Angelica’s Nwandu’s Alternative Breaks assignment was teaching at an orphanage near Moshi, Tanzania. She almost didn’t go back the second day. But the Loyola Marymount University sophomore is glad she stuck it out; her experience was transformative.
Nwandu’s walk to the orphanage took an hour. On her first day, she was disappointed by the cool reception from some of the older students in her class. And after her long, dusty, sweltering walk back to her hostel, she declared that she was not going back. Joanne Dennis, the Alternative Breaks coordinator who went on the trip, convinced Nwandu to return the next day. Dennis explained that volunteering involves sacrifice. In the days that followed, Nwandu’s students warmed to her and she got used to the walk.
Over the course of the month, Nwandu, who was raised in the foster-care system, learned that volunteering is truly meaningful when personal sacrifice is necessary. Nwandu’s attitudes about her own circumstances shifted dramatically as she learned about the lives of her students. In one reading exercise, the children crafted stories based on their experiences. Nwandu learned about the difficult challenges that many faced. Nwandu said, “Before the trip, I used my experience as a foster kid as an excuse, but not anymore.”
One of her young students, Bibiana, told Nwandu something in Swahili, which Nwandu took to a translator. Nwandu was humbled when she learned the English translation of Bibiana’s message: “You should feel privileged that God gave you the burdens He gave you because that means He thinks you’re strong enough to carry them.”
Nwandu, who plans to work with foster youth and orphans, has decided to change her major from business to psychology. “I found myself on that trip,” she said. She added that the challenges of volunteering pushed her to examine her life. “The biggest service you could ever give is one that is a sacrifice.”