by Ally Haug
While not my first time to Tanzania, I think I was just as, if not more excited to go back to Tanzania than I was for my first trip seven years ago. My husband, Doug and I honeymooned in Tanzania in 2007; that trip was filled with adventures on Kilimanjaro, relaxation on the beaches of Zanzibar, and awe and wonder on the vast plains of the Serengeti. Our incredible month-long honeymoon adventure also inspired Doug and I to ‘do something in Africa’. We wanted to make some small impact in a place that had become quite special in our hearts and minds. We weren’t sure what that ‘something’ would look like, but we were certain it would involve education and children.
Seven years later, I found myself packing my bag to travel to Tanzania for the Asante Africa Foundation AGM. Having served on the board of directors for the past six years, this trip would be my first opportunity to meet both the Kenyan and Tanzanian staff and board members over the course of a rigorous three-day, strategic planning session. I was anxious to meet the teachers and students our organization has partnered closely with and to visit the schools we have been working alongside with since 2006.
Knowing how transformative my first trip to Africa was, I was keen to share that experience with my mom, Lynda. My mom is as adventurous as they come: she is a former ER nurse, from the Canadian Prairies, and always game for new experiences. Her bags were packed before she bought her ticket! The plan was to spend three days in Arusha, a city at the foothills of Tanzania’s Mt. Meru, and then hit the safari roads for a week.
While I participated in the three-day board meeting, my mom went on day trips, guided by Kwetu outfitters. The day trips were a bit of everything: sight seeing, cultural tourism, and visiting Asante Africa Foundation partner schools.
At the end of the first day, I was eager to meet up with Mom and learn about her first day in Tanzania! I wanted to hear all about her visit to Asante Africa Foundation’s very first partner school – it was a school we had worked so hard to fund and support that I was especially proud for her to see it first hand.
“So? How was it? What did you think? Isn’t the school amazing?!”
“ Uh, yes. It was very clean and very well-maintained, but …”
“ But, what?”
“Allyson, they have nothing. There is so little there.”
“Well, that is our poster school. That bare-bones school produces some of the brightest students. It is full of success stories – past, present and future.”
“I guess, I just didn’t anticipate what ‘need’ looked like.”
As our journey continued, we encountered more poverty and more ‘need.’ We encountered so many enriching, enlightening people who, despite having little, embodied resilience and strength. We spent our days and evenings in the very warm, inspiring company of our staff and board members. We talked at length about what success looked like for these communities and how we would all get there. We talked about cultivating the tremendous talent and potential in East African youth. We talked about the importance of accessing quality, competitive education in facilitating change and addressing big global issues. We also talked about how, in the big scheme of things, we don’t need a lot of money or a lot ‘stuff’ to make a big difference – that Asante Africa Foundation’s small, mobile talent force was accomplishing great things.
Our trip to Tanzania was rich with experience, yet if we were to sum it up into one lasting impression … we would say that, just like the first school my mom visited, what is amazing and inspiring about Africa is not what is there, but who is there. Who is there – is youth. The youth, who are hard working, smart and full of potential, are the key to building success in East Africa.
And if I were asked why I give, I would answer without hesitation – because I know it will make a difference. I will make a difference to one young kid; it may allow them to finish high school and even attend university. It will change their life forever. That’s why I give. Collectively, we make that difference to thousands of young people, and to their communities – it takes so little on our parts, but they’re transforming their worlds.
Ally is the Senior Associate Director of Development for the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. She and her husband Doug were introduced to the great work Asante Africa Foundation was doing while on their on honeymoon in Tanzania. She is a graduate of both the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia.