When I think about the community we lived with, the word that stands out is simply ‘love’. I have never experienced a community with so much love to give, and who find joy in every friendship. I miss my family every day, will be forever grateful, and always try to keep their philosophy on life in mind now that I’m back home.
Volunteers at Georgetown share their experiences with the student-ran publication, The Corp. The original article can be viewed on their website Here.
Finding something you truly believe in doesn’t come around every day.
Photo by Gaby Weigel
For a group of us at Georgetown, we find this sense of purpose through working with a grassroots, non-profit organization called One Heart Source (OHS).
One Heart Source aims to empower the lives of children and their communities through education and community development. We believe in a “child first” society, where every child, no matter where they are born, is given the tools they need to become leaders in their communities.
Photo by Gaby Weigel
One Heart Source offers 1-4 week volunteer programs in South Africa designed for young people to be a part of creating this social change. We are looking for volunteers who embody our motto of “Intellect, Leadership & Service” and have a genuine desire to be a part of a movement toward a more equal, conscious, and compassionate world.
The opportunities that OHS offers is best told by former volunteers. These are their stories.
Claire Lang (2014) | Zanzibar 2013
As Georgetown students, we are so fortunate. We have amazing teachers who challenge us, mentor us, and care about our success both in and out of the classroom.
Such an education is both an amazing opportunity and a gift–one that I could give to my students in Zanzibar, Tanzania. It was amazing to see the students grow and learn during the six weeks I was living in the village. Even after school had ended, they wanted to keep learning. We would gather in my living room at night by flashlight, and play their favorite game (Simon says) and I would share stories about my home.
I went to Zanzibar, Tanzania as a teacher, but I left as a student of a new culture, a student of family and community. It was the most amazing, life-changing summer ever.
Molly Morrison (2016) | Zanzibar 2013
As if being thousands of miles away from home, surrounded by a new culture, a new language, and new everything wasn’t overwhelming enough — on day two, I was given the assignment of teaching math to 50 fourth graders.
At first, I was full of doubt, thinking that I definitely wasn’t qualified for such a huge undertaking. But it was times like the following that affirmed that I was exactlywhere I was meant to be. “Ready? Go!”
The rows of children screamed, cheering on their teammates as two students scribbled the answers to math problems on the board. The room went silent and points were tallied. Team Paka (cat) had eight correct answers, but Team Kuku (chicken) scored a perfect 12. The children erupted in cheers unable to contain their excitement, with smiles stretching check to cheek and high-fiving everyone in reach.
When the class finally quieted down, a lone hand shot up into the air. “Zaidi mwalimu.” More teacher.
Erin Collins (2013) | South Africa 2013
When I met Olwethu, I was surprised to learn that she did not yet know her alphabet. Listening to the other fourth grade students in the room reading books and spelling words, I realized how behind Olwethu was in school.
As I tried to teach her the alphabet, she frequently became quickly frustrated and wanted to give up. So, it was time to get creative and approach reading from a different angle. Olwethu loved using her fingers to do math problems, so I decided we would do the same to learn her letters. Together, we made paper letters, tapped them to our fingers, and tapped them on the table as we worked to sound out words.
As this became easier, we created colorful word lists of all the words she had successfully sounded out and read on her own. Each day, we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, so she could practice her alphabet and read along with me.
I watched as reading quickly went from something she struggled with and hated to one of her favorite parts of our lesson. During my home visit to her house, we brought along Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for Olwethu to read to her mom. She read the book almost completely on her own. At the end, I looked up to see tears in her mom’s eyes.
She told me she had assumed Olwethu would never be able to read. I was so proud of Olwethu that I felt my own tears forming. Olwethu taught me so much about patience, perseverance, and determination. She never gave up and proved how far that attitude towards life can take you.
Laura DeGiorgis (2016) | Zanzibar 2013
Taking time away from my busy life to serve a community in Tanzania was so far the best decision I have made.
Living in an environment so different from home taught me so much; the lifestyle that many people in Africa lead is refreshingly peaceful and simple. Living amongst people who have so little yet are so warm and loving is an experience everyone should have.
