Volunteering in Tanzania Tips
Many visitors to Tanzania are not only struck by its natural beauty but also by the plight of many people living in the country.
The East African nation has struggled heavily under the weight of poverty, with many Tanzanians living well below the international poverty line.
In addition, many visitors to Tanzania may want to involve themselves more deeply with animal and conservation projects. For this reason, many tourists to Tanzania also consider giving back to the country through volunteering.
Here are some tips to follow if you are planning volunteering in Tanzania
What benefit you can bring by being a volunteer?
The first thing to consider when deciding whether to volunteer, and what project to support, is what benefit you can bring.
Being a volunteer is playing an important role in an organization or community, so you should carefully consider it to make sure that you are having a positive impact.
A key consideration is to think about what long-term impact your volunteering will have. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for life.’
With this in mind, perhaps you can think about what kind of skills you could teach to local staff members who can then pass on that knowledge.
For example, you may have skills in first-aid, graphic design or book-keeping. Any of these skills could be very helpful to a Tanzanian organization, and you can rest assured your impact will last long after you leave the country!
Volunteering in Tanzania orphanage or school
However, many respected organisations such as Friends International recommend that unskilled people do not visit orphanages. This is because the children are often vulnerable, and short-term interaction with visitors can have unintentional negative consequences.
A good rule of thumb is to think: would I perform this role in my home country? If not, it may not be appropriate to do it in Tanzania, either.
You should also consider this with schools. As a rule, volunteers should not be left unaccompanied with students or in charge of lesson planning. However, you may be able to assist the teaching staff, either by helping students with English pronunciation, or perhaps by helping run workshops for the staff.
There are many other programs such as building schools or homes, which should also be considered. Often what poor communities really need is jobs, and short term volunteers can take construction jobs away from the local community. Make sure you carefully consider what impact your trip will have.
Wildlife volunteering in Serengeti and Tanzania in general
If you would prefer, there are many organisations where you can volunteer with Tanzania’s magnificent animals. If you are attracted to this kind of position, chances are you are an animal lover!
Therefore, it is again recommended to carefully research any organization to ensure that they are a reputable, ethical and sustainable.
Have a look at reviews, as well as the organisation’s website, to get a feel for their processes and approach to conservation.
You may also like to ask questions and look for reviews about what you will be doing day to day, to ensure you are really assisting rather than simply observing or doing “busy work”.
If you do decide to volunteer, you will also need to consider your visa. You are not allowed to work in a voluntary role in Tanzania on a tourist visa. Instead, you must apply for a temporary residence permit which will allow you to undertake either paid or unpaid work temporarily in Tanzania.
This kind of visa must be applied for in your home country, at the Tanzanian embassy. It cannot be applied for on entry in Tanzania. As a result, it is better that you plan your trip ahead of time, as you are unable to be able to legally volunteer if you find a project once you are already in Tanzania.
The visa is $250 USD for a short term visa, and $500 for a long-term visa. It is highly recommended that you ensure you get the right visa to volunteer in Tanzania.
Although you may hear stories of people who have managed to volunteer while on a tourist visa, they are breaking the law and doing so can result in fines, deportation and even imprisonment.
If you have decided not to volunteer, there are many others ways that you can support the people of Tanzania. There are many organisations running brilliant programs that are making a real difference to people and the environment. One of the most effective ways to support their work is by donating either goods or money.
If you find a reputable organization you would like to support (look for sustainable, ethical projects which are financially transparent), it is best to contact them and find out what goods they need.
Unless the goods are unavailable in Tanzania (sometimes true for goods such as medical supplies), it is probably better to buy them in Tanzania. This is because your impact will be multiplied by supporting the local economy, and also saves space in your bag!