It’s been 7 weeks now since I took off – on the path I always thought I’d follow.
I find myself in Africa partly because of an apparent “quarter life crisis” millennial’s sometimes experience these days. You know, when you’re almost 30 years old and think: “shit, I thought I would’ve achieved more by now.” But witticisms aside, the real catalyst to apply for this job in Africa, was a discussion with a girlfriend from high school.
After James had proposed to me Alice and I caught up for a drink at a bar in Melbourne. Whilst our conversation could have been about wedding plans and a future family – it was more about career and more broadly, finding one’s purpose.
“Do you think everyone from year our 12 class are doing what they always thought they would?” I asked Alice. An optimistic Al pointed out examples of people pursuing their dreams. Horribly I can’t recall the examples Alice gave. I was caught-up comparing my own perceived ‘successes’ to girls we graduated with. I thought about that convo for a while after, becoming frustrated with the feeling of standing still. I was commuting to work each day, sitting at a computer for eight hours, spending my weekends cleaning a house too big for 2 people, and spending most of my money on eating out. I needed a change – a drastic one.
Africa was calling me.
My fascination with the African continent began after my grandparents traveled to Kenya in the 90s. They brought home a photo album for each grandchild. The images of Maasai tribe’s people standing outside their mud huts and lions in the savannah, immediately had me transfixed. From then on, big cats were my favorite animals, and my room was transformed into an African hideaway. This fascination, coupled with 15 years of various travel experiences witnessing poverty worldwide – led me to pursue poverty alleviation.
I believe we have a duty to share the resources a pot-luck privileged background gives. So I spent my tertiary studies learning how I could do just that. Education is key to sustainable development for people in poverty – because it gives the launch pad to improve one’s circumstances. Knowledge is power.
After my chat with Alice I expanded the filter on ethicaljobs.com.au to a ‘worldwide’ search. And there it was – a Communications role, based in Tanzania Africa, to fight poverty through education. It wasn’t so much a question as blatant destiny – I applied for the role immediately. Human Resources responded with a scheduled Skype interview. At 26 years old, with a newly built house, full-time job, and ring on my finger, I gave it all up… (for now at least).
Because if not now, then when?
So here I am – sitting in the darkness (because the power is out again) at The School of St Jude Primary Campus in Tanzania. We are at the bottom of Mt Meru, in a tropical climate supporting avocado and banana trees. At night I hear monkeys clambering on the roof. I live at the school campus with eight other employees from Australia and the UK.
Poverty in Tanzania is endemic, 70% of people live on less that AU$2.5 a day. Over two thirds of Tanzania’s children are not in secondary school and cannot access skilled employment. Life is tough, and it’s a fight to survive. Everyday death is omnipresent. St Jude’s provides a free, high-quality education to children who — due to poverty and social pressures — would otherwise be unlikely to complete their schooling.
You would assume it be rather difficult to live and work in Tanzania. Of course, at times it is challenging. Every international employee here has left safety and familiarity at home. But to be honest, most of the transition has felt surprisingly smooth. We humans are remarkably adaptable, and all very similar!
One thing that also makes living here fairly easy, is the sense of community. When I walk out the school gates every passerby will greet me saying; “Hujambo” to which I reply “Sijambo” (I’m fine). On my way to buy the sweetest bananas I pass Mama Veronica frying chapatti, and motorbike drivers offering lifts to town. Everything is an adventure.
If it serves you, I can continue to blog about my African adventures, as I transgress through the many lessons I am bound to learn. If you’re interested in any aspect of my adjustment to life here, let me know – I’m happy to be guided by your curiosity! And if you’re interested in working for St Jude too, check-out their latest vacancies.
Talk soon xx