Coming back from my volunteer trip to Tanzania in July 2017, I realized I had taken no more than 50 photos. Instead, memories had been stored as sounds in my brain and in my heart. Sounds of “warm generosity”: Karimu in Swahili.
I will never forget the incredible moment when we met the community for the first time. Swahili and English were left aside, and people communicated through smiling eyes and faces, letting pounding hearts speak for themselves. We were embraced by several cheerful Karibu welcoming choirs: proud groups of kids, secondary students, midwives, elderly. Singing and dancing to express themselves, celebrate life and include us in their prayers, they received us as part of their family. Asante sana. Thank you so much.
Every day the group of 28 volunteers began its colorful journey exchanging Jambo greetings with the kids who waited along the road just to meet us. Some even grabbed our hands and walked with us for a while before turning back home. Elderly were greeted with Shikamoo! Respect is given and earned.
And we kept on walking and talking. About the construction work, the schools, the projects, cultural differences, expectations, goals. Our stomping feet on dusty paths. More choirs. Clear, beautiful voices follow us everywhere. Sometimes we shared the road with loud motorcycles, goats and mooing cows.
At the construction site, sounds were muffled by all the shoveling, loading and unloading of rocks, brick moving and cement mixing. Villagers, teachers and volunteers working side by side, getting their hands dirty and learning from each other. Well done. Unafanya vizuri!
At the Agricultural Institute we had many briefing meetings. It was time to be silent and listen actively. Opinions were heard and respected. Priorities had to be set. Projects must be sustainable. Empowerment. Partnership. We also used this time to learn a lot from each other. Amazing talks were delivered by volunteers each evening. Voices sharing ideas, experiences, dreams and hope.
Viewing – or should I say, hearing - the world from different perspectives is always interesting and refreshing, but now comes the challenging part: reexamine my world and change it for the better. I hope the echoes of Karimu generosity keep on reverberating in me and propagate.