My time volunteering
My name is Floorke and at home in Belgium I work as an HR consultant for Randstad. I had been working there for a bit over two years when I was given the opportunity to work abroad in a third world country for three months. After a few months of going through the application procedure, I landed in Mwanza, Tanzania, where I would be working as a communication specialist for the Lake Zone Youth Empowerment project.
The program is aimed towards marginalized youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years old and provides soft skill trainings, (self-empowerment, employability, business, life skills trainings and career guidance advisory) and technical training (the youth are taught a specific trade such as sewing, decorating, food production, etc.). After the trainings, the youth are guided towards interesting internships with hopefully a long-term contract as a result.
The program is mostly focused on young girls. In Tanzania, girls who get pregnant at an early age (which is common since birth control is unfavored) are expelled from school as according to the Tanzanian government they are a bad example to others. Since they do not have sufficient access to education, their chances of finding a job are unfortunately very low. The Lake Zone Project focuses on elevating those chances. Lake Zone also offers child care for the babies in order for the girls to be able to focus as much as possible on their future.
Unlike the other volunteers, whose role is to give trainings and find employment and internship opportunities, my role is quite different.
I work as a communication specialist. This means that I mostly collect stories, write case studies and success stories and interview colleagues and youth. Apart from these, I also contribute to the monthly newsletters and dedicate some time on writing captivating short stories for various social media posts.
The impact of my placement
I think communication these days is getting more and more crucial, one cannot underestimate the impact or its importance.
Thanks to success stories, interviews, case studies, newsletters and social media posts, awareness about the project is raised and our stakeholders are informed what is going on at all times. They can see the progress and appreciate its successes.
I worked closely with another national Tanzanian volunteer on communication. I supported him in structuring certain things, helped with translations and helped him concentrate and prioritize, which was often an issue.
Together we came up with a communication strategy and communication calendar that was not in place before my placement. The communication calendar specified which actions we wanted to take, when and what the progress of it was. I hope this will be something that will be used continuously, even after I leave.
My unforgettable moments
I have a few great snippets of moments that I will take with me: the enthusiasm of the youth during trainings, the eagerness of some of the youth to want to learn and study and improve their lives, the touching and heart-breaking life stories of some of the people I have met, the friendships, the nature, the hustle and bustle of the city, the smells,…
The impact my placement has had on me
Since I have been here in Mwanza, I have done a lot of thinking and reflecting on the things I see here but also on myself. I have learnt a lot about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses and my capabilities. I have learnt to let go of things that are out of my control, I have learnt to be patient, I have learnt to be resourceful with the things available, I have learnt to work with people who do not necessarily have the same thinking level, I have learnt to creatively come up with solutions, I have learnt to be even more independent than I was before,…
It has been a humbling experience: I definitely do appreciate the things I have home more, the fact that I can practically buy anything I want, the fact that, unlike many of the youth here, I can dream and have long-term goals. The fact that I could study and earn a couple of great degrees, the fact that I earn an income and can support myself financially independently, the fact that I live in a nice and comfortable apartment, things that are so obvious and logical in the Western world but seem so out of reach for the rest of the world.
I hope to think I left an impact and changed something for the better while working on the LZYE program; If I did I’m sure it will have been small things, but even if I only inspired one person to work hard, to be self-confident and self-empowered, the whole placement was worth it and I succeeded.
Even though I had some tough and difficult moments adjusting and settling in, I do not regret undertaking this adventure. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and an experience I will never forget!