Big visionaries behind small businesses share their insights and experiences in this series. Learn how to share your brand story here.
I've been home now for 10 days since my first trip to Africa for six weeks. It was an amazing experience with plenty of rewarding moments. I feel so fortunate to be able to have taken a trip where I could work remotely on my graphic design in addition to pro bono volunteer work and vacation. Talk about the ultimate entrepreneur's dream! Although Europeans are used to 5+ week vacations, for an American its unheard of. Multiple people told me, wow I want your life, amazing. I'll just say I'm VERY resourceful, rather low maintenance and frugal ;)
I won't lie upon arrival to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania I freaked out. I wanted to go home. I could not imagine no wifi, running water, flushing toliets, let alone malaria! In addition, I was told of a robbery in the volunteer apartment where someones passport was stolen and I was told not to leave the site with any valuables because I would be robbed. OMG what did I get myself into?! My zest for adventure and travel immediately vanished. Fast forward two weeks. Once I had a flash drive wifi connection and Skype call with a friend working in Johannesburg, I snapped out of it. Those two weeks consisted of single day safari in Mikumi where I saw beautiful giraffes, zebras, impalas and elephants roam free from an open top jeep. The open landscape and peaceful surroundings were amazing. The other trip was a four day weekend in Zanzibar where I saw 100 year old tortoises on Prison Island, Muslim women covered in beautiful colorful scarves along the beach and the most narrow dark alley ways in StonesTown full of locals selling their art, jewelry and apparel.
Pro bono graphic design work for Art in Tanzania included a tshirt and cd cover design for the organizations band Saana Sana which was going on tour in Finland. Besides the graphic design work I requested to work with the nursery school kids. This was such a delight! I've never been around such happy, carefree and loveable children. Beyond heart warming to have kids run up to you and hug you and squeal with excitement "TEE-CHA TEE-CHA" (teacher). Utilizing my design skills I printed coloring sheets of my artwork and passed out matching stickers. The kids loved it and I LOVED seeing their excitement. Another highlight for both the kids and I was watching National Geographic Kids Animal videos on my laptop. These kids couldn't get enough of the videos! They swarmed me like bees to honey,ha. Amazing to think some may have never watched a video before. I will always wonder what became of these kids. Will they have the opportunitiy to further their education like I did in the USA without tremendous struggles? Will they have the chance to become artists, teachers, doctors or entrepreneurs? They are so innocent and pure at this point in thier life, their biggest want is simply for love and attention. I hope life is kind to them.
One of the two nursery school teachers asked if I could draw an alphabet poster. Let me tell you I never realized how I take for granted how easy it is to design and print an alphabet at home. In this situation I had to walk in the heat, humidity, mud, crowds and exhaust fumes for about an hour passing hanging meat in open air butcher stands while listening to the call to prayer coming from random buildings... talk about not your average 5 minute drive to Walgreens for stationery supplies! I finally found some white butcher paper, crayons and sharpie pen. Back to basics. The teacher was so grateful for the oh so very simple Alphabet and Color chart I made. Unbelievable to think how easy it is to get educational art for kids in the US yet here a basic hand drawn alphabet is like gold to them. When the other teacher came in she said oh my please, you must do a poster for me too, please. Teacher you're so kind, you love our kids, you will be such a good mom. And the gardner outside said you're the one with the computer, the kids will miss you. Gulp, teary eyed. With the help of some other volunteers I made posters of fruit, clothes, animals and numbers 1-30. Such a wonderful feeling to give what comes naturally to me and have it cherished by others. Next time I get discouraged with my own graphic design business or building my Bebe Bilingual brand, I will remember how grateful these children and teacher were of my work.
This day would end my two week stay in Dar Salaam. Next up South Africa...