Goals for My Summer in Zanzibar

volunteer in zanzibar

Hujambo! My name is Deborah Carey, and in just a few hours I will be leaving sunny Florida for (even sunnier) Zanzibar to serve as an “Unofficial Ambassador.” My placement is ZAYEDESA, a non-profit that works in many facets of development, including sustainable agriculture, business entrepreneurship, HIV/AIDS, and education. I will be doing communications and social networking outreach, to broaden ZAYEDESA’s online platform and assist them in making English materials.

As an Unofficial Ambassador from the “Bible Belt,” I am excited to spend six weeks living in a completely new environment, and experience the Muslim faith and culture, so I can bring this experience back to share with my community.

Overall, that is my greatest goal for these upcoming six weeks: to build relationships and absorb as much as I can, so I will be a genuine and honest ambassador upon returning to Florida, and later Washington DC (where I attend American University).

Goals for My Summer in Zanzibar

But to describe my more professional goals, I’d like to tell share a story.

My favorite Swahili folktale is “marafiki manne na simba,” meaning “four friends and a lion.” As legend has it, the friends are walking through the wilderness, and come across the carcass of a lion. Three of the friends possess “maarifa,” or knowledge, and decide to show off this knowledge by bringing the lion back to life. But the fourth friend objects! This friend does not have any knowledge, as he was not able to go to school, but has obtained great “hekima,” or wisdom throughout his life. He warns his three friends that the lion will attack them if they bring it back to life, but they brush him off. The fourth brother employs his wisdom by climbing into a nearby tree, and remains there as the lion is resurrected and kills his three friends.

While reflecting on my goals for the upcoming six weeks that I will spend working in
communications and social networking for ZAYEDESA in Zanzibar, I could not help but think about the narrative of the fourth friend in this folktale. As a college student studying international relations, I read, write papers, discuss relevant topics, (not to mention take out loans) constantly to gain “maarifa” in East Africa, cross cultural competence, and development theory. But how effective am I really as someone with more “maarifa” than “hekima”?

I am grateful to have an elaborate work plan with specific goals that will help me expand the communications efforts of ZAYEDESA. I aspire to develop my writing and outreach skills, and the tasks that have been outlined in this plan allow me to prepare ahead of time. However, I have also been reflecting on more “umbrella” personal goals for the upcoming six weeks.

The first and more logistical of these goals is to not hide behind my computer, but to truly be approachable, ready to drop what I am doing to greet someone in my limited Swahili. I know it will be tempting to focus more on the materials I will be producing with ZAYEDESA, and less on relationships, since the fruit of relational labor cannot be seen as easily or quickly as written content. But I hope to reject this temptation, instead displaying keen interest in my co-workers and truly interacting with ZAYEDESA’s community.

In a broader sense, I want to “bring home” an adequate representation of the many people I meet in Zanzibar, and ‘tell their stories’ in a way that will allow my friends, family, and peers to identify with them. Meeting this goal means being a superb listener (who is not afraid to ask questions), not simply a partially engaged observer.

My greatest goal, however, is to gain the “hekima” that characterized the fourth friend. While his three peers were talking up their great knowledge, he was experiencing the world–maybe even learning the hard way that lions are not forces to be reckoned with. He gained wisdom by being involved in his surroundings, employing a humble attitude and an observant nature.

Goals for My Summer in Zanzibar

Above all else, I hope to use my “maarifa” to benefit ZAYEDESA in their communications outreach, but along the way, become more like the fourth friend, developing “hekima” in the many facets of international development and cultural understanding.

Goals for My Summer in Zanzibar

About Deborah Carey

Deborah CareyOriginally from Florida, Deborah Carey is a sophomore at American University, studying International Development. This summer she is volunteering in Stone Town, Zanzibar, with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors, doing communications and social networking outreach for a local NGO.

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