| August 12, 2017 |
Through the divine combination of manifestation and hard work/determination, I have landed myself back in Tanzania! In April 2016, I promised I’d return to the place that shaped my professional career and broadened my horizons, inspiring me in ways I am still discovering. And… here I am, back in Arusha!
There’s many exciting ways in which the 2016 vs. 2017 trip is different. This year, I will be in Tanzania for ONE MONTH rather than two weeks. I also played a more integral role in organizing this year’s trip, and am being joined by a group of students from my alma mater, Stony Brook University.
Read on to hear more about this year’s EXCITING itinerary! I’m beyond stoked and grateful…
Having the opportunity to return to Tanzania is a gift. Last April, I developed lasting relationships with the Edutours staff and service locations, hoping I would return to continue expanding Physical Therapy services and healthcare throughout Tanzania if given the opportunity. I didn’t feel that one trip was enough, because I saw the difference we made in one trip, and was curious to know how it could be sustainable and continue to progress. I saw the potential in the various service sites, and a revolutionary cultural shift toward accepting disability and improving community integration in the special needs populations.
View my posts from last year here!
When Edutours and I started talking about another trip opportunity, the logistics behind “when and who” began shaping up. Through months of planning, talking to schools, and shifting around itineraries/trip proposals, the promise of my return to Tanzania started feeling more real. My dream was coming true: I’d be able to bring students from the entry-level Physical Therapy program I attended to Africa! Via professors and the chair of the Stony Brook University DPT program, information was shared with third-year students, and we determined the possibilities for involvement in Tanzania. Eventually, we captured the interest of many, and the commitment of SIX student Physical Therapists to join on a service trip in August 2017!
I’ve been pouring my heart into this program, and am anticipating the students’ arrival on August 13! Fortunately, I was able to rope a peer and fellow alumnus from Stony Brook Physical Therapy Program into joining the trip. Ryan will be joining to lead part of the group, as we will split into two groups to volunteer with two center: Shanga and Step-by-Step Learning Centre.
There’s no doubt that Step-by-Step holds a special place in my heart. Volunteering with the staff and students this non-profit school for children with special needs in Arusha is one of a kind. and led by passionate staff. Margaret opened the school 12 years ago with the following mission:
Our mission is to promote the physical, intellectual, psychological and social development of each child through a holistic educational provision in an inclusive, empathetic, respectful and stimulating environment.
In 2016, I didn’t get to visit the school as the rainy season overflowed a nearby waterway, which made the dirt road to the school uncrossable. Since last April, a bridge has been built and the school has been made more easily accessible. This year, we’ll spend our volunteer days at the school since August is the dry season and road barriers no longer exist! Lucky us! This will make adaptations and environment evaluations so much easier and applicable within the correct context.
The school has grown in many other ways – they’re now harvesting honey (yay, beehives!), building a fish pond, and dreaming non-stop! As Margaret says, “Dreaming is free.” 🙂
Basically, once the students arrive on August 13, we have a packed schedule of volunteering and safari trips. Like a revolving door, the students depart on August 24… and then Robert arrives on August 25! Life has continued to unfold in support of some of my wildest dreams, and I’m so lucky I get to share these experiences with people I love and appreciate. I told Robert about my passion for service in Tanzania on April 8 during our second weekend as climbing partners. I currently wear a bracelet on my right wrist that has the Arusha, Tanzania coordinates on it (thank you, Danielle, for the Wanderer bracelet!):
After a day of climbing at Vantage, WA, Robert asked what the coordinates on my bracelet are for. I explained the trip from 2016 and plans for 2017. He spoke of his dreams to get involved in developing countries and water conservation, combining his work experiences as an engineer/project manager with a greater mission. As we got closer in our relationship, Robert and I decided we’d best combine forces in Africa. With Robert’s assistance, we may complete a construction project (culvert?), and facilitate future planning through needs assessments and budgetary evaluations. There’s plenty more in the works, but time will reveal our opportunities!
Robert and I have contemplated climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro during our time together in Africa, but we’re a little hesitant for this trip. Why? We both feel pulled by wanting to do service, explore opportunities for educational program growth in Tanzania, and get a well rounded cultural experience. Being that this will be Robert’s first time in Africa, we feel more time in Arusha with Edutours and our project sites will be more beneficial. Next year, we may combine with another non-profit organization to do a Kilimanjaro climb… but more development on these thoughts to come! Thank goodness for flexibility and the awesome staff at Edutours, who are helping us plan our entire trip.
Here’s the current, jam-packed, super-fun schedule below!
I’d like to give a huge, whole-hearted shoutout of gratitude to the following people:
- 6 passionate girls from Stony Brook University who always have the right questions, and were quick to send out emails to professors/clinics seeing if they’d donate any therapeutic items. Honestly, this trip wouldn’t be happening for them. They’re taking the time between clinical internships and the return to fall classes to perform selfless service and commit to learning about a new culture. Sarah, Jamie, Lo, Jackie, Charlie, and Meaghan—I am beyond grateful you’ll be joining Edutours and I on this trip, and know we will make a difference, together. Thank you, thank you. Asante, asante.
- Ryan, a peer and fellow graduate from Stony Brook Doctor of Physical Therapy Class of 2014! Ryan expressed sincere enthusiasm for this trip the second I posted on my DPT class’ Facebook group to see if anyone would be interested in joining. I knew we’d benefit from having another PT on board this year, in order to oversee student groups at service sites. Given Ryan’s extensive experience in subacute/nursing care, Ryan will be volunteering with a group of two students at Shanga with the staff members. Thank you, Ryan, for your follow through, enthusiasm, and thoughtful donations to the program. You’re truly an asset.
- Cascade DAFO, a company based out of Washington that donated MANY Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO’s) to assist in improving walking patterns, range of motion, and prevent breakdown/joint contractures of the lower extremity. Not only did they provide a large box of AFO’s to customize for children in Tanzania, but they also provided tools to make necessary adaptations.
- Stony Brook University Physical Therapy Program Staff, many of whom reached out to offer donations of evaluative tools, intervention tools, and materials for adaptations. This trip definitely couldn’t have happened without the support and assistance of faculty. They relayed information to students and assisted with on the ground planning.
And finally… last but certainly not least…
- My family and friends, who encourage me to dream big and support my most adventurous endeavors. I couldn’t do this without your love and support.
If you want to support these efforts via donations, please click the link below.