For years I had the desire to travel abroad and volunteer, but it wasn’t until 2010 I took the leap and finally did it. I chose to volunteer through a non-profit organization called Cross-Cultural Solutions (CCS), and I chose Morocco as my first volunteer country.  Morocco was great, and working in the children’s hospital was such a great experience.  Upon returning, I had even a stronger desire and urge to make another volunteer trip through CCS. I began sharing my experiences with other interested volunteers by hosting information sessions. These information sessions allowed me to earn credit towards future volunteer adventures through CCS.

Making a decision on where to go

One of the great things about CCS is their Community page that allows you to connect with other volunteers and share your experiences, and gain insight into the other CCS program sites throughout the world.  I had been battling with myself whether to go to Tanzania or South Africa.  I sent messages to some past volunteers from both placements to get their thoughts and try to come up with a final destination.  The choice was still extremely hard until one day I came across a post from an alumni from the Tanzania placement.  Her name was Katyann, and she was looking for volunteers interested in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for a school called The O’Brien School for the Maasai.  I immediately logged onto the website for this charity climb and researched it.  The climb was organized by three former CCS volunteers – Becca, Susan and Katyann.  The three of them volunteered in 2011 and fell in love with Tanzania and its people, so they decided to move back to Tanzania in May of 2012 and volunteer for a year or so of their lives helping out at The O’Brien School for the Maasai.  They developed the group S.E.W which stands for Successfully, Empowering, Women.   I never thought I would ever even consider climbing any mountain, but I was so moved by these girls and what they were doing, I immediately sent an email asking for details and spoke with Susan and Becca a few times before I finally committed to this journey.

The O’Brien School for the Maasai 

In 2006, a lady named Kellie O’Brien and her daughter Heather took a trip to Tanzania to live with the Franciscan Cappuchin Sisters of Sanya Juu.  During their stay, they met Gabriel, a Maasai man who wanted more for his Maasai village. He wanted a school for the children. He asked them for a school, and Kellie met with Gabriel and 150 other members of his tribe.  Returning to the village 10 days later, Kellie helped design a school on an envelope, and two days later when Kellie and Heather departed Tanzania, blocks and sand were already in place.  By 2007 The O’Brien School for the Maasai was complete.

The children of the Maasai village are now able to attend school, learn, grow and change their future.  The O’Brien School isn’t just about helping the children, but it also gives the women of the Maasai village the to change their futures. The women have learned to sew, and bead, which they can turn around and sell to provide for their families.  S.E.W. was designed to help these women and give them a brighter future, to bring sustainability to these women by creating new projects for them and furthering exisiting ones, and to break the cycle of poverty.

For the women of the O’Brien School for the Maasai, for the children, for their families, for hope, and inspiration I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Continue reading part 2 of this story…

 ~ By guest writer Leslie Vice who volunteered in Tanzania and Morocco. You can learn more about her trip and send her a donation by clicking here.