by Tiffany Teng
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain
Last summer, my friend and I decided to travel to Arusha, Tanzania for six weeks to volunteer at two orphanages. We went through a program called International Volunteer Headquarters, and they placed us with Tanzania Volunteer Experience.
As a TCNJ student, this amazing experience was a severe jolt from my pristine suburban lifestyle. I met compelling Tanzanians and volunteers, passionate people who changed my perspective of homelessness, apart from my experiences with Trenton’s homeless shelters.
On a macroscopic level, homelessness is a rampant international issue. Although Trenton, New Jersey suffers immensely from homelessness, viewing the issue through a new set of eyes creates a different perspective.
In Tanzania, children are often orphaned or abandoned due to disease and poverty. At Sunrise of Life, street children are assisted with basic needs for survival: food, shelter, healthcare and education. The organization creates opportunities for children who have no opportunities available to them.
According to the World Bank, Tanzania’s adult population (15-49 years old) suffers from staggering conditions – the HIV prevalence rate is approximately 5.6%; thousands suffer from AIDS, and education past secondary school is a miracle.
At Sunrise of Life, volunteers maintain a dormitory, food, and a means of education through international sponsors and local donations. These street teenagers that the organization serves have scoured the streets of Arusha, begging tourists for spare change. They found food in disease-infected dumpsters and slept under the verandas in front of shops, one child’s feet another child’s pillow for the night.
Aaron is just one exceptional teenager whose life has been changed by Sunrise of Life. Throughout the years, their continuous aid has supplied him with the educational tools of English literacy. Through this, they have filled Aaron with an overwhelming desire for expression, allowing him to create powerful and inspirational poetry. Without Sunrise of Life, he might still be on the streets, with neither a home nor a future.
Although the organization’s management has overcome a wealth of challenges and corruption, the kind hearts of dedicated volunteers have maintained its roots and streamlined its goals to consistently support the children. Without perseverance to fight corruption with genuine compassion and fueled passion, these children would encounter disease and possible death. (Learn more about Sunrise of Life at http://www.sunriseoflife.com and read their blog at http://tanzaniaupdate.blogspot.com).
Focusing on local issues is critical in order to comprehend the magnitude of homelessness and its various stereotypes. However, suffering is prevalent throughout the globe. Tanzania’s Sunrise of Life is one example out of millions.
Enacting positive change is a step-by-step process that starts with a few passionate souls. There are a multitude of pertinent cases in which lives were saved because of a simple, generous act.
Challenge yourself. Think larger than yourself, your town, and your country. The reward of a “thank you” or eternal gratitude is worth more than a million designer jeans. Asante sana (Swahili thank you).
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.