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What 4 Friends Learned in Tanzania About Getting Involved in a Community

Liviane Urquiza's picture

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YouThink! - Engage-toi ! Tirer les enseignements de l'engagement des jeunes en Tanzanie
An IFOP Survey (fr) published in 2010 reveals that in France, 30% of young people aged 15 to 24 do volunteer work. This is a good average when compared to the rest of Europe. But why be satisfied with 30% when all young French people have the wherewithal to contribute to the cause of their choice? What good is it for youth to be full of energy and bursting with ideas if others cannot benefit from it?

Heloise, Radia, Lea, and Julliette are students at Sciences Po Paris who looked for ways to encourage young people to get involved. How could they help others understand that everyone has an important part to play? That even if they are young, even if they do not yet have the right to vote, they still can make a difference?

And that’s how they came up with the idea to go on a trip.

We followed them via their blog (fr) to Tanzania, which they visited as part of their “Get Involved!” (fr) project. Their aim was to meet with active and committed young people working in a setting that was completely different from their own context in France, to record their ideas and experiences and share them with French youth upon their return home.

In this English–speaking country in East Africa, the four adventurers were able to meet dozens of young people, who despite a lack of financial and material resources, were committed to serving in their communities, sports associations, getting involved in worthwhile causes (facilitating access to education, information, supporting young entrepreneurs, etc.).

At times, they were met with bemusement. Why come to Tanzania, so far away from home, just to speak with young people? The Tanzanians could not imagine that young French people, living thousands of miles away, and in a country richer than theirs, could possibly need their help.

And yet, thanks to the “Get Involved!” (fr) project, young people from Tanzania will be helping French youth to realize that everyone can take their own destiny in hand, simply by committing to the cause which they deem most important.

Juliette says that the main problem facing young Tanzanians is access to education, especially secondary-level education. The poorest children are forced to leave school very early, to find work. However, since they have no qualifications, they cannot find jobs and end up sinking deeper into the spiral of poverty, with their chances of finding work decreasing with each passing year.

This is doubtless what has led many young people to work together to bring about change. They want to help lift their communities out of poverty, and that is why more and more young Tanzanians are developing new projects, setting up associations or working with NGOs in order to:

  • Disseminate information and make their countrymen aware of the issues affecting them : human rights, health, jobs, the environment, etc.,
  • Provide skills training for the young, to enable them to find work,
  • Stimulate entrepreneurship among the young, in order to generate employment and contribute to the economic growth of the region,
  • Show solidarity by helping the most disadvantaged (orphans, street children, child slaves, etc.)

The recorded experiences (fr) of Christopher, Gabriel, Kennedy, Elijah, Nico, and others help us to better understand how these young people, despite scant resources and difficult living conditions, manage to help their communities, develop new projects, create jobs, and take part in decision-making processes to have a wider impact.

Finally, whether in France, Belgium, Quebec, or Tanzania, these commitments need not be a chore or a waste of time. It is a choice you make to help others, and in so doing help yourself, to meet different people, work in a team, to feel that you are doing something worthwhile and gaining a unique experience. In short, there is no better way to come out of your cocoon and help build a future!   

After a grueling but exciting tour, the "Get Involved!" (fr) team is now back in France. The four friends have a lot to do. They must prepare to give a series of presentations in secondary schools for the academic year 2013. Their minds are full of the images and memories of their trip, and they will use the accounts of their time in Africa to try to awaken interest and commitment among the secondary school students.

In the course of their trip, they shared their impressions (fr) on the motivation and ambitions of young Tanzanians and the way they work. Their blog offers a wealth of information for anyone seeking -inspiration before starting to work for a cause they believe in.

Now, let us hear from you: Are you involved in your community or do you volunteer?
If so, what did you gain from the experience?
If not, why? Is there no cause that you would be interested in working for?