Guest Blog: 10 things we have learned in Nkoaranga, by Ditte

Ditte and Christine, two of our current volunteers from Denmark, arrived in Nkoaranga in early January. This great blog is a list of ten very useful things to know about volunteering in Nkoaranga! All our volunteers leave saying what an amazing experience it was, but it’s also good to be prepared for all parts of living as a volunteer in a small, rural community on the mountain slopes of Meru in East Africa, where, yes, power cuts are an inevitable part of life!

10 things we have learned being in Nkoaranga:

Soon we will have been volunteering at Nkoaranga Orphanage for 4 months and what an experience it has been. We have had the most amazing time with other volunteers, TST employees, mamas and the most beautiful children that we will really miss when we return to Denmark. However, there are some things that we had not thought about before we went away and now we have had time to look back, here’s what we have learned during our incredible trip.

1: The one thing we did not expect to miss was the liquorice!

Down here, far from home comforts, you will find small joys in little things, such as ice cream or chocolate. Though these are good, one thing we have really been missing here is Danish liquorice. You can get everything else here but liquorice is not available anywhere. We can’t wait to have it again, so we wish that we had brought some with us. The same goes for any treats from your own country.

2: Think of a hobby and use your time wisely

When you’re not working, the time here both flies and goes at a snail’s pace, so a hobby that you can occupy yourself with would be a nice idea. Especially when there are long power cuts.

Kisses for Christine!

3: Contact lenses can be difficult to use in Africa

So, when you ‘re down here and it’s been 30 degrees for a month without rain, it begins to get very dusty. I had problems with my contact lenses and then decided to just give up with them. I wasted space in my backpack with contact lens fluid, so glasses would clearly be preferable here!

4: We wish we had taken a kindle or e-reader
We brought some books in paper form but wish that we had taken a kindle with us; it takes up less space and is easier to get new books without having to go to town. They are especially good during power cuts!
5: I should’ve brought a Swahili dictionary
I thought that my English would be OK and I could easily pick up a bit of Swahili. That’s one thing I regret, because English is not enough and, though most people know a few words, not everyone speaks it. A Swahili phrasebook, both before you come and during, would be a useful idea. It’s just a great feeling putting the kids to bed and being able to say goodnight and sleep well in their own language.
Our volunteers are unbelievably useful with so many children looking for cuddles, love and someone to play with.

6: Balloons are like gold! 
I brought balloons because as a child I loved them, so it was only natural to bring them to the pilot house. I just wish I had brought more because the kids LOVED them and we had so much fun playing “balloon wars”.
7: You’ll get to experience some really unique things.
We have gone on some great trips during our 4 months. For example we went to a local church service and a wedding, (we wish we had brought some nice clothes for these type of things!). We went to some beautiful hot springs and canoeing on Lake Duluti, which were not bad also! We also visited the nice town of Moshi, which is a 2-hour bus journey away.
8: You will get ridiculously attached to the children at the orphanage
We didn’t have the faintest idea how close we would get to the children. When we think that we will soon not be the ones to wake them up in the morning or put them to bed at night, we realise what a tough goodbye it will be.

Vicky Mouse having cuddles with Ditte

9: It’s not only the children you’ll miss.

We will also miss the lovely mamas. When you look at what a great job they do and see the touching, caring moments between mama and baby, you realise what an important part of the orphanage they are and just how much you can learn from them.
10: You will make new friends in the Volunteer house that you will miss when you leave
We didn’t think about how close you would get to other volunteers, but when you spend so much time with each other you really get to know them. You will definitely miss them when you go home, even their bad habits. The coolest thing of all is that they are so different and come from all over the world, so really help expand your horizons.

Ditte with our lovely Lulu!
Those are some of the things we have learned from our trip to Nkoaranga. Some things will probably be useful for you and some might not. But despite these things, this is an experience we would not exchange for anything in the world. We have come to love Africa and especially the children at the orphanage and we will definitely come back and see how they are doing. We will definitely recommend Nkoaranaga and the lovely children to our friends and any one else who might be interested in being a volunteer!