Families: all take different shapes and sizes, but they are universal and something we all have in common. Families contribute to the development of us as individuals, to societies and even to countries at large. For Raleigh Tanzania, they also have a huge role in making sure the projects we deliver with young people and communities are successful.
On Raleigh’s development projects, work is always delivered by young people in partnership with communities and local partners. A crucial part of the approach is the fact that young volunteers will normally live in the respective community for 10-12 weeks, staying with a local family. These families open their doors and warmly welcome volunteers in – both strangers to one another.
Initially, this can seem a little daunting for young volunteers when they first arrive and are exposed to their new environment. However, we see time and time again the amazing kindness and generosity of the host families playing a key role in making volunteers feel at home. Bonds of trust and respect begin to grow between families and volunteers which helps both the projects sustainable and successful and the community happy in the process.
The connection that is created between host families and our volunteers is incredibly strong. Volunteers are quick to help support the family with chores and to take part in family activities and events.
“My host family experience was so incredible that made me see life in a different perspective. Yes, I am from a Tanzanian family too, but I have never lived with people who are not of my own background. The family I lived with during my volunteering placement taught me many things, especially farming and livestock keeping. They had the love that made me feel at home and always remember that I have another family somewhere and I still contact them.”
– Gerald Elia, RTS project Coordinator
Host families also make a great contribution to volunteer’s personal development, including learning new languages and cross-cultural learning, such as community traditions and norms. Host families also learn lots from volunteers such as new perspectives on different ways of living. All this normally takes place during simple everyday life – especially during dinner, cooking, fetching water and other household activities. The shared learning that can happen during these everyday tasks can be pretty special.”
“The day I was told I will be living in someone’s house for several weeks I was scared, imagining living far from home in someone’s hands it is scary because I did not know what to expect. I was wondering if they will accept me, will I be able to cope with their ways of life? All these fears went away after few days I joined my new family in Mtwango village on my Natural Resources Management placement, the people were very welcoming, kind and very generous. Our host mama treated me and my counterpart as her own sons with care. We were no longer strangers, so we became family’’.
– Alpha Kasuga, Expedition Volunteer Manager
Host families also have a vital role in mobilising community participation in the projects, which is key to ensuring community ownership and sustainability. We work to ensure that all our projects are inclusive, and by integrating into the community fully, the projects are owned by the community themselves. Volunteers start by first encouraging the family that they live with to take part and then, with the help of the family, they encourage, their fellow family members, friends, neighbours and eventually the whole community to take part in the respective project.
Leaving the incredible host families and community at the end of the project is normally a sad and tearful moment for both volunteers and community members. When these two initially separate parts think of being separated from all the love and shared ways of life that they have become used to as a family it is always sad. However, the bond created goes on long after the young volunteers have travelled back to their home communities or countries, with volunteers keeping in contacting with the host families they lived with and sharing the good memories they had together tackling our shared global challenges.
We will always remember and appreciate the contribution of our host families in every community where we have worked and today, we are proud to recognise it. Happy International Day of Families!