Internship in Tanzania

For those of you who do not know, I will be graduating from James Madison University this coming May! I will be graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Health Sciences with minors in exceptional education, communication sciences and disorders, and pre-occupational therapy. I came into JMU a terrified, 17-year old with no idea about what she wanted to do with her life. As much as I was searching for a major, I was searching for myself.

 In the winter of my Sophomore year, I signed up to go to Texas, a state I had never been to, with a handful of other students, none of whom I had ever met. We spent a week camping in Big Bend National Park working on grassland restoration projects. I quickly came to the realization that I had found my place among 12 amazing individuals who were strangers to me just a week prior. Since then, I have participated in 6 other alternative breaks both nationally and internationally, which have strengthened the foundation of my passion for service. I am able to find my worth and my identity in what I can do for and give to others. My education and privilege would be useless if I did not use them to promote, advocate for, empower, and directly assist communities and individuals in need.

For this reason, I have chosen to readily pursue an internship opportunity in Tanzania, Africa through Art in Tanzania! This non-governmental organization (NGO), founded in 2001, works to promote the development of the most vulnerable communities in Tanzania through education, arts, health, and environmental conservation projects. They have developed numerous partnerships with local NGOs, and work closely with UNICEF, SOS International, and other internationally recognized nonprofit organizations. As an intern with Art in Tanzania, I will be spending 9 months doing practical fieldwork alongside an occupational therapist to develop a new tool that is to be used online and through mobile phones for therapeutic tasks. Our goal is to reach the most vulnerable communities living in rural areas, which comprise approximately 75% of the people in Tanzania. My service in Tanzania will be promoting The Children’s Agenda Initiative, as every child has the right to an independent, functional, healthy, and happy lifestyle.

I am often asked why I am choosing to spend time helping other countries when there are plenty of people who need help here at home in America. While I do recognize the need in our country, I also see the need in other countries. Many other individuals blessed with a servant’s heart may not have the means, the desire, or the support that they need to travel to these other countries. There are numerous organizations here in America that exist to promote the well-being of Americans, and these organizations are flooded with local volunteers. Although these acts of service may not be completely meeting the need of Americans, there are even fewer volunteers providing effective, culturally appropriate, and sustainable service in developing countries. In other words, if I were not in America, the needs of vulnerable populations would still be met; if I were not in Tanzania, the needs of the people I will be serving have the potential to go unseen, unheard, and unfulfilled. As a future healthcare provider, I also firmly believe that I have so much to learn from healthcare systems with which I am not familiar. I have learned all that I can about the United States’ healthcare system. While there are things that we do well, there are also things that we do very poorly. By immersing myself into and experiencing another healthcare system, I will be able to take the positive aspects of that practice and apply them to my own in the future. I will also have the opportunity to take what I know about what works well here and share my knowledge in order to lessen the disconnect between the healthcare that people need and deserve and the healthcare that people actually receive.

Unfortunately, this opportunity does not come for free. While Art in Tanzania does offer a small stipend to offset the costs of living, they are unable to cover the complete cost of the internship as a nonprofit organization. The total cost of this experience amounts to about $6,000, which encompasses the total cost of airfare, housing, meals, transportation, and security. You may ask me why I am paying to provide free labor. What I will learn through this experience in Tanzania is far more valuable than any college education I could buy. What I will learn through the relationships I form is priceless. The insight and open-mindedness that I will gain from truly becoming a part of a culture different from my own is, to me, worth so much more than the sum of something so tangible and fleeting as money.

I ask that if you are willing, able, and feel drawn to do so, you would consider making a donation to help fund my journey. If you are unable or do not feel led to give at this time, I ask that you please lend your thoughts and prayers. I am extremely grateful and appreciative of all of your support and help, and I cannot wait to share my journey with you!

Thank you!
Amber Bell
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Amber Bell 
Powhatan, VA
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