It was truly an honor to be able to give back to them for all they had taught me. Sharing my knowledge and tutoring in their schools were the least I could do. It was a mutual exchange: I taught them how to count, spell and read, and they taught me how to love and live in a community.
Courtney Hodge (2014) | South Africa
The most valuable part of my experience with One Heart Source was the community.
I became so close with the girls I tutored, as well as many other kids that I worked with or saw in passing that I feel like I’ve known from for a long time. One Friday, a few other volunteers and I had the opportunity to go hear the President of South Africa speak in the nearby township.
What really struck me about that day was walking back to school after the speech and having all these kids run up to me and hug me, kids that were not even in our program and who I had only worked with a few times in the classroom.
That moment cemented for me how much of an impact you can have by doing something as small as reading with a child for a few minutes or helping them with a math problem.
Gabriela Weigel (2014) | Tanzania 2011 / Zanzibar 2012 / South Africa 2013
I first volunteered with OHS the summer after my freshman year. I received an email alerting me to the opportunity, and something in me sparked.
Yes, I was driven to apply due to my fundamental belief in equality of education. Yes, I was driven by an intrigue of living in another country. But mostly, I was driven by desire to engage with people who could teach me much more than what I experienced in a classroom.
I did not anticipate that this decision would change the way I see myself as participant in this world, nor that I would return to teach in Africa every summer since. But after three summers of volunteering with OHS in Tanzania and South Africa, I honestly cannot imagine what my college experience would have been like if I had not had the perspective and inspiration that OHS has given me. I have found more meaning, purpose, joy and understanding when working in Africa than in any other aspect of my life.
I am forever grateful for the students I’ve taught, the communities I’ve been a part of and the invaluable lessons I have learned from my time with One Heart Source.
A collection of 50 word stories from volunteers about their experience in Tanzania or South Africa.
Jorge de Avila, University of Southern California, Zanzibar Volunteer
Day 1 I met my family and we ate smoked octopus. Day 15 three of my students drew me as Mwalimu (teacher) Jorge. On the last day of class the whistle blew and the children began to sing, “Bye bye teacher tutaonana kesho.” The island had become my second home.
Mackenzie Luick, Harvard, Cape Town Volunteer
“She picked up her blue backpack, labeled with her name in fading Sharpie. “Don’t you have homework for me?” she reminded me, smiling. She had a well used pencil with only an inch of lead left. There was no desk at home. She always asked me to give her homework.
Kalya Saadeh, California Polytechnic State University, Arusha
Movement. That is how I would describe my time in Tanzania. You teach, but you learn more. You read novels in a child’s eyes. You live lifetimes hearing people’s stories. For me, this experience was like waking up and seeing the world differently. It becomes a movement that never stops.
Greta Olesen, University of California: Los Angeles, Arusha
Nengotonye grabs my wrist. “One more story!” I sigh. We’ve been sitting here for 3 hours. I think back to when kids called her stupid as she struggled to read just weeks ago. Now, sitting together outside the school, I am watching her read. “Ok,” I smile, “One more story.”
Alex Keifer, Harvard, Cape Town
Sometimes I get too comfortable: their faces along with the drive to impact change unknowingly fade from my mind. But then I read what I wrote to myself this summer: “You’ve left an unfinished job. You have the potential to do more.” And I know, for Eyethu, that I must.
Maggie Brown, Elon University, Cape Town
Fear is stronger than love. You can be so fearful for doing something you love, but be too scared in doing it. As a human, we have the choice to play an active role, and as Cornel West said, ”never view oneself as a spectator, only as a participant.”
Meagan Reineccius, University of Notre Dame, Zanzibar
Walking into my classroom of beautiful individuals for the last day and I hear the familiar singsong, “Good morning Teacher!” I reply with the usual, “Good morning students!” “What did we learn yesterday?” A student stands up, “I have confidence!” Another, “Respect!” Yet another, “All you need is love!”
