My time volunteering
Where was the placement based?
My placement was based in Lindi, a small fishing town on the southern coast of Tanzania. Lindi region is one of the poorest, and most sparsely populated areas of the country, and the town has obvious inequalities in regards to income and living standards. The majority of the local community is employed in fishing and agriculture businesses, though some are entrepreneurs, and own and run a variety of shops and restaurants. Many of Lindi’ youth are self-employed as bajaji and bodaboda drivers. These are popular modes of transport in the community and most employed in this way seem to earn sufficient amounts. During are stay, the community was predominately friendly and welcoming to us, especially the children, and many were keen to get to know us, and hear about our project.
What was the project?
The project I worked on was based at VETA College, located just outside Lindi town and accessible by a 20 minute bajaji ride. At the beginning of the placement, Lindi Team was divided into working groups consisting of both UKVs and ICVs to ensure translations were available if necessary. The topics of the sessions we ran in these working teams while being in Lindi were wide ranging, and included: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Employability Skills, Maths, IT, Accounting, Engineering Science and Entrepreneurship. Small teams also provided support in the short courses that run weekly, and in the Kazi Connect office to help link VETA graduates with jobs.
What problems were you trying to address?
The problems we were trying to address were predominately linked to the EEVT goal of: increasing youth employability in the Lindi region through high-quality vocational training, and helping VETA graduates by linking them up with employers and job opportunities. Youth unemployment (25-34 year olds) in Tanzania stands at 13.4%, however it is especially high in the Lindi region, with an estimated over 13,000 unemployed here. Students that pursue training at VETA have often not completed even secondary education, and thus are the least skilled and most vulnerable in the community. We aimed to increase their awareness of employment skills (such as CV writing), and support VETA instructors in their sessions through: suggesting different teaching styles, offering one-on-one support, and improving the students’ confidence in conversational English.
What was your role on the project?
I was a part of two working teams whilst volunteering at VETA College, and so offered facilitations in: Mathematics & Engineering science, and in ICT. This meant that I planned a 2 hour lesson for, and taught, around 120 students Level II Mathematics every Tuesday morning. This mainly concerned teaching them Pythagoras and basic Trigonometry . I also facilitated in the Mathematics Level I sessions on a Monday, and Level I and Level II Engineering science sessions on Wednesday and Tuesday mornings. Following these sessions, I would then join my ICT working group and, using PowerPoint presentations we created ourselves, we would teach two 1 hour session to separate trades, normally comprising of around 30 students. Over the course of the placement we covered basic skills in both Microsoft Word and Excel, and wrote and marked a test for all of our students in order to test their retention of the information.
I was also involved in the media team, where I wrote various magazine articles, and made an effort to take photos to document our project. The Community Action Day I was directly associated to was one on littering and recycling, and ended up being hugely successful with the students. I also helped to organise the litter clear up on the beach, where we filled six huge bin bags full of rubbish.
The impact of my placement
Overall we found that students gained confidence in class, and gradually became more willing to ask questions when they struggled to understand content. Their conversational English, and ability to understand the UKVs, also certainly improved over the duration of the project. Furthermore, engagement improved as they adjusted to the interactive learning style that we chose to pursue.
Specifically in regards to the students’ employability, a key change in their skill set as a result of ICS facilitations would be their new ability to: write a CV, write both informal & formal letters, and their practice and coaching in interview skills. Furthermore, all the Level II classes had sessions in IT where they learnt the basics of MS word and MS excel, their understanding of these programs was demonstrated in a progress test undertaken by some of the ICS volunteers. Having a multi-national team helping in Kazi Connect each day also ensured a wider range of VETA graduates could be linked with suitable jobs, and that a greater amount of employers could be persuaded to begin links with the college.
The different working teams taught a wide-range of subjects so it is difficult to provide any brief summation of specific changes. However, overall we found that students gained confidence in class, and gradually became more willing to ask questions when they struggled to understand content. Their conversational English, and ability to understand the UKVs, also certainly improved over the duration of the project. Furthermore, engagement improved as they adjusted to the interactive learning style that we chose to pursue.
My unforgettable moments
The entire placement was filled with incredibly unique and unforgettable moments. One of my most precious was undoubtedly having the opportunity to live in a host home within the community for 10 weeks. Not only were my counterparts and myself welcomed without question into our host family, but we were also able to help cook and look after the various livestock.
The impact my placement has had on me
Though I thoroughly enjoyed my time working on the project, it certainly had challenging moments, and was eye opening in many ways too. I believe it has improved my: leadership skills, ability to multitask, and ability to work well within a team. I am also more conscious of inequality in our own country now, as well as internationally, and feel much more motivated to help make positive changes in my local community, as well as further afield. It has undoubtedly made me extremely keen to volunteer again.