Tizia from Germany started Viva Tanzania (Arusha) - here's her remarkable story
[August 19, 2016]
Viva Tanzania (www.-tanzania.com) is a young organisation that combines tourism and volunteering in a responsible and sustanable way. Tizia - from Germany - and her Tanzanian husband founded the organisation. Tizia tells her story on GoTanzania.
I want to share my life with you
I am Tizia, 25 years old and originally from Germany. I want to tell you about my life in Tanzania, how I got here and what I am doing here.
But let's start from the beginning:
In Autumn 2009, half a year before graduation conversations where just about one topic: What should I do after my A-Levels? Working? But what? Studying? But which subject? Or should I do something totally different? In this time two of my friends talked about that they applied for „Weltwärts“ (German, word by word: „towards the world“). A year abroad that's what I wanted to do! But where to? The world is big and “Weltwärts”, the programme from the Federal Ministry of Economic Collaboration and Development offers the work in many countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Eastern Europe. The preselection was easy: I wanted to go to Africa, since I spoke English and France and after 13 years of school and studying I didn't want to learn another foreign language.
No sooner said than done, I checked the Weltwärts website for thrilling projects and organizations, wrote ca. six applications and in January 2010 I was accepted at IN VIA belonging to the Catholic Association for Girls and Women Social Work who invited me to work in a kindergarten in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's biggest city.
In mid August the adventure started. With two suitcases and not too many ideas and expectation together with an another volunteer I moved in a convent of the Sisters of Maria Immaculata.
But a convent in Tanzania is not what you imagine if you know European convents. It was just a normal house with a chapel on the same compound. The other volunteer, let's call her Lena, and I got two rooms. One bed and one living room. We were introduced to the work in the kindergarten and it all started: I got my own class and war supposed to teach. Since I am White I would know what to do. There I was, only 18 years old in front of 20 children in their diapers with a stick in my hand and supposed to teach English. I guess you can imagine how this ended since I am not the only one who made the following experiences.
The children were not able to communicate in their mother tongue Swahili but were supposed to learn English. The children didn't show any respect or gave me attention since I didn't use the stick for beating even a single time. Most of the time the work in the kindergarten was quite frustrating, because the nuns in the kindergarten beat the children and this is not compatible with how I was raised. Handicraft work was broken and thrown away as the parents should not see this and think their children wouldn't learn anything in that kindergarten. We had to fight hard to do painting and handicraft sessions on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Nevertheless there were also many great experiences daily: The work with the children was fun and what I denied in first place, to learn a new language, started to make more and more fun. The relation to the other volunteer was okay, but I have to confess that it's not easy if you don't have privacy for a whole year and not even a meter space between the beds, but I believe that we did quite well. All in all was this year abroad one of the best decisions in my live and influenced my future life 100%. Because in April 2011 the whole future thing started over again: What should I do after this year when I am back in Germany?
One day I met a German student in the bus. We started chatting and after I introduced myself and explained what I am doing here he told me that he studies Cultural Anthropology and is doing a research on soap operas in Tanzanian television. I was blown away: to study and to travel at the same time? Sounded like a dream! At home I informed myself more about this degree programme and my heart started beating fast. That’s it! That's what I wanted to study! This and nothing else! Thereupon I applied for different universities and got accepted in Göttingen (central Germany). During my studies I was obligated to learn a non-European language and they even offered Swahili. What a lucky coincidence. In the 5th semester we got a chance to do a semester abroad. An opportunity I didn't want to miss. Since I participated in the Swahili class it made sense to do the semester abroad in East Africa. The University of Göttingen maintains a partnership with the University of Dar es Salaam, so I went back to my second home. In the beginning I was disappointed, I wanted to see more from the world and not go back to the place, where I already spend a year. But that's how it was.
So I packed my suitcases again and said goodbye to friends and family. From August 2013 I would be in Tanzania for eight months. After one week in Dar es Salaam I went to Arusha for a one month internship with an NGO. Through friends I met Tini, my today's husband. We spent eight awesome months in which I travelled more then I studied and at the end of my eight months it was clear: I will come back.
Another part became very important in my life: The debate about (Africa-) stereotypes and racism. I've always been aware of injustices in the world and these issues affected me particularly. So it was understandable that I wanted to settle my bachelor thesis in this area. I wrote about the Maasai, probably the most known ethnic group in Africa. My thesis had the title: “Who benefits from stereotypes? Depiction of the Maasai in Media and Tourism”. I wanted to continue this work and the fight against stereotypes and racism in Tanzania. I finished my studies within one year and on April 1st 2015 I moved to Tini to Arusha. A really brave step, in hindsight. First of all were we separated for a whole year and secondly I didn't have a job. I had tried to find work while still in Germany but this wasn't easy at all. When I arrived in Arusha I learned that a churchy volunteer organization had a job offer in the field of communication as a Volunteer Coordinator. I did not hesitate, went to the office and promptly got the job. In the six months I've been working for the volunteer organization, I learned a lot of what is very helpful in my current self-employment. Another three months, I spent in Moshi as an Internet Marketing Coordinator, for which I especially revised a well known German travel guide. Nevertheless, both employments were not very satisfactory, work days were long, the salary low and with one job I faced great difficulties to obtain a work permit and a contract. Thus Tini and I only saw one way: Self-Employment.
Since I moved to Arusha, Tini and I rented out rooms in our house. After a short while we launched the Nyumbani Hostel (“Nyumbani” in Swahili means “at home”). From the beginning we not just offered vacation (day trips, safaris and mountain climbing), but also helped interested people in finding projects for volunteering and internships. By the end of 2015 we wanted to become more professional and established our organization for volunteering and internships Viva Tanzania. We founded this organization because we see a great need for intercultural exchange and people who want to help to connect with projects and institutes. On the other hand is the demand for affordable project intermediation and very good in-country support huge. We do everything to ensure this, also because e.g. of my rather poor experience as a volunteer. By now I have more than three years living experience in Tanzania. I know well what it means to live in a totally different culture and environment so I am a good advisor for the volunteers and interns. At the same time we do everything to ensure that the volunteers will have a good time and can participate in meaningful work. Our prices are quite reasonable and the participant's preparation is excellent since we put great emphasis on critical analysis of their own patterns of thought and ideas. We also live together with the volunteers & interns, have common daily dinners, do excursions at the weekends and so much more. We offer placements in the fields of kindergartens, primary schools, women empowerment, health and animal welfare. More projects like the work with street children and HIV-infected and Aids patients will follow soon.
In February 2016 Tini and I got married and I like my life in Tanzania very much. With our three dogs Bella, Takwa and Luna we live together with our guests and I really enjoy the international exchange. Of course, life is not always easy here. Once in a while we don't have electricity and no matter how much you customize yourself, you will always be the foreigner and stranger, because you're already visually seen from a distance as such. Nevertheless, I feel free here, can live with my family and pursue the work that I really enjoy: to show our guests, volunteers and interns the country and the culture in which I live and which I love.
If you also want to become part of the community, whether as a tourist, traveller, for in internship or volunteer works and everything else, then get in touch!
We are excited to get to know you!