Laurie Mueller is shown outside the technical institute she and her group helped build in Nala

Volunteer work in Africa a life altering experience

For one Victoria volunteer, a trip to Africa as part of a local aid organization’s efforts has been a life altering experience.

For one Victoria volunteer, a trip to Africa as part of a local aid organization’s efforts has been a life altering experience.

“You have no idea of how deeply it will affect your heart (until you go),” said Laurie Mueller. “When I was done and leaving there, I felt as though I left a little bit of myself back