In 2011 a group of students decided to commit to contributing in a significant and concrete way to the life of a community they met while traveling. This community, composed of 2000 people, is located in the village of Wasa, at the heart of Tanzania. Here, in 2014 a school was founded by the association Students for Humanity, which decided to make this activity its main and focal project. The Vocational Training Center was then established with the purpose of offering the possibility of acquiring a good level of education to young people who could not afford other schools in the region. The students, currently 65 of which approximately half girls, learn professional, practical subjects, such as carpentry, masonry and tailoring, together with English and math. From the moment of its foundation, every year in the summer groups of volunteers leave for Wasa, to offer their support in the activities and monitor the state of the site. Last year, among the participants in the program, there was also Allegra de Stefani, who offered to share her experience.
When did you leave for Wasa and how much time did you spend there?
“I left for Wasa in June 2022. It was the first summer in which volunteers were able to go back after two years of Covid and I was with two other girls that I didn’t know at the beginning. When we arrived, we found a worsened situation than expected regarding the maintenance of the school and the level of knowledge of the students. Then, in the first month, we had to work really hard to restore its state of it and improve things. Afterwards, the plan was to pass the baton to the second group and spend some days in Zanzibar. However, when we arrived in Zanzibar, we felt very sad, “homesick” in a way, and we started to consider the possibility of going back to Wasa, as we didn’t have plans for the following month. We begged the association to let us return to the school and as we heard the positive response we didn’t even wait for our last day in Zanzibar, but we started the endless journey for Wasa. So, in the end, we spent two months in the village.”
Which was your daily routine?
“During the week, in the morning, we were teachingthe students and then in the afternoon, as well as on the weekend, we could dedicate our time to the development of projects to reach and guarantee Wasa the self-sufficiency. In fact, one of the main areas of focus for the project is to get as close as possible to self-reliance on different aspects, such as farming and food supply, health care, building dormitories, and so on. Sunday was dedicated to the mess. It is a great moment of union, all the guys are there, we sang together, and we had the chance to meet the other villagers. It is truly a holy day.”
Which was the most impressive moment?
“Without any doubt when we came back after the first month. We arrived at 2 in the morning, and the students at 7 had the preparation of the choir for the mess, but they didn’t know we were back. At the end of the practice, they were told that there were important guests that wanted to know them. We were hiding and we saw one of the guys coming ahead in a timid way. When they saw us, they ran outside screaming. It was incredible, we were all one.”
And the most impressive thing?
“Understanding each other despite the absolute barrier of the language. Without knowing it, we were really connected. It was like we were relying on some primordial emotions, that are at the basis of dialogue. That was the only way of talking, even without a common language. I think about some conversations, and I ask myself how it is possible that we made them, yet we did. It is the thing I bring back the most: understanding each other and talking without a common language.”
What was instead the most challenging part?
“I think the part related to personal health and hygiene. Before leaving I was a little bit afraid of the vaccines and the idea that something could happen there. But these thoughts were not a real obstacle because the idea of taking part in the project was so strong, deep-rooted in me and motivating that all these concerns were there but aside, hoping not to take them out. As a matter of fact, hygiene there is a little bit sacrificed with respect to how we are used to, but there is so much more that these things don’t count anymore, everything is in the background, and you adapt.
“Also interacting can be challenging. It is really important to be aware of your emotions, and others’ as well, and to know how to listen to others.
“The impact of coming back home was also strong. I had the head, the heart, everything still at Wasa and it was hard to think and talk about something else. By talking about it I could feel as if I was still there in a way. I needed some time to find the way back to myself, to do justice to the incredible experience I had without invalidating my normal life.”
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