As most who work in community development and volunteer work no doubt understand, seldomly does one encounter a community that does not already have distinct characteristics and, more importantly, inherent strengths. Even so, these strengths may sometimes be surprising, as committing to help ‘those less fortunate’ can lead to forgetting that assets lie in every community and every person. But as this volunteer comes to realize, though volunteers may come from outside to help the community, the power to sustain impacting work comes from within.
Being a New Yorker, the culture I was raised in values minding your own business and getting things done… I have found it incredibly refreshing to come here and within five minutes, be able to have established a relationship with a complete stranger and have a conversation about their life and their goals. In one week, I have had more personal, in-depth conversations with strangers on the street here than I would have in New York in a year. Being open and welcoming to strangers is a way of life here and I have to say that I love it. I feel this spirit builds communities that are more inclusive and protective of its members and have a higher level of social capital than communities back home. It’s because of this that I find it so unfortunate that there is such a strong stigma regarding HIV/AIDS. If this stigma could be removed (hopefully our work will play a small part in this), then I feel that these strong communities could be utilized to truly combat the spread of HIV, and lessen the horrible impact it has on families and communities.
-Andreas P., Tanzania Semester Program Participant, 2011