Throughout the years, ads on tv had convinced me that everyone in Africa was sad, that children cried all day and mothers never smiled. The ads were wrong. My fondest memory of Tanzania is the smiles I received and the joy that was shared. Landing in the childrens home, The Olive Branch for Children, I was bombarded with hugs and hellos from adults and children alike. Little ones would run up to me and tug my shirt or take my hand, before running back to hide behind their mothers skirts, grinning from ear to ear. My first night, the children hosted a dance and there were shouts of joy as they flung themselves around and tried to teach me to dance. Although I spoke no tswhili and some of the women spoke no English, we still sat around a fire, chatting away. They would clap enthusiastically when I pronounced a word correct or even formed a sentence. These people embraced me as if I was their own and shared every smile they had with me. I understand now that the ads are not always true. They are used for fundraising purposes, to raise much needed funds to provide necessary projects or health care. But they do not show the real Africa. Yes these people suffer from many issues which we would never face in a western world, but it doesn’t stop them from trying to improve their own life’s, it doesn’t stop them from laughing at themselves when someone accidentally spills the beans all over the floor, it doesn’t stop them from smiling when a child brings home some flowers or a kiss for their parents. Visiting and volunteering in Tanzania opened my eyes to a whole other side that I was never shown. They are faced with daily dilemmas but they work past them, they work with what they got and they do not begrudge anyone who has more. This, to me, is why I feel so strongly about helping them. We, the people who have plenty, should help to provide services which will improve their lives. We should be glad to teach them the skills we have so they can build sustainable futures. We shouldn’t be giving them a fish, but teaching them how to fish. If I learnt one thing from my friends over in Tanzania is that they do not want charity, they want sustainability, they want to learn how to improve their own lives. They want to continue smiling about the work they are doing, work they can be proud of. I want them to keep smiling, I want to smile myself, I want us to help each other. Sustainability is the key to smiling and we should all be working towards a more sustainable future.
By Hannah Egan.