Zanzibar is Maajabu!

By: Natalie Daley

Like my first blog, this one comes from Tanzania but somewhere completely different in the country! I am on the beautiful island of Zanzibar that I had heard so much about before arriving. It has definitely lived up to its reputation! Like the title of this blog states in Swahili, Zanzibar is Wonderful.

Throughout the day, no matter where you are in Zanzibar you can hear the Azaan, which is very peaceful. Wandering through Stonetown there are Mosques on nearly every corner, and the call of the Azaan adds to the unique atmosphere of the city. I never get tired of wandering through the streets and eventually ending up at a stunning ocean view. Much like Arusha, Stonetown and the surrounding areas are always bustling, and I am in continual admiration of the warm and genuine interactions that take place between people no matter where I go. Even when I am walking from my home to the YCI office I receive countless hello’s from both children and adults, and I am continually reminded that this is phenomenon is very different from cities in Canada. There are people gathered in different areas of the neighbourhoods playing games like dominos and Karem Board. Sometimes we join them and they are very welcoming, and we will all be sitting on old televisions or cinder blocks. It is a really awesome experience.

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Beautiful sunset in Zanzibar

In Zanzibar, fellow YCI volunteer Shireen and I are working with the Emerging Leaders program, located just outside Stonetown in an area known as Mwanakwerekwe (which I am very proud that I can now pronounce!). The program consists of 20-50 youth, all of whom have completed secondary school and many who have received additional degrees and certifications. The students attend on a voluntary basis and will receive certificates for every module that they complete. They are not required to complete all 5 or 6 modules, but the hope is that they will become individual change makers in their community with the capability to create programming and ultimately be employed or create their own employment within their communities in Zanzibar. Like Arusha and most of Tanzania, youth unemployment is an increasingly prominent problem.

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Stonetown from the water

We have just completed our third week of Module 3, and it will be completed in two weeks’ time. The module consists of Community Mapping, introducing development theories, MDGs and priority setting within a community. We have had many interesting discussions with the EL students about priority issues in Zanzibar related to the population as a whole as well as with youth specifically, and how this ties in with culture and religion. In one class we introduced Human Rights and discussed whether or not some of the articles in the Universal Declaration conflicted with Islamic Law. When it came to some of the articles, the lines between culture and religion became blurred, particularly when discussing marriage rights. The religion in Zanzibar is primarily Muslim, which was a noticeable change coming from Arusha in the north of Tanzania. Sometimes we need to make more effort to get input from the women in class as oftentimes the discussion can be dominated by the men. The students are very intelligent and motivated, and almost all of them currently volunteer and are extremely passionate individuals. They have very interesting and valuable insight into issues that persist in their local communities. When I leave their next module will consist of completing a practical community assessment and project design.

We have organized an event for International Volunteer Day, where we will accompany the students to a local Sober and Rehabilitation House. They are going to discuss the importance of volunteering, tell personal stories, and offer suggestions for ways in which those at the Sober House can become involved locally – I’m really looking forward to it.

The Streets of Stonetown

The Streets of Stonetown

I quickly learned that in Zanzibar it often pours, and when it pours it nearly floods! There is very little infrastructure in terms of road development particularly within the smaller neighbourhoods and villages, and especially with drainage mechanisms. The issue of poor infrastructure is something we have talked about often in class with the students as well. Sometimes my path to work is determined by how much rain there has been recently, forcing me to choose streets without enormous puddles. I definitely get a kick out of hopping along rocks and stones to make my way through the neighbourhood and out to the office.

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Rainy day in the neighbourhood

I have less than three weeks left now in Zanzibar, and am positive that I will experience many more incredible things in my last bit of time here. I am very lucky to have an incredible Swahili teacher, Mr. Ali. I feel much more confident speaking Swahili now, and enjoy seeing the surprise on people’s faces when I respond back to them, and exchange greetings and questions. Knowing the local language definitely increases the amount of interactions you can have and makes the experience here that much more authentic and enjoyable. Badaye!

Natalie Daley is a YCI Ambassador, currently working with YCI in Tanzania.

Head to YCI’s program calendar to check out our updated Youth Ambassador opportunities!

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