Friday, November 14, 2008


As we start life here in this new place, I’ve been very aware of our creation of yet another new cycle, a new routine, for our days. Its interesting to see what parts of our daily patterns remain the same in each place we visit – and what is new again and again. One thing that remains the same, is that I want to share the cycle with all of you.

Our life in Mwanza, Tanzania looks a little something like this...

Eric and I wake up around 7:30 in Milestone House, a communal house for SAIDIA Tanzania volunteers in a neighborhood called Bwiru. We have a little breakfast at the house (our latest favorite has been African porridge) and then head to our respective jobs. Every morning, we both work for a small, grass-roots level NGOs. I’m working for BCDSA (Busega Childrens and Development Services Assistance), a group that has programs for women and vulnerable children. Eric is working for DEFESCO (Developing Free Education Services Centers for Orphans), an education project for secondary school aged youth. Both organizations are working with the absolute minimum in terms of resources. The staff at both organizations are currently working as volunteers, with the hopes of one day being paid. They daily struggle with the basics – electricity for the offices, functioning computers, paper/pens – and yet they’re both committed to helping others as much as they are able, with the little they have. It’s an inspiration. And, both Eric and I hope to be of tangible help while we’re here.

In the afternoons, Eric and I are volunteering together for SAIDIA Tanzaniza, the organization helped us come to Tanzania. SAIDIA works with 5 small, grassroots organizations in Mwanza supporting them and placing international volunteers with them. Throughout the process, SAIDIA works as an intermediary between the organizations and the volunteers, ensuring that the work volunteers do is sustainable, truly helpful and a good experience for everyone involved. SAIDIA is a fantastic program – its so practical and is truly making a difference for their partner organizations. Eric and I are helping SAIDIA to develop their organization systems, create new materials and recruit more volunteers. Speaking of recruitment, if you – or anyone you know – is interested in volunteering in Tanzania, I’d definitely recommend checking out

During our evenings and weekends, Eric and I spend time with the other SAIDIA folks, explore Mwanza and participate in some of the fun activities that other NGO-ish folks have organized (ultimate frisbee, soccer, yoga...). And, yes – Eric is the one playing frisbee and soccer and I am the one doing yoga - just to erase any hilarious images of me attempting ultimate frisbee from your minds!

Life is good here – rich, colorful, hot, beautiful – and there’s so much work to do, so much to discover, so much to learn. So much life to live in this new place.


Dietrich said...

Great to read of what SAIDIA is doing and your part in it, that you are once again putting your volunteer coordinator's hat on. I hope to be wearing such a hat when I coordinate volunteer assignments for Urbana 09 in St. Louis, to which you & Eric will be invited. Gratefully yours, Diet/Dad

Betsy Grace Matheson Symanietz said...

I LOVE Tanzania! So glad you're there.