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Naila and kids from an orphanage smiling and pulling silly faces

Naila's Experience at a Tanzanian Orphanage

By Gap 360

Last updated: 12th November 2015

We heard from our lovely customer Naila on her return from our Orphanage Volunteer in Tanzania programme. Read what she had to say here…

“It’s been almost a month since I’ve returned from Arusha in Northern Tanzania, and every day I think about my experience there, every day I carry some part of it in my bones. And every day I miss the children I had the great joy of spending so much time with. I had wanted to travel to Africa on a volunteer service trip for years. The problem was I dreamed and talked about it more than I seemed to explore any concrete plans to realizing such an adventure. I didn’t choose Gap 360. Gap 360 chose me, because suddenly when I was tired of longing and imagining and talking about “some day,” I stumbled upon the organization while researching a story on gap years.

Naila and kids from an orphanage smiling and pulling silly faces

Naila reading a book to a room full of kids at an orphanage

As a working professional, I was and am well past the age of the traditional gap year. But I was drawn to the idea of a unique and meaningful travel experience for people in transition, for people in need of a respite from the comfortable familiarity of their lives, for those of us hungry to see another part of the world in a way that would transform us. So, I took the leap and I booked my orphanage volunteer in Tanzania. It was a phenomenal experience — joyous, heartbreaking, eye-opening, fulfilling, challenging.

My month in Arusha encompassed more than I ever imagined it would, as I spent my days volunteering in two orphanages, one for babies, and one for older kids, feeding them, playing with them, helping the older kids with school lessons and in general sharing all the love I could with these wondrously open and affectionate souls.

The deprivation I saw — children going without meals, wearing the same torn and dirty clothing day after day, sharing a single bathroom with close to 50 other kids, finding a simple tissue such a marvel they tried to force runny noses just to get one — these things and more are a sorrow I still carry. But the happiness and love that bloomed despite it all have forever changed me.

Naila playing with kids from an orphanage

I went to Tanzania to be with the children, but I also was captivated by the land: the vast and shifting beauty of it, the warm and gentle people, the vibrant colours, the “pole pole” (slow) way of life that was a surprisingly easy rhythm to adjust to. I experienced countless breathtaking moments going on safari to Tarangire National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, savoured delicious eats like corn with pili pili and fresh mangoes and avocados almost daily, and met amazing individuals from all over the world who I hope to one day see again.

This wasn’t just an experience. It was a true adventure of the heart. And I am already looking forward to my return trip.”

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