Hi! I’m Sonia, an 18-year-old American student on a gap year between high school and university. My twin sister Sarina and I recently wrapped up an amazing nine-week trip to Africa, and since we were lucky enough to volunteer on four of African Impact’s projects, I thought I would provide my personal perspective and tips for each of them. Hopefully this is helpful to anyone trying to decide which project(s) to go to, or simply interesting if you’ve been to one already and are curious about some of the others.
The Three Projects that Sonia and Sarina Visited:
- Girl Impact – Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
- Teaching & Community – Zanzibar, Tanzania
- Early Childhood Development – Cape Town, South Africa
Favorites on Project: My favorite thing about this location was the Wazee. “Wazee” is the Swahili word for “old people” and is also used to describe the old people’s home in Moshi. They are some of the sweetest people I have ever met, with incredible stories. I felt like they were my grandparents away from home. Also, make sure to go to Wakipa — the women’s group — for dinner on Wednesday night. You will be in for a night of amazing food, singing, and dancing.
Tips: Be prepared for daily power outages, sometimes hours-long or overnight. There is no WiFi at the house, but you can get a SIM card in Moshi and buy data. I personally got one from some guys on the side of the road with a folding table and some umbrellas — a true African experience for sure!
Fun Activities: A great thing about Moshi’s location is how easily you can go on safari. My sister and I did a 4-day, 3-night trip to Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire. We camped every night and saw a ton of animals, which was a huge highlight of our entire trip.
Favorites on Project: While I love working with little kids in nursery, I think the coolest thing about this location is The Land — African Impact’s very own school. Walking distance from the volunteer house, The Land is where adult classes are held every afternoon, from literacy to advanced classes. My sister and I assisted at extra English classes every day, which allowed us to interact with our students on a more personal level. I also loved the local meals that were cooked for us every Wednesday at a local teacher’s house.
Tips: There isn’t really anything I wish I knew before I came, honestly.
Fun Activities: Full Moon Party! If you take the dala-dala — a unique public transportation experience — it’s very cheap and you can stop in Stone Town on the way. As far as Jambiani goes, you can always bike to various resorts for drinks or a swim, or go to a Dulla Boys soccer game!
Favorites on Project: The kids at Fikelela — an emergency foster care home in Khayelitsha — were among my favorite kids I met on my trip, and I met a lot of kids. I was also lucky enough to go on a GAPA trip to a farm! GAPA (Grandmothers against Poverty and Aids) is an after-school program where the grannies are awesome to talk to and the kids have endless energy.
Tips: The chef has weekends off so make sure to budget for your own food on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, bring some cute clothes and ID for going out if that’s what you like to do. Cape Town is a proper city with lots of restaurants, bars, and clubs — and Uber! I would really recommend getting a SIM card so that you can Uber around the city.
Fun Activities: There are so many things to do in and around Cape Town; you will never be bored. Highlights for me were skydiving, Boulders Beach, Thulani’s community tour, Lions Head hike, going to markets, and hanging out at the Waterfront.
For the ninth week of my trip, I went on a beautiful tour of the Garden Route, which you can arrange through African Impact as well.
Hopefully I have scratched the surface of what each project and location has to offer. I think the toughest thing for me was that I was only at each project for two weeks. The longer you stay, the more time you have to make friends and really become familiar with the work you’re doing, as well as the surrounding area. I’m so thankful that African Impact gave me the opportunity to explore Africa not just as a regular tourist but as a volunteer. The best part is working in the local communities and getting to know people born and raised in the country you’re in. I had an amazing time and would love to work with African Impact again!