) has brought a football with her so we’ve had a number of after school football matches which the whole school (and most of the village!) come to. They usually play with a ball made out of plastic bags, but despite this some of the boys are really good. We’ve also introduced rounders into their lives. Surprisingly hard to teach when you don’t speak the local lingo but we’re getting there!
It seems quite odd that my days now consist of teaching, making resources (drawing pictures and making flashcards) and entertaining kiddies. Rather different from life at home. I’m also now a bit of a card shark as there’s little else to do in the evenings once it gets dark (around 6.30)
Milingano, is in the heart of the Usambara mountains. Yamba, the HQ of Village Africa, is right up in the mountains and we were there for our first week’s training. It’s cold and damp a lot of the time but really stunning place. You feel like you’re on top of Africa. I had 3 fleeces on at times but the people there often have no shoes or jumpers. Not surprisingly, 20 per cent of under 5s don’t make it (often due to malaria and other such diseases). Milingano by contrast is hot and dry.
Accommodation is basic but fine. We have a number of resident creepy crawlies in the toilet hut but I’m getting used to it . No electricity but kerosene lamps aren’t too bad and my headtorch (very stylish!) is doing the trick. Pretty strange having “staff” (2 house girls and a night watchman) but it’s what the local teachers do and it’s giving local people much needed jobs.
Allison Yearsley – Sept 06
The welcome was amazing. In Milingano people danced around the drum and we joined in. We were given a special lunch and speeches were read by the chairman and Father Dennis, the local priest. We then passed through a couple of hamlets where more people greeted us with dancing, singing, drumming and cheering. In one dance we were welcomed into a circle by women who carried us on their backs! The people here are tiny compared to us because they are so malnourished but they are very strong and carry heavy buckets and sacks up and down hills everyday.
Finally, just before sunset, we climbed the last stretch of the beautiful mountain on foot up to Yamba. It was incredibly steep and we struggled, even in our trusty walking boots, but the locals just skipped up barefoot, carrying our water bottles on their heads!
In Yamba people continued to greet us warmly. We had practised on the journey saying ‘onga?’ and replying ‘tiwedi’ which is the local language, Kisambaa, for how are you. People thought it was hilarious that we were speaking Kisambaa! At last we neared the top and suddenly the women all started picking us up and carried us to the top! I was at least 3 stone heavier than the woman carrying me but she wouldn’t put me down even when she was walking over stoney ground!
We’ve had a tough first week at school. Things are very different here. Besides the fact that the classes are huge (between 50-232 per class, although us volunteers teach a maximum of 100 at a time), there are often not enough teachers so many classes sit without a teacher all day, children are caned because the teachers don’t know how else to control them, there are no resources except blackboards, there are not enough desks and not enough classrooms. The children provide their own exercise books and a pencil which they carry to school in a tatty plastic bag on their heads. Many children cannot afford books or pencils, which presents teachers with problems when setting work! However, I try not to let all this bother me too much, I love teaching the children. They are very keen to learn and sneak into classes even when they are not supposed to be in them. They are so excited about us being here and are thrilled when I give them a sticker or get out a toy. This week we made up a song to teach ‘hello, how are you?’ and every evening we hear children singing it over and over!
We have been eating amazingly well… I thought I was going to lose weight but I think I’m putting it on! People keep bringing us gifts of food (live chickens, rabbits, spinach, maize, papaya, sugar cane etc) and our house girls are amazing cooks although last week we did have an awful lot of cabbage, beans and rice! We also have a night watchman called Godfrey who delights in being the hero, killing poisonous spiders and caterpillars that make your skin itch if you touch them. As Sarah said on our first night… there is far too much wildlife in the toilet for our liking! As you lift the lid cockroaches all come running out! It is after all, just a 30 ft hole in the ground! I am getting used to the bucket showers though. Milingano is hot, so a warm bucket of water splashed over with a jug is quite nice!