What is your fondest memory from your time volunteering abroad with IVHQ?
Every day is a 'fondest memory' and being able to share this 'life changing' experience with my daughter is something I will cherish forever! I would have to say my fondest memory is the 'Rainbow Song' that the children sang every day! The way they sang it, with their cute little voices, rolling the 'R' in rainbow with their tongues, is something that stuck with me for months after I left. That song played over and over in my head "Red and yellow and pink and green... purple and orange and bluuuue, I can sing a rrrrrainbow, sing a rrrrrainbow, sing a rrrrrainbow toooo"! I know the colors are wrong but that's how they sang it! These children at Karim Orphanage are my 'pot of gold' at the end of the Rainbow, thus the big Rainbow painted on the front gate of the Orphanage.
Why should you be the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year?
I was inspired to go to Africa, by Oprah Winfrey, and when I did, it changed my life forever! Now I am inspiring others around the world, to not just give, but to give yourself! Before I left for my very first trip to Africa, I was told "be careful, not for your safety but because you will fall in love with Africa and have to return". I will be returning to Tanzania for my 10th time!
With the help of many friends, family, my community, clubs and even complete strangers, who have so generously donated to my passion, Karim Orphanage has gone from two small 8 x 8 rooms, with nothing but 2 beds for 9 children, no water, no power, no room for children to play, to an acre of land with a new, safe home, a bed for each of the 16 children, bathrooms with toilets and showers, table and chairs to sit at and eat their meals, solar power, 2 water wells, garden and a rainbow colored playground! A volunteer house, called the 'Rotary Rafiki House', funded by a local Rotary Club, was put up on the acre of land so that visitors/friends may stay right at the Orphanage, with the children.
I have employed several locals and neighbors, to help with the construction of the houses, to help out with the yard work, to keep us safe and to drive us around. I had family and friends help with the funding so a brick house could be built for our neighbor, who lived in a cow-dung hut.
All the children have sponsors and are getting an education. We sponsor one of the children and can’t wait to go to her graduation! Education is extremely important and I help Rehema, make sure that these children always have a sponsor and that their education continues.
I go every 6 months to visit the children, to hug them and tuck them into bed, to tell them they are special and that ‘I love them to the moon and back'. I am giving a gift that can't be bought on a store shelf, a gift that can't be forgotten or broken or lost. I am giving a gift that changes lives... it’s the gift of Hope! I Love what I do and do what I Love, so that's why I should be the Volunteer of the Year.
What benefits will the award money have for your designated project?
First, the money will be used to keep up the Children's Education, if any of them were to loose their sponsor. Secondly, it would be used for food and water for the children. Volunteers staying in the Rafiki House and paying a small fee does provide Rehema with food but there are months where their are no volunteers. Thirdly, it would be used to help make Karim Orphanage totally sustainable.
What is your long-term vision for this project?
My long term vision is to have Karim Orphanage totally sustainable. Keeping the Rafiki House/ Volunteer House full every day of the year, with volunteers from around the world, will support Rehema, the caregiver, so that she will have enough money to always feed the children. Also, I want to see ALL the children get an education, graduate and have all their dreams come true!