With some trepidation I boarded my flight to Tanzania in early April to work as a local Finance Manager for three months.
What attracted me to Trade Aid was the focus on creating employment through business. I felt this was the opportunity for me to put my skills and experience to good use in the developing world. In addition I’d completed a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course in the UK and that meant I could also get involved in the Education programme.
I did wonder how I would cope with sharing hostel-type accommodation with other volunteers in Base House, as I’ve never been someone who enjoyed “roughing it”. Although I travelled a lot after university, nowadays you’re more likely to find me in a 5 star hotel than in a backpackers hostel. In fact, it was a wonderful experience living in the village itself, rather than arriving every day as a privileged visitor.
“When the people around you have neither electricity nor running water you soon realize that what seems 'basic' to some of us is sheer luxury to others”.
My day often started by being woken up by the call to prayer at 4.30am. This was generally rather more enthusiastic than musical and I was very glad I’d thought to bring earplugs with me…. My commute to work was a 2 minute walk up the hill to the hotel, a big improvement over the 45 minute drive I’d had in the UK. And it usually involved chatting with some of the local kids on the way
Indeed, the children are a huge part of the fun of Mikindani. They have very few possessions and, with the lack of sufficient nutritious food, are so much smaller and thinner than children of the same age in Europe. But their energy and enthusiasm is infectious and they brought a smile to my face every time I saw them.
It made me wonder how we can sometimes be so unhappy in the west despite everything we have, when in Mikindani there is such a strong sense of community and appreciation of the important things in life.
Most of my working day was spent at the Boma hotel, and although I was there as an accountant I soon got involved in the English teaching programme as well as in almost all aspects of the running of the hotel. This is one of the big differences between working in a specialist professional role in the UK and working with an organization like Trade Aid all help and ideas are welcome!
With language and cultural differences, plus the occasional difficulty in getting adequate supplies for the hotel in such a poor area, there was often a touch of the Fawlty Towers behind the scenes at the Boma. But if our guests had wanted the Ritz Carlton they would not have come to Mikindani. They were always happy to accept the odd eccentricity and were very interested in what we were trying to achieve there.
After 3 months in this beautiful, unspoilt place I returned to the UK and was hit by reverse culture shock! Everything was so clean and organized and yet there was so much waste. Shortly after my return an opportunity came up in the Enterprise section of Trade Aid and I decided to apply.
Kate Methley has returned to Mikindani where she is currently involved in our EDP Project.