Experience Tanzania: by Lindsey Dawson

August 5, 2019 11:17 am Published by

After many years of waiting, the opportunity to finally travel to Mainsprings came true.  I graduated from college just a month before departing and could not have been more excited for this experience before starting my new job.  My family has been an active supporter of Mainsprings since it started, so my excitement had been building immensely over the years.

Due to my exposure with the organization for such a long time, I thought I had a decent understanding of what to expect when I got there.  However I soon realized that I was  wrong, because after five minutes on campus, my feelings of joy and excitement were far more abundant than I had expected or could have ever imagined.  As soon as we got out of the car, we were quickly surrounded by all of the girls giving us hugs and welcoming us to their home.  I knew that moment was the beginning of what was going to be two of the most unforgettable weeks.

To say my eyes were opened to a whole different world and perspective would be an understatement.  I quickly realized just how many things I consider “normal” in my life are true luxuries to so many others.  I recognized that life was different for those living in Tanzania, but it was not until I was there that I fully understood the extent of what that means. To be honest, when I first saw how people lived, especially in the rural areas, I felt sad for them.  I did not understand how someone living in a mud hut with a few t-shirts could really be happy.  However, in a short time I saw that they are some of the happiest people, regardless of their circumstances.  It was such a great reminder to see how happiness doesn’t come from material possessions or where you live, but rather the people you surround yourself with and the decisions every day to find something that makes you happy.

Lastly, the biggest takeaway I had from this experience pertains to privilege. Within a few days of being in Africa and on campus, I was consumed with an overwhelming amount of guilt. I have been blessed to live an extremely privileged life, and I take way too many things for granted.  It was easy for me to think about all the things I wanted to change in my life when I got home- Cold showers?  Sure. No air conditioning?  Bring it on.  Washing all my clothes by hand? Easy.  Let’s be real though, I wouldn’t last a week living that way if I didn’t have to.  So what I realized is yes, I am privileged, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up all of these privileges out of guilt, more so it’s what I do with my privilege that really matters.  I now understand that I should use the resources I have been blessed with to help others and make a difference in their life.  Simply put, pay it forward. 

I could not be more thankful for the two weeks I spent at Mainsprings and the way that the girls and the staff treated us as one of their own.  As I prepare to take on my first full-time job, I can look back on this experience and use so many of the things I learned to push me further.  My advice to anyone that is thinking about visiting Mainsprings is to drop whatever you are doing and go.  Even if you don’t think you have the time, find it because I wish I had visited years ago.

To the girls, the mamas, the staff and everyone I met along the way, I say thank you.  As I reflect back on my time at Mainsprings, it is so clear how each and every one of you played such an important role in my time there.  You all showed me how to find joy in the smallest of things and that family extends much further than blood.  Keep up the hard work because you all are a part of something truly incredible. I am counting down the days until I am able to visit Mainsprings again!

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