One of the features of Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School is its long history of volunteers – people who come to immerse themselves in another culture while making a huge contribution to the local community through giving freely of their skills and time.
During school time there are normally four to eight volunteers on site – though the number can be as high as ten occasionally. While we accept people for as short a time as one month, we recommend a period of at least three months but would encourage even longer if it is possible.
We also welcome groups who come to Africa for immersion experiences at a number of sites and are willing to participate in the school’s activities and often add opportunities for the local community. In recent years, participants in the Karibu Prgramme conducted by the Christian Brothers have visited the school as well as groups of young people who have had previous connection with the Christian Brothers and the Edmund Rice Network.
A Volunteers/Visitors Handbook is available and informs one on the many and varied aspects of volunteering.
The following notes provide a very brief outline of the opportunities provided to volunteers:
“As you visit or commence as a volunteer working for the school children and families in Sinon Village and surrounds, the Christian Brothers extend a warm welcome to you. Whether you are here with us for one day or one year we have no doubt that you will find life here enriching and rewarding. Arriving in Africa, Tanzania and in particular Arusha you suddenly feel very, very small. And so you should. Some guide books would finish this paragraph with reference to wildebeest, monkey, antelope, lion, cheetah, crocodile, gazelle, flamingo – and the opportunities that Tanzania avails to you. On the other hand I would suggest that Sinon offers you much more than this; warm hearts, welcoming smiles and playful children.
We wish you a memorable stay in Sinon Village and pray that you engage in the spirit that Blessed Edmund Rice gave us, that being to live ‘with Jesus in our hearts forever.'”
Edmund Rice Sinon Secondary School
Full Name: United Republic of Tanzania
Capital City: Dodoma (official); Dar es Salaam (administrative)
Area: 945,090 sq km or 364,899 sq miles
Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 3 ()
Languages: Swahili (official): English (official)
Religion: 45% Christian, 40% Muslim, 15% indigenous beliefs
People: 99% African (over 100 tribes), 1% Asian, European and Arabic
Currency: Tanzanian Shilling (TSh)
Country Dialing Code: 255
All visitors from Europe, North America and Australasia require a visa- it is best to get a volunteers visa before you come or a tourist visa to the maximum allowable, ie three months. You will need proof of yellow fever vaccination only if arriving from a yellow-fever infected area (which includes Kenya). As of January 1, 2008, visas are $50USD and $100US for US citizens at the border. Remember to have new (post 1995) bills as older bills are generally not accepted.
Opportunities for communication with home destinations are twofold – mobile phone and e-mail: SIM Cards can be purchased easily in Arusha while access to email can be arranged either at school or by visiting one of a number of internet cafes in Arusha.
Money – Currency
The Tanzanian shilling (Tsh) comes in multiples of (coins) 20, 50, 100, 200, (and notes) 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000Tsh. The exchange rate varies daily and it recommended to keep an eye on the fluctuations. A useful rough guide would be to use 1 560/-TS for $1USD
ATM’s are readily accessed in Arusha with the number of machines increasing rapidly.The most accepted cards are Visa with Mastercard only beoing accepted by a few. with only Exim accepting Mastercard. (If you are planning to use you Visa card have your pin number also). Travellers Cheques are accepted at most money change outlets, though expect to pay a high exchange.
It is recommended you have some American Dollars with you (especially for the Visa costs). Depending on the length of your stay $200US would be ample. Most safari companies ask that you pay your safari in US dollars though you can negotiate this into shilling or use credit cards.
As one of the poorest countries in the world, money is frugal. You are discouraged from travelling with large sums of cash on your person, and it is handy to have small denominations at the ready so to avoid offering 10,000Tsh for a small fee and expect change, as the seller will rarely have change for 10,000Tsh.
The Christian Brothers have two residences to accommodate both short and long term volunteers: Millennium and Mshomba Houses. Rooms in all houses are equipped for either single (majority) or double occupancy. All houses have electricity, running water, fridge, stove and kitchen equipment. Each house is equipped with fly screens, mosquito nets and a selection of reading material that can be shared among the houses. There is a limited selection of bedding and towels, though it is advisable to bring a pair of sheets and a pillow case. Consumables and cleaning materials, such as toilet paper and detergent are at each volunteer’s expense.
Though each house has running water and hot water is available with a hot water switch in each house, water supply can be irregular and care in using it is recommended.
Electricity is provided in each volunteer house – it is generally reliable but blackouts do occur; candles are supplied in each house. Due to electricity ‘surges’ it is strongly suggested that you use a ‘regulator’ when using electrical appliances such as phone chargers, computers and camera chargers. Regulators can be readily purchased in Arusha for app. 25,000Tsh. It is ESSENTIAL that you use a regulator when charging and using your computer.
Millennium House was built in the Year 2000, to house the growing number of Christian Brothers in Africa.
It has 6 rooms, one with en-suite and 2 separate showers and 3 toilets. It also has a TV and DVD Player along with a radio cassette player. There is also an iron and an ironing board.