Kelsey Mckown, University of California: Los Angeles, Zanzibar
She walked a mile to the school twice each day from the open-air house she lived in with her grandmother and some chickens. She said that she wanted to go to college but didn’t think she could, so I gave her my copy of The Old Man and the Sea.
Gaby Weigel, Georgetown University, Zanzibar
We walked to her house hand in hand. Her father welcomed us, karibu, as I began to introduce myself. “My name is Gabriella. I’m Munira’s teacher at school.” But he stopped me before I could finish. ” I know who you are. Murnira doesn’t stop talking about you. Thank you for teaching my daughter.” Suprised, I looked at Munira and smiled, thinking, “Thank you for being my student.”
“It’s often hard to see how much of an impact an experience can have on a person. In the beginning of my program it was difficult to understand just how much the students of One Heart Source would benefit from such a program, and in some regards, just how much I would benefit from such a program as well. But after 10 amazing weeks with some even more amazing people, it’s as clear as day just how great One Heart Source can be for everyone involved. I have seen countless number of OHS children learn and grow both as students and as people, and I know that for all of the knowledge and experiences that I was able to pass onto the children, they were able to return the favor tenfold.”
Jeremy and others in his volunteer program collaborated with students at the primary school in Bwejuu to create a video on ‘Opposites’.
Working with One Heart Source highlighted the power of immersion. I spent the program absorbing new surroundings, customs, language, and, most importantly, people. With this intense immersion came intense appreciation for my students, neighbors, and co-workers. The fascination I experienced upon arrival soon turned into a deep investment in the community – one that made every lesson, every encounter, and every conversation both meaningful and memorable.
In the grand scheme of things, 4 weeks is the blink of an eye. It’s merely a month – a third of a precious summer, or an eighth of a grueling school year – too little time, I assumed, to make a real difference. I was wrong. In the 4 weeks I spent in Musa village, I watched a room full of timid, mindlessly obedient children gain confidence and ownership over their education. I watched my Mama learn to read English, and my 12 year old dada (sister) master multiplication as her baby brother slept soundly in her lap. I witnessed the power of love over poverty, and the true heartbreaking beauty of simple human interaction. And while I hate to admit it, I learned more about myself and who I want to be in the world than I ever could have hoped to learn otherwise.
Traveling to Musa was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of my life. OHS welcomes you in like family, and that’s how relationships develop while you’re there. Through this adventure, I gained the opportunity to enrich my own life and participate in an honest, enthusiastic humanitarian effort. This also led me to see the comforts available to me in the US with a new found appreciation.
Going to Tanzania was an experience that completely altered my perspective on life and the way I live it.
When I first decided to do OHS, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had been on previous international volunteer work before and didn’t really think that this experience would be all that different. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Trying to put the whole experience into words would not be doing the program justice. It was the whole picture – trying and failing to help my family cook food, playing soccer against the local boys, getting bucked off my family donkey – that gave me a more real perspective on the lives of Tanzanians than any sort of tour or other volunteer organization ever would. The opportunity I had to teach a whole community, and help its youth realize their potential, was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy.
The OHS experience has had a tremendous impact on my life. I now feel a sense of clarity and meaning with my life. I met so many great individuals from the friendly volunteers, encouraging staff, and my home-stay family. In particular, those who transformed me the most were the children from the village where my program was at, Bwejuu. Their and my love for soccer gave us an immediate connection off the bat. During my stay a few OHS volunteers, including myself were fortunate enough to go into town and purchase some soccer equipment and colored jerseys for the children. They were so excited to represent for their teams. It was such a rewarding feeling.
Not a day goes by that I dont think about my experience as a volunteer in northern Tanzania. The times I shared with my home-stay family, teaching in the classroom, and talking to all of the inspiring volunteers and staff were simply unforgettable. I went into the trip as a student just exiting my freshman year of college, and came out with more insight into life than I could have asked for. Never have I experienced so much love and laughter as I did while living in that little village in Tanzania. Memories of teaching my eager 7th grade class and of the love I felt just sitting around the dinner table with my home-stay family are what continue to motivate me each day.
