In June 2011, Sophie Greenwood (22) left her home in Lancashire and set off for three months in Tanzania that would change her views of Africa forever.
Sophie (second from left) volunteered with Skillshare International at Tanzania House of Talent (THT), a youth centre in Dar Es Salaam that provides training, life skills and nutritious meals for its performing arts students. After successfully completing pre-departure training in the UK and orientation in Tanzania, Sophie worked with more than 30 young people to help them develop the skills they need to earn an income and support themselves and their families.
Sophie taught English and drama to THT's students and could see results after just a few weeks. “They have reached a basic level of communication in English and can now understand and join in with simple conversations. The students’ confidence has increased. They have also greatly improved in performing arts skills such as projection and ideas and we can see a huge difference in their performances.”
A member of staff at THT told her “Because of the bond you’ve developed with the kids, they respect you and want to learn.” It was through these friendships that Sophie gained a deeper understanding of the students' backgrounds, Tanzanian culture and the reality of life in another country. “It changed my attitude to life in Africa and showed me that it varies a lot. In Dar there is huge class division and society is much more westernised than outside the capital.”
Like many of the volunteers, Sophie felt that her placement changed her outlook on life back home too. “Many of the young people I worked with and met have lost family members and have not had access to a good education. Several of the students have to support their families. By talking to people of a similar age in Tanzania, I learnt that we are extremely lucky in England to have the NHS and free education.”
Back in the UK, with greater confidence and lots of experience of team work and solving practical problems, Sophie hopes that her ICS placement will help her to find a job in a museum or charity.
Sophie volunteered with Skillshare International as part of the International Citizen Service initiative, funded by the Department for International Development. ICS gives volunteers aged 18-22 the opportunity to spend three life-changing months working on projects designed to bring about lasting change.