Board Bios – Megan Williams

From left: Abdulli, me, Farajah, Stevie,
and Andrea (under the hat!) 

My name is Megan Williams. I am a student from Manchester in Northern England and I’m just starting my degree in Politics, Sociology and Psychology at university this year. I have never wanted to go straight to university; taking a year to see and do completely different things isn’t something you often get a chance to do. I was in Tanzania from January to July 2011 on placement in Nkoaranga with Emily, Emma, Bethan and other volunteers with a company called Oyster. Our placement was technically a teaching placement in the local Primary School. I absolutely loved teaching, but we were only teaching one English lesson a day, either a 40 minute single or an 80 minute double. Gradually we became more and more involved in the orphanage.

Although I loved visiting, for me really feeling part of the orphanage was a gradual process. Other volunteers got very attached to the place and the children very quickly, but for me it took a bit longer. I found it difficult initially when I felt I didn’t know what was going on or what to do. I hated feeling like I wasn’t being useful or helpful to the mamas. It was definitely worth sticking with though, because as I got to know the children, the orphanage and how life runs there, I grew in confidence and learned to love it so much. By the end I was turning up at 6am, choosing to be there to help with one of the most demanding shifts of the day – waking up, bathing, dressing and breakfast. It became my favourite part of the orphanage day, despite the fact that it was hectic and often stressful. By 8.30 in the morning I could feel that I had actually done something that needed doing.

Simoni in backwards overalls

Both Emily and I left the orphanage to return to England at bedtime on our last day in Tanzania. It was very difficult to say goodbye, which meant that 2 nights running the mamas had a crying volunteer on their hands after we’d said goodnight. Of course, it was 2 different sets of mamas on shift the 2 nights, but all of them were so genuinely caring and honestly seemed sad to see us go. When they said ‘Karibu tena Tanzania’ as we left (Welcome again to Tanzania) I really felt they’d be glad to see us come back. The way to the mamas’ hearts is not just to help them with the harder work and show an interest in them, it’s also to show them that you really care about the children who are so important to them and who they spend their lives giving so much to.

I think that one of the most important things The Small Things can do is provide a secure future for the children once they reach 5 and leave the orphanage. It’s crucial that they get to go to school and are happy and well-cared for, as most of them don’t really have much of a family situation to go back to. By giving them education that they would never otherwise get, the Small Things and the children’s sponsors can change their whole lives, as well as their first 5 years. Equally important to me is that the mamas feel supported and helped by the Small Things. They are an incredible group of women and anything we can do to make their lives easier and better is so, so worth it.

As for me, currently I don’t know if I’ll be able to get back to the orphanage or not. I would love to go, and I will be hanging on the stories of my fellow board-members who are going at Christmas. I wish I could be going too. I know that there is so much the Small Things can do in Nkoaranga and I am so happy that I’m able to be part of it even from home. It means that if I don’t get the opportunity to go back I can support and help the orphanage. Nkoaranga has given me so much: experience, confidence, wonderful new relationships. I’m glad that through the Small Things I can still give something to the orphanage that became such a huge part of my life.

Cuddling with Stevie (rear) and Dainess