Hilary and two local volunteers

14 Apr Say Jambo to Hilary for National Volunteer Week

It’s National Volunteer Week and to celebrate, we’re going behind the scenes with one of our tenacious volunteers to find out what it’s like to propel #YouthForward with EQWIP HUBs, an innovative new project powered by Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International.

Setting up seventeen youth innovation spaces in six countries is no easy feat! Our volunteers have been critical in establishing each of our EQWIP HUBs and we’re grateful for their hard work and dedication.

Based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Hilary Duff has been on the ground for six months and – together with other volunteers – has played a key role on the project. We sat down with her to get a firsthand account of her experience — check it out!

Hilary, Shaib, Shahada, and Bozkathi (our two HUB Coordinators and a Training Coordinator) during a Skype call with Taking IT Global in Toronto.

Image: Hilary, Shaib, Shahada, and Bozkathi (our two HUB Coordinators and a Training Coordinator) during a Skype call with Taking IT Global in Toronto.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your volunteer position with EQWIP HUBs.

Hi there! I’m Hilary, and I’ve been the Communications Advisor with EQWIP HUBs Tanzania since the start of November 2015. I’m based in sunny, sweaty Dar es Salaam and am here for the eight-month start-up term.

What inspired you to take the leap and apply for EQWIP HUBs?

Inspiration came from my last job working with an international development organization in Ottawa, ON. As part of that position, I regularly spoke with and coached communications officer colleagues in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Lebanon. It was amazing working with co-workers internationally, but working remotely had its challenges. EQWIP HUBs’ promise of working with a local team for an extended period of time is what ultimately led me to click “apply.”

As a bonus, I’ve now gotten to meet the Tanzania communications officer I worked with before and that was an amazing experience! We are now good, in-person friends. I’ll hopefully be meeting my other former East African colleagues over the coming months.

Do you have a learning moment you’d like to share about your experiences as a volunteer with EQWIP HUBs?

A few months ago, the Training Coordinator for the Dar es Salaam EQWIP HUB and I were reviewing Facebook posts I had written. We were changing any language he thought was too confusing for native Swahili speakers. It was interesting to see how English words like “host” became “welcome” and “share your thoughts” became “be free to.” It was valuable from a communications perspective to see what phrases Bozkathi thought would resonate with youth.

Seeing the Swahili translations was also cool – I love the saying “tuka pamoja” which can be interpreted to mean “we are on the same page.” It’s a great way to check in with colleagues to ensure everyone is understanding and working together.

The other learning moment relates to adjusting to life in a new place. Our first months in Dar es Salaam were nerve-wracking and those feelings tarnished my initial opinion of the city, and instilled a lot of fear in myself and other volunteers. But those experiences provided valuable learning moments: to not give up; to strive even harder to find community; and to not let one experience define a place or its people.
After a rocky first two months, I’m happy to be feeling much more settled in Dar. Something that helped was getting involved in the community. It doesn’t matter if you’re only here for three months or one year – it’s always worth it to get active, meet new people, and try new things.

Hilary and EQWIP HUBs Tanzania Country Manager Stella Mayenje after a meeting at the Canadian High Commission in Dar es Salaam.

Image: Hilary and EQWIP HUBs Tanzania Country Manager Stella Mayenje after a meeting at the Canadian High Commission in Dar es Salaam. That meeting brought together the initiatives funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Volunteer Cooperation Program.

What words of wisdom would you offer to someone considering a placement with EQWIP HUBs?

Be open to doing anything and everything. Being part of the start-up team meant there was a lot on the go at all times. From writing the country annual work plan to going to meetings at the Canadian High Commission to serving as an ad hoc landlord for our apartment, I’ve gained a lot of skills I didn’t necessarily think I would gain.

Take these challenges one at a time and talk to your fellow volunteers – they were a lifeline!

New friends in Kigamboni, a neighbourhood of Dar. The photo was taken after we did a needs assessment with their youth group.

Image: New friends in Kigamboni, a neighbourhood of Dar. The photo was taken after we did a needs assessment with their youth group.

EQWIP HUBs is a Canada World Youth/Youth Challenge International project on the lookout for experienced, high-caliber young Canadians with a passion for youth development and the ambition to go global. Apply today.