Learn to roll with it! Lessons learned from living on the shores of Lake Victoria, Tanzania

Robin Green on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania

Robin Green is a second-year transfer student in the Conflict Studies and Human Rights Program. Growing up, she always had a burning passion for fairness and equality as well as a fascination with other cultures. Over the years, this enthusiasm has had an impact on many of her study and volunteering choices.

In high school, she completed the specialized non-profit program at her school, worked at a domestic violence shelter and organized a Habitat for Humanity volunteering trip to Virginia. Robin took advantage of every volunteering opportunity she could, which earned her the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award. Her passion continued in university in when in the Human Rights and Global Studies program at the University of Winnipeg. Robin was also an active volunteer at the university’s food bank, helped at the homework club of a local youth centre and taught swimming lessons to children with disabilities. In January 2014, she took a break from her studies to spend three months travelling and volunteering across Central America. This included a week teaching English in a small village in Honduras and four weeks assisting with wildlife conservation in the Costa Rican jungles. “The trip was life-changing….I was so fortunate to be able to combine my love of helping people and working towards greater equality with an intensive cultural immersion. This experience really made it clear to me that I wanted to take my passion to the international scene,” says Robin.

In the fall of 2014, she enrolled in a social service diploma program in Kingston with the hopes of building her skills in supporting marginalized and disadvantaged populations. After earning her diploma, she decided to return to university. But before doing so, she took on one more international volunteer opportunity through EQWIP HUBs, a project born from a partnership between Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International and whose main goal is to involve Canadian youth in supporting other youth in developing nations to create cross-cultural innovation, gender-responsive programming and peer-to-peer mentorship.

Robin Green in Tanzania

After a few EQWIP HUBs interviews, she was offered a position as a training and facilitation assistant in Tanzania. Over the following months, she completed the necessary online training and communicated with both Canadian and Tanzanian staff in preparation for her upcoming adventure. In January 2017, she left for her placement in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Robin started with an orientation and training session at the country office, located in Dar Es Salaam. There she was introduced to some fellow volunteers and the country staff. She completed training on the organization, the roles and the new culture in which she was now immersed. She then moved to her new home in Mwanza, a “large” city on the shores of Lake Victoria.

“I was quickly thrown into the life in Mwanza, developing a wonderful support system of expats and Tanzanians alike. I learned how to take the dala dala (public transportation) to work every day and I got accustomed to bargaining at the sokoni (market), running off Tanzanian time, which meant not being in a hurry because nobody else is (hakuna matata), and doing things a little differently (like handshakes that last the entire conversation). I instantly connected with the students, as they were eager to learn about Canadian culture and practice their English. I took full advantage of these connections to learn some Kiswahili along the way.”

Robin often had the pleasure of working with youth. For her, the highlight was helping run the extracurricular clubs. “At the hub, we ran four clubs—the girls and boys club, the environmental club, the English club and Entrepreneurship club. In the girls club, we worked to empower our ladies to be confident and active members of their communities. We did this through team-building, self-defence activities, International Women’s Day presentations and self-esteem activities.

“My experience taught me about not only my students and their culture but also the nature of development work. I learned about the immense flexibility needed in this field and the importance of collaborating to create a successful and sustainable organization. My lack of knowledge of the local language limited some of my opportunities, but nonetheless, I had an incredible experience that has only filled me with more motivation to continue working towards greater equality.

I took more away from the country and the people than I could have ever imagined. I’m still in contact with many of the people I met there, and I’m positive I’ll be returning to East Africa again in the near future! I can’t recommend an international experience enough! You’ll learn so much about yourself and the world we live in. That being said, do your research! Know what to expect and ensure that the organization you choose is doing what they do for the right reasons. Take care of yourself. And…please learn from my misfortunes: be cautious with the foods you eat. There’ll be bumps along the road so be prepared to roll with it.”

EQWIP HUBs is actively looking for volunteers with various skill sets and backgrounds. Visit EQWIP HUBs for more information.

If you have any questions about volunteering with EQWIP HUBs, please email Robin Green, she’d be happy to answer your questions.

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