January 6, 2005: Headlines: COS - Tanzania: Volunteerism: Alternatives: Lexington Minuteman: Sarah Metzger-Traber went on a three-month volunteer program in Tanzania East Africa that was akin to a mini-stint with the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tanzania: Peace Corps Tanzania: The Peace Corps in Tanzania: January 6, 2005: Headlines: COS - Tanzania: Volunteerism: Alternatives: Lexington Minuteman: Sarah Metzger-Traber went on a three-month volunteer program in Tanzania East Africa that was akin to a mini-stint with the Peace Corps

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Sarah Metzger-Traber went on a three-month volunteer program in Tanzania East Africa that was akin to a mini-stint with the Peace Corps

Sarah Metzger-Traber went on a three-month volunteer program in Tanzania East Africa that was akin to a mini-stint with the Peace Corps

Sarah Metzger-Traber went on a three-month volunteer program in Tanzania East Africa that was akin to a mini-stint with the Peace Corps

Healing the hurt

By Sarah Metzger-Traber

Thursday, January 6, 2005

I just recently arrived back to Lexington from a three-month volunteer program in Tanzania East Africa. I went on this journey with Cross-Cultural Solutions. It was akin to a mini-stint with the Peace Corps.

Traveling to Africa has always been something I have wanted to do, but could not justify going there on a safari or with an educational program where you just pass through and have no contact with the people in the communities. That is why I chose to take a semester off from college, in order to live and work side-by-side with people who really need our help.

I was placed in an orphanage, where 33 children had lost their mothers to AIDS, malaria and lack of modern health care. Five days a week, Monday through Friday, I took a long bus ride up Mt. Meru, the second highest peak in Tanzania. There I would be greeted by dozens of beautiful children craving attention, love and daily care. I would bath all of the older children in the one big bathtub. Oftentimes there would be eight children in the tub at once! These 3-5-year-olds would then "assist" me in picking out their clothes for the day. This was no small feat. They share all their clothes and they know nothing of having their own shoes, pants, shirts or even underwear. Everything is washed daily and then folded on huge shelves by size.

There would usually be children crying because they realized that their favorite shoes were getting too small, or their shirt was not warm enough for the rainy day. All the girls wanted dresses, and if there were not enough, fights would break out and the survival of the fittest would begin. After all this, there were still two rooms of babies left to bathe, diaper with cloth nappies without pins, change and hug.

The children at the Nkoaranga Orphanage Center range in age from 2 days old, like little Ombeni who came to us with afterbirth still on his head, up to 9 years old. This explosion of orphans is a very new phenomenon for Tanzania. People are dying everyday from HIV/AIDS, malaria and lack of medical care. This leaves many children relying on their extended families to take care of them. The problem is that these families are also having the same troubles. Their farms and land are getting smaller and the cost of education and daily survival is getting higher. Many of the children that I worked with had been at the same orphanage all their lives. There is no system that will decide what happens to them when they become older ... no one knows. A few of the children have HIV, autism or extreme emotional problems.

One little girl, Vumilia, was found half starved and fully beaten with flies crawling all over her body. Her mother had died and her stepmother was treating her as a slave in the house. Luckily she was turned over to the orphanage by a neighbor and is now living a much safer and happier life. However, at the tender age of 6, you can already see the pain in her eyes and the suffering that she has gone through.

After getting them cleaned and refreshed to start a new day they were all brought down to the central room, where they were fed their first out of two meals for the day. By the time the food would arrive the children were cranky and miserable from lack of nutrition for 16 hours. Everyone from 2 years old and up were made to feed themselves, while all the babies were lined up on the counter and fed by volunteers and staff. They were fed huge quantities and I'm still not sure how they managed to keep it all down. Many of the young babies were fed food rather than milk or formula. It was too hard for the staff to sanitize the bottles.

Water was also a huge issue, as Tanzania is currently also suffering from a drought, and a lack of potable water. They never drank with their meals and it was often looked down upon by the staff if the volunteers poured water for the children. If they got half a cup of water a day it was a miracle!

But life at the orphanage was more than just the daily struggle.

The children were all gorgeous, intelligent and affectionate. All of the volunteers brought crayons, play dough, books and other fun things for the children to keep busy with, but often what they really wanted was just to cuddle and sit in your lap and be loved. They are actually very happy considering their circumstances. Their condition at the orphanage is often better than that of the children living outside. They eat a guaranteed two meals a day, get clean clothes, medical care, beds and baths. It is more than many families in the surrounding areas can offer their children. The one thing they really lack though is love and attention. Even though the staff and volunteers are there everyday, there are just too many children and too few arms to hold them all or kiss them when they get hurt. They take care of themselves and are raised almost like a pack of children, where the 5-year-olds will hold and rock the babies and the babies will share their biscuits or crayons with the other babies. It is really quite beautiful and amazing.

I experienced so much during my three months in Tanzania. The orphanage was only a small part of the eye-opening experiences that have now changed the way I look at our world and have helped to change the focus of my life after college. I plan to move back to Tanzania after I graduate Wheaton College, Massachusetts in May 2006. I would like to work for a nonprofit organization (NGO) in the area and sponsor as many of the orphans that I can with a private school education, as the governmental schools are overcrowded and have few resources.

If you would like to contribute to these children or to my journey back to Tanzania you can send a check or money order to: Sarah Metzger-Traber, 106 Maple St., Lexington, MA 02420. If you would like to give and do not know how much is appropriate here are some examples: $100 dollars will pay for schooling, uniforms, school food and books for a year. $50 dollars will pay for schooling alone at a governmental school.

Any other amount will be greatly appreciated. I plan to set up a fund to take all of this money back with me in May 2006, so that I can make sure it goes to the right people and directly to the children.

Feel free to e-mail me at smetzger@wheatonma.edu with any further questions or concerns about my experience or your donations.

Thank you for your time in reading this and hopefully you too will be able to make a difference or help out somewhere in our world.

Sarah Metzger-Traber is a Lexington resident.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Lexington Minuteman

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Tanzania; Volunteerism; Alternatives



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