OHS is the purest form of altruism – people helping people simply for the satisfaction of making this world a better place. As a volunteer, you are not only spreading awareness about health and HIV/AIDS, but bringing enthusiasm into the classroom and laughter into the home. I am a better person because of my experiences at OHS, experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
One Heart Source not only works with the communities they are empowering and educating, but is an integrated part of them as well. This is something that made my time with OHS in Tanzania this summer so incredible. The students we taught at school were the brothers and sisters we came home to each day. There is not a day that I do not think of my family in Tanzania.
The people that are attracted to this organization are the kind of people that I strive to surround myself with. Each person is different, from a unique background and life story, but the way that we all fell together in such a cohesive manner just shows that the world has the potential to be the place we all want it to be. It was only eight weeks, but those eight weeks will stay with me for the rest of my life as one of the most eye opening, amazing experiences I have thrown myself into. Not to mention it was ridiculously fun!
All of the children touched my heart in more than one way that I cannot describe in words. They are unique, extremely inspiring, caring, thoughtful, and mature. It is because of them that I can look back on my experience and be proud of my work and feel honored to have been around their presence for such a short while. I think of them all constantly, and they truly are the future that they motivate me to strive to make better. I cannot wait to see them again!
Working with OHS was like turning a new page everyday. I learned a great deal about myself, and discovered that I’m capable of much more than I imagined. Living so simply and on such a beautiful, serene site was utterly therapeutic for me. And I was deeply moved by the work I was involved in and by the people I had the pleasure of working with. My experience with OHS has touched my soul and inspired me to pursue more humanitarian work. And I hope to continue to work with OHS over the next few years.
I went to Africa knowing it would be cool, but never did I expect this. There are things you can do at home that are just as good for society as a whole and between those things and One Heart Source is that the process of this realization is accelerated, and you end up solidifying in your mind a lot quicker than you would at home the things that matter in life. I learned so much in such a short period that I spent the majority of the trip just trying to swallow what had just happened to me and began to expand beyond what I previously had thought about. It’s something about the detachment from your former life that allows you to start fresh and rebuild more of your thoughts than you would have imagined possible. You go to Africa expecting to change things there, but more than anything it’s you that changes. It was in Tanzania that I discovered very quickly that all we really do need is love. I loved the trip so much I’m going back. You should come too.
I applied for OHS thinking that I was going to teach kids and spread knowledge but in actually doing it I found that the kids taught me so much more than I could have possibly taught them in a whole lifetime of class. Working with the kids serves as an awesome reminder to enjoy the little things in life and to remember that a little laugh and smile can go a long way. OHS has given me another perspective on life, I’ve realized how fortunate I am to be in the situation that I am but at the same time I see where I need to improve.
I first heard about One Heart Source through a friend and I eventually applied for its 2 month summer volunteer program on a complete whim. There was something in me, spur of the moment, that finally realized my choices in life solely lie in the palm of my two hands. And although I was scared out of my mind as to whether or not I was actually capable of traveling across the world to taste life in a way I had never tasted before, my heart calmly steered me in that direction knowing very well there was nothing else I’d rather do at that time. While living in Tanzania, I unexpectedly felt at home and surprisingly felt at ease with a group of human beings I now consider family. It was my embrace of allowing each and every moment to exist as a defining moment in my life that impacted me wonderfully, beautifully and memorably. It was honestly an incredible experience and I look forward to going back next summer.
While I wouldn’t say I went to Tanzania with OHS on a whim, exactly, I definitely had no idea how profoundly my life would be changed in the space of a month. You’d never guess how much good can be achieved and how many seeds planted by so few people all working towards a common cause. Once you’ve seen the very real changes that have happened in such a short time, it’s hard not to get excited about what’s to come and even harder not to want to be a part of that change. Tanzania is always in my thoughts and my experiences with OHS has convinced me that this is the kind of work I want to be involved with for the rest of my life.