Wasa is a small village near the city of Iringa, in Tanzania. Here, students founded a project in 2011, based on their desire to help the community, in which living conditions were very poor. “Working for Wasa” is the heart of Students for Humanity’s activities. Its aim is to enable Wasa’s children and young adults to obtain a satisfactory level of education and provide scholarships for the students with the greatest potential. This is done while ensuring that they have adequate living standards and while working on helping the village to reach self-sufficiency. Every year, new volunteers are selected to travel to the village during the summer to help and monitor Wasa’s conditions. In this article, you will hear a first-hand account from one of Wasa’s inspirational volunteers, Anna.
When did you leave for Wasa?
“I left for Wasa last summer with the third group of volunteers. I spent a month there: from July 26th to August 21st.”
What inspired you to go? “Leaving for a volunteering activity abroad has always been something that I wanted to do. I met the members of Students for Humanity during the associations on display days, in which I immediately decided to join the association and apply for Wasa. I was inspired by the joy with which the former volunteers who left the last few years spoke about it. When I listened to them talking about their experiences, I was touched by the enthusiasm with which they would speak about Wasa, and especially by the light that I saw in their eyes.”
What did your role as a volunteer entail?
“I took care of one of the projects that we volunteers have carried out on the spot: the registration of the school with the Tanzanian government. The aim was to reach all the necessary prerequisites for the school to be registered and recognized by Veta officers, the ministers in charge of education in Tanzania. Specifically, I was in charge of seeking and keeping in touch with local people to achieve the necessary prerequisites for registration. This activity included hiring new teachers, a principal, and an accountant, making estimates for the purchase of new materials for the workshops, drawing up contracts, and arranging the personnel offices. Our school has very low fees compared to all other schools in the region and registering the school means giving more opportunities to all students, even those who come from less wealthy families. This ensures that everyone can have the opportunity to study and practice, but most importantly be certified and recognized by the government, in order to access higher wages or to have job opportunities in other regions or states.
"In a typical day, there were also moments with the students during school hours. Every morning, we volunteers taught English and maths in the classes, then there was teatime and, after that, the workshops began.”
What was your most memorable moment? “My most joyful memory is that of the evening bonfire with the students. Every evening, after dinner, we would sit in the kitchen around the fire, chat and sing songs. Since then, the bonfire smell brings back nostalgic and happy memories. Due to the language barrier sometimes we sat in silence, nevertheless, words weren’t always needed for us to enjoy our time together: we were all huddled together to keep warm. Other times, we would sing their favorite song: Furaha, which means happiness in Swahili (I still sing this song in the shower every morning!). "Those were the moments in which I realized that I had never felt so happy and part of something. Yet, I understood I was feeling pure happiness in a context of extreme simplicity.”
Has your perspective changed since your return? If so, in what way?
“Since I returned, the thing that I have thought about the most is: what does it take to be truly happy? I believe the answer lies in the people we decide to surround ourselves with on a daily basis. I believe it is essential to recognize the feeling of happiness that can be drawn from the smallest daily gestures, which can make us appreciate what we already have without thinking of what we don’t have. As a result, I came to truly understand the saying: “money doesn’t buy happiness.”
Did the experience as a volunteer meet your expectations?
“The experience undoubtedly exceeded my expectations. Before leaving, I really didn't know what to expect: I just knew I wanted to put all my energy into doing what was necessary to keep the project going. In the end, I found much more: a new culture, a different way of acting and facing difficulties, new habits, amazing people and I also discovered a new part of myself: a more aware and tenacious Anna.”