LIVING ON PURPOSE
Laurie Mueller April 29, 2021
The year I went to Africa wasn’t planned years in advance like some people plan their travel. But something happened in April of the year that I would later fly off to Tanzania. I had bumped into a casual friend on the ferry. We chatted about her work in Tanzania, a place I had never thought of visiting or, heaven forbid, working in. At first, I was politely interested, but when she spoke about the difference it made in people’s lives, I was hooked.
In fact, it was the beginning of five-year adventure! By the time I was driving off the ferry, I knew I would be travelling to Africa with a team to help in the building of a technical school. The enthusiasm and joy that I had heard about building schools for various organizations in the capital city of Dodoma sounded like just what I needed. I was only a couple of years from retirement, I loved my job, but now I decided, something was missing in my life.
The farthest I had been from home was a couple of trips to Europe in my lifetime and to Mexico and Hawaii several more times. My husband had no interest in going, so I invited some girlfriends and, lo and behold, three of them said yes!
I took a risk. But one I felt safe enough doing because of the organization’s track record. There had been teams going several times before I went. We were working with a well-known and respected agency in Tanzania.
The highlights for me were many. Touching down in Tanzania was the first bit of amazing. Driving through the countryside on a day’s bus ride to our destination was a bit hard on the bum, but still worth every minute. We arrived in Dodoma in a blackout, only to find out this was a daily experience for the residents of the city.
Seeing the area where we would be working, meeting the people, touring past projects and being thanked over and over again for the work past teams had done and hugging multitudes of small children who could now experience preschool and primary school filled my heart. Each night, we wrote reports about our day for folks back home. We got to know the teachers, the builders, and our team grew closer.
We volunteered at the job site for three weeks. I’m not big on scraping and painting but scrape and paint windows I did! When the task was completed, the fetes with community members ended, the goodbye hugs given and received, we drove north to Safari land and saw the animals before boarding a plane for home.
It was a trip of a lifetime. An adventure I had never planned on taking. A memory I will have for the rest of my life. My money, my time, and my energy were well spent. I was able to use my skills in writing to share the experience with people back home. I stayed with the organization for five more years.
My next great adventure? I’m exploring an organization in Mexico that could definitely use help… and it’s one of my favourite places to travel.