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Bittersweet goodbyes for volunteers in Tanzania
03 April 2007
by Danica Vucic

Arusha, Tanzania: Almost a bittersweet goodbye of sorts. Although I was only volunteering a month in Arusha, I felt I was at home with LOHADA. All of the volunteers, teachers and mamas were always there with a kind word for us volunteers and more importantly the children. I could see the love all around. It was a very important and wonderful feeling to be a part of that love and unity.

Although we all work together to be able to provide as best as we can for the children, it is always harder on the volunteers, as they are the ones who will eventually have to leave. It is inevitable. Which brings me to something I remember someone asking me. How do the children deal with people always entering into their lives and then exiting a short while later? My answer to that is simple. With gratitude. You see how thankful the children are with everyone and anyone that enters their life. No matter how small or how large of an impact you have made on their lives it was something. And they appreciate it wholeheartedly.

The children are quite resilient and strong when it comes to goodbyes. Perhaps it is because they are used to it. Or perhaps they are thankful they had an opportunity for a volunteer to come into their lives and be able to touch their soul. Perhaps they are thankful they could show a small part of the outside world how much help the children of Tanzania need. Whatever the case when goodbyes are presented to the children they take that opportunity to turn it into something special and joyous. A celebration rather than a goodbye.

They come parading with song and smiling faces. The children present you with a card they all took time to draw and write in just for you. They give you hugs and kisses with such love and admiration in their eyes. To them you have just made their life richer. And they are sad to see you go but are grateful for you having been there.

And that really is the key point in any volunteer's experience. They were there. They saw. They helped. They will spread the word. They will return one day. I know I plan to. The children have enriched my life and I have done the same in return. We are connected over the oceans and they will always be in my heart. As I'm sure they will have me in theirs.

I think the best experience anyone can have is to volunteer. To give of yourself completely without wanting anything in return. That's what everyone at LOHADA does. And I am sad to have left but I am glad to be able to say I was there.