Volunteering in Tanzania - POSA Orphanage
One of my favorite things about travel is getting to know the people there. And for me, one of the best ways to do that is to volunteer while I am there! The people I’ve served alongside and the people whom I’ve served have been some of the kindest and most joyful people I’ve ever met. My time at POSA orphanage was too short, but so meaningful to me.
POSA means Positive Steps in Arumeru. Positive has a double meaning, because most of the children it serves were orphaned because of the Aids epidemic in Africa. (Their parents tested HIV ‘positive.’) The non-profit orphanage was established in 2005 by the late founder, Comfort A. Ephraim who died very young after begging his father to carry on his work.
Comfort’s parents are in their 80s and they now run the orphanage. The kids call them Babu and Bibi, which means grandpa and grandma. 'Babu’ has many roles in the small town of Usa River where the orphanage is found, including serving as the pastor for the region and as a retired veterinarian.
Pastor Aminiel Ephraim exudes kindness. He’s one of those people you feel better just knowing he exists in the world. He worries what will happen to the kids when he and his wife are no longer able to care for them. They do not ask for handouts, and gush gratitude about those who make the trip there and help him out.
I’ve gone on two mission trips with my church, but this time I volunteered through an organization called IVHQ. They’re an organization that places people from around the globe in volunteer positions. They help with logistics and lodging.
My accomodations on this trip were at a volunteer house named ‘Twiga’ which is kind of like a hostel. I stayed in a giant basement room filled with mosquito-netted bunk beds with about 20 other women! Two of my new-found friends had just returned from climbing Kilimanjaro!
Travel to the orphanage from Twiga is tricky. We had to leave each day an hour early to get picked up from a ‘Shusha’ (bus stop) to commute there via a Dala Dala — the colorfully decorated vans the locals use to transport around Arusha. You can get anywhere in the large region for around .50 US, but you are squashed in like sardines.
My lone injury during the entire trip was on a Dala Dala. I was stepping off as it started to pull away, my skirt caught on the door hinge and the van clipped my hip. Nothing broken, but I had about an 8” black bruise that made the long flight home a little uncomfortable —ha!
The kids were by far, the very best part! There are two classrooms of students, the ‘baby’ preschool class and ‘prep’ class of first graders. We help write assignments in workbooks and grade the students work.
But the real way we are able to provide help is after class. The kids want to sing, dance, rough-house, play, draw, climb and run. They are filled with endless energy chasing frogs and throwing rocks, and you can tell the teachers are happy for us to watch over them. The kids also want to hug and snuggle and make you laugh. The little girls grab you by the hand and want to to sit directly beside you and lean against you. They’re beautiful, sweet and filled with such joy!
The teachers are so professional! They don’t use the same methods we do here in the states, but you can tell they take such pride in their jobs. Kids there learn several languages from a young age. They spoke much better English at age 3-6 than I could speak Swahili!
I was quite taken with teachers Marta and Agripina, and with Flora, who assisted with meals for the children, and her own baby Abdula.
Some days, we ate lunch with the kids. But other days Pastor Ephraim and Bibi wanted to extend hospitality to the volunteers, and we enjoyed tea at their home. Chai tea, ‘chips’ (cold, hand cut french fries), avocado and pineapple slices, and half cakes were served up as the light poured through their sheer curtains. Their home is very modest and cozy. Their warmth surpassed any language barrier.
One thing they don’t always tell you about travel is that it changes you. You bring back a piece of the area you visited in your heart.
I may have cried buckets when I said goodbye to the students, teachers, Bibi and Pastor Ephraim. I loved getting to know these people, and they will remain in my prayers.
Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27
POSA (Positive Steps in Arumeru) Orphanage provides shelter and education to children in poverty in the Arumeru area. (Usa River) It is an inclusive school which was founded in 2005 by Comfort Ephraim and financed and taken over by his father Aminiel after Comfort sadly passed and asked for Aminiel to “take care of the children in any way at any cost” in order that they have a future.
POSA caters to 25+ students, aged 3-7 years. These students are all living in poverty, orphans or affected by HIV/aids. The school fully funded by Aminiel. A garden and chicken coop created by past volunteers helps keep the school running and gives sustainable and long-term help as they provide both food for the students to eat, but also that they can sell.