Allison Katz

Allison Katz | Armonk, NY – Human and Organizational Development, 2017

Allison Katz is from Armonk, New York. Allison is majoring in human and organizational development as well as child development, and is minoring in Spanish. This upcoming summer Allison will be spending ten weeks in Tanzania partaking in a teaching project in collaboration with local teachers and helping in the community orphanage over the weekends and after school hours. Allison looks forward to the opportunity to work alongside the local people in order to improve the wellbeing of the children in the area.

Blog Post One:

I have been in Tanzania for one week now and have never been so enchanted by a place. I have met some of the most beautiful people, experienced an absolutely stunning culture, and seen an amazing country, all while having the opportunity to truly help and impact the people with whom I am working.

I am volunteering at Charity School near Arusha. The director of the school Charles started the school himself. As a child, an American family sponsored his education. Accordingly, when after graduating he passed three young children on the street whom looked extremely impoverished, he sympathized greatly with them. They were experiencing malnutrition, did not have sufficient clothing, had a mother infected with HIV, and had no means of obtaining food or an education.  After speaking with their grandmother, he decided to provide them with an education himself. He could not afford to send them to private school and knew that they would not be able to succeed if placed in the public school system. Charles decided to rent a room, hire a teacher, and give them breakfast, which he paid for through working his other job. The school gradually attracted more students. Today, the school has around 150 students, 13 teachers, and 8 classrooms. Foreign sponsors support approximately 20 of the students at Charity School. This man who started with so little had such an immense heart and was able to create his own school out of nothing except sympathy, hard work, and determination. Everyone working in the school follows Charles’s spirit of giving back and exhibiting kindness, and this too is passed onto their students. The most common Swahili word in Tanzania seems to be “karibu” meaning you are welcome. Everyone offers to share everything no matter how little they have. I have come here to share with them what I can as a volunteer, and they have welcomed me with open arms and all that they can offer.

As a volunteer here, I feel I am able to contribute to the mission Charity School: helping children who would otherwise have very little opportunity through education. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school or need them to help with the housework. I want to help this school further succeed, grow, and develop as it has so far. I have been helping to teach lessons to the class, teach students one on one, care for the students, manage the classroom, and expose students and teachers to English. I hope to be able to contribute so much more as my time here continues. I am extremely grateful to be able to help the people here, as they truly deserve all of the help that they can receive. I feel fortunate to be able to learn so much from each and every one of them and from my time here in this stunning country. I have learned patience, compassion, motivation, and so much more. It has only been one week and I can already say that this experience is one of the most valuable experiences I have yet to have and cannot give enough thanks to the Nichols Humanitarian Fund for this irreplaceable and unique opportunity.

Blog Post Two:

Today was the last day of my placement at Charity School here in Tanzania. I am extremely sad to have to leave, but am so grateful for the time I spent here. I feel I have built very strong relationships with the people here, not just in my school but also around the village. Last week, an older student from my school wanted me to come to her home so I went with her after school. We walked about fifteen minutes from school to her home where her mother was waiting for me with open arms and a huge smile on her face. She brought me into her one room home and insisted on feeding me a huge bowl of potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, pumpkin, and juice. I have never felt so welcomed by someone I had never met, and I was amazed by her selflessness. When I left she kept thanking me and telling me that she loved me, and I told her it was me who should be thanking her. This is just one instance of how welcoming and happy so many of the people I have met here are. Everyone at Charity School and in the village my school was in accepted me as one of their own. On my walk home to school, all of the children that I pass every day come running to me and give me a huge hug. I have never felt so at home at a place away from home.

In my class I also feel I have established a strong position. The students have learned to respect me a great deal more than they originally did since I became a consistent teacher in the classroom. I also know the students individually now and know how to best help each child to succeed in class. I know which students struggle more than others. It has been so interesting to see the differences in the education system here versus at home and I have tried to learn from the teachers here and share my knowledge with them too.

Today, in honor of my last day, all of the students gathered together to give me handmade cards, say goodbye and best wishes, sing, and dance for me. It was so amazing to see everyone all together one last time. I know that I will be back here one day because the impact that Tanzania, and specifically Charity School, has had on me is unimaginable. I feel I have been able to help at the school in terms of the teaching aspect and in terms of just giving the students some more attention, since they typically do not receive individual attention. I have also gotten to know the students in each grade from porridge time and from after school time. I hope that I have left an impact on them as they certainly have left an impact on me.

Blog Post Three:

I am beyond grateful for my time in Tanzania, which would not have been possible without the generous assistance of the Nichols Fund. I cannot believe how incredibly fast my two months volunteering in Tanzania flew by. It was such an unforgettable experience in which not only could I make an impact on the people I worked with and got to know, but an experience in which I was truly impacted in such a positive way by each and every moment.

Each day I spent the morning and the early afternoon teaching at Charity School in Arusha, Tanzania. My first three weeks there I was in the grade two class and my last five weeks I was in the pre-unit class. I helped teach and work one on one with students in all of their daily subjects including English, reading, mathematics, science, and handwriting. After school and on the weekends I would often go to an orphanage or a baby orphanage. At the orphanages I would help the children wash their laundry and dishes and would also play soccer, dance, and hang out with them. At the baby orphanages, I would help feed, bathe, and play with the babies.

I also had so many other amazing experiences during my time there. I went to an NGO called Positive Love, which is a jewelry cooperative for ladies who have HIV. Additionally, I had the irreplaceable opportunity of forming strong, genuine relationships with teachers, students’ families, and people I passed daily on my walk to school. One specific example of a really strong relationship that was built was with my school’s director. I had the chance to go with him to his Maasai Village, which is one of the native tribes in Tanzania. I took a two-hour public bus out of town, and then we walked one hour into the bush of Tanzania until we encountered his village in the middle of the mountains. The village was made up of his extended family, each with their own Maasai hut. It was amazing to see the beauty of their simple, traditional lives and I was so welcomed by them all.

I have learned more than I could have imagined from my time in this amazing country. One lesson I have learned is that happiness does not necessarily come from what many people in America and other parts of the world give importance and value to. In Tanzania I saw more smiling people than I have ever seen in a place before. I met people who were truly happy with their lives, yet they lived with their entire families in a one room shack, had one outfit, one broken pair of shoes, and struggled to afford food and school fees. Many people at home, including myself at times, often become caught up in superficial and material things believing that those types of things bring about happiness, but I have truly learned that genuine happiness is about more than that. The people who live simple lives with the people they love seem to live the most beautiful and happy lives.

Another lesson that I learned is the importance of the smaller parts of volunteering abroad. Some people think that volunteers believe they are changing the world; however, it is important to acknowledge that most do know that their impacts may be small, such as helping one student understand addition or learn a new letter, or even just putting a smile on a child’s face, but the impact is nonetheless important and surely better than no help. Even some of the teachers did not view me as having a great deal of value for their classroom. Though part of what I came there to do was help with the work like grading books and sharpening pencils, some teachers viewed that as my only role. I learned how to get that work done and then take on more responsibilities. For example, I would grade books then go help the students who were struggling with their independent work.

I also learned that you cannot always understand other parts of the world without actually being there. I have seen people living in true poverty, I have seen the inefficiencies in the education system, I have seen discrimination that exists against anyone who is different in any way, and I have seen a work ethic unlike any I have ever seen before. These differences and many of the facts about the country and the culture are challenging to comprehend without firsthand experience.

Through my time in Tanzania, I was able to have an impact on the students with whom I worked with. I was able to teach the class as well as work with them individually, which is a type of attention that they rarely or never receive in school there. I was also able to share some teaching methods with teachers there and they were able to share some with me. I was able to brighten the days of people as they simultaneously brightened mine. For example, many of the orphans in Tanzania do not receive very much attention and love. Often times the orphanage’s director does not care for the children properly and may be neglectful or selfish. By going there and spending time with the children, I do not solve their problems but I feel I was able to help make their day a little happier as they also made mine happier too. I met some of the most resilient people who remain happy and strong throughout some of the most challenging circumstances.

After my eight weeks of volunteering, I decided extend my stay and to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa. During my week climbing up the mountain, I had so much time to reflect on the beauty of the country, its people, and my time here. I am so thankful for my time spent in Tanzania and cannot wait to return one day really soon.


One Comment Add yours

  1. janice nichols says:

    Allison, Ed and I read your blog and your comment “This man had so little but had an immense heart ” is so moving and reminds us 2 start where we are and do good. Also Karibu the spirit of giving back is beautiful. We know your trip will expand some of your ideas and ours.


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