March 26, 2018, by Words on Words

The End of My Raleigh Experience

This blog post was written by third year English student, Anna Parry.

It is nearly six months now since I’ve been home from my ten weeks volunteering abroad in Tanzania, Africa with Raleigh International. The experience that I had was incredible, a summer I will never forget. Looking back now, it seems that I lived a different life, one completely unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. It is impossible to truly describe the moments I had or the relationships I built: every time I try the inferiority of my recollection is strikingly apparent.

Image: Author’s own

Looking back, I find it difficult to relive the goodbyes that had to be said – first to the villagers, then to our Tanzanian counterparts, and finally to the other UK volunteers. All the people who made the experience so special, who were there for support through the toughest weeks and the best of times, were now going their separate ways. These moments were filled to the brim with so much sadness, but also so much happiness. We got to know each other in such unique and special ways, crossing cultural boundaries and sharing the most challenging experiences of our lives together. The recognition that it was all coming to an end was difficult for all of us to cope with.

I think that might be what made it so hard – not just that we were saying goodbye to our home-stay families, or to our fellow volunteers, or even to the village itself, but to the collection of small parts and moments which made up the entirety of our experience.

Image: Author’s own

I have struggled far more with coming back to the UK, and with the experience coming to an end, than I ever thought I would. Home has not changed since I have left, and I have. My time away in Africa has altered my perceptions and changed me in so many ways, my concept of the world as it is having been broadened both physically and emotionally. But to everyone else it seems to be the same as it’s always been. Their eyes haven’t been opened by the reality of life in third world countries; of laughing children enthralled by footballs made of rubbish or necklaces of bottle caps threaded on to a piece of string; of families who work from dawn to dusk to feed and support their loves ones and scared foreign volunteers whom they do not know as they settle into life so far from the luxury of the home comforts that they take for granted; of the reality of a 20 minute walk to collect water; of child malnutrition and disease; of inopportunity and poverty and oppression.

These are parts of the volunteer experience which, although they may break my heart a little as I look back in a strange twist of sadness and joy, are the moments and memories that I will treasure. They have taught me so much humility and I would not trade them for anything.

I truly believe that every person should get involved in some capacity with volunteering abroad with a charity that works in a sustainable capacity. Coming from the Western world of education, endless access to information and knowledge, and of technological advancement, we have such a lot to give and to teach, but even more to learn. Lessons that have been lost amongst the whirlwind of technology and social media, comfort and ease, and a rejection of personal and moral responsibility in a society where we are fortunate enough to have everything we could ever need at our fingertips.

Though it is okay to be sad about leaving, it is also okay to be happy to be home. The world may not be perfect, and it may seem like we are leaving so much behind us that needs to be challenged, developed and changed. And, for now, there is so much we can do to help out our local communities and that is enough for me.

Image: Author’s own

Posted in Placements and VolunteeringStudent Words