The house has five bedrooms, gas cooker, fridge, running water and electricity. Three rooms are located within the house and two others are outside. The toilet and shower are also outside joined to the house with an enclosed courtyard. It is situated in a family ‘boma’ of four other houses so security is great as everyone knows your comings and goings and the ‘mamas’ are always in their houses. There is a CD/Tape player and an iron.
The School is approximately 5km from Arusha; due to the conditions of the road, the journey is app. 20mins. Dala-dalas (mini-buses) are the mode of transport to Arusha and can be caught along the main road for a cost of 300Tsh each way. From Arusha, Daladalas can be caught at ‘Friends Corner’. There is no timetable for the dala-dala but you are rarely left waiting more than 40 minutes unless it is in the middle of the day or a Sunday.
Taxis are readily available in Arusha and will bring you home. The current fare is between 7 000/-TS and 10 000/-Tsh during the day time and up to 12 000/-Tsh in the evening. Both are dependent on time and the weather conditions, and of course how well you bargain! For the brave, there is also the option of using a motor bike as an option to a taxi – the fare being around 3000/-TS!
As the third largest City in Tanzania, Arusha is home to many tourists and volunteers. Due to the tourism industry many touts work the main sections of town selling their wares. If a tout approaches you the best way to handle badgering is with a slight wave of the hand and “asante” (which means in this context “no thanks”. If you say “hapana” (no) you will be followed!
Within the secondary school there is no need to be ‘fluent’ in Swahili but your neighbours will have minimal English. It is also looked upon favourably if you are seen to make some effort in acquiring some of the local ‘Swahili’ language. There are two of the local women who have a history of teaching the volunteers – language lessons at a small cost can be arranged if you desire.
School-wise: Ladies, it is expected that you would use professional discretion in the choice of your outfits. Previously, it was recommended that you wear long skirts and button through tops with sleeves. In the last few years, trousers (dress pants) have been more common in Arusha and therefore more accepted in the school. Shoe string straps, tight pants, hipsters, tight singlet tops are not appropriate -it can be embarrassing for the staff and the community should you waver from this. There are excellent local seamstresses who can make an African outfit of a top and skirt in a day and for under $8US
School-wise: Gentlemen, trousers and shirt with dress shoes or boots is the norm.
Recreation: in your own time, use your own discretion but be aware that Tanzanians are very modest and you live in a local village closely attached to the school. The more skin you show in the town, the more likely you will be harassed and pursued as a tourist and the less likely that you will be recognised as a member of the volunteering community.
All clothing will be hand washed in basins in the laundry. Choose colours that can hide the dirt and mud that will inevitably creep up on you!
The weather is generally mild to warm with June and July the colder months of the year. Late at night or early in the morning you might need a light jumper but during the day it can become quite warm. It is recommended that you bring a jumper and a light rain-jacket as the weather can be unpredictable. For travelling, light trousers are ideal.
There is a wet season, late February to May, during which the dust turns to mud and walking around becomes awkward – gum boots can be an asset and are available locally.
The considerable dust (‘Tanzanian snow’) generated by wind, feet and traffic movement is disastrous for plastic sunglasses lenses. Even with careful washing off of the dust, you may still find your sunglasses badly scratched. Bring a cheap alternative if possible, or glass lenses.
People have been mugged in Arusha – do not walk anywhere in the city at night. Do not flash your wealth. The best bags are backpacks that are worn over both shoulders or, shoulder bags that can be slung over the front of your body.
All bottles are recycled – so do not throw away bottles that you consume at home. This includes beer, soda and all other glass bottles.
Hot water switches in the houses should be turned off when not in use, ie put on 30 minutes before you need a shower.
Things to Do When in Arusha
- If here for a priod of time, Dar Es Salaam is Tanzania’s premier city to visit while a visit to Zanzibar/the Zanzibar Archipelago is a spectacular destination – also low in political coups and high in bliss-charged activities.
- Mt Kilimanjaro National Park is an almost perfectly shaped volcano rising sheer from Tanzania’s northeastern plains, Mt Kilimanjaro is located at the foothills of Moshi and is a great weekend destination.
- Climb Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. When climbing Mt Kilimanjaro bring good quality mountain clothing with you from home including breathable thermal underwear, fleece, waterproofs, hat and gloves. Bring a 4 season sleeping bag. Do not rely on getting anything locally. Know what you are taking on here. The climb up the Marangu route from Kibo Hut to the summit is exhausting. About 80% make it to the summit; this seems a surprisingly high ratio.
- Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park near Arusha are three beautiful areas that can be organised as a day or weekend visit.
- The Arusha Tourist Board (located up from the clock tower) is a worthwhile place to visit for tourist and travel information and also to organise cultural excursions in and around Arusha.
Tanzania Tourist Board – Arusha Branch
PO Box 2348, Arusha Tel: +255 27 250 3842 / 3 Fax: +255 27 254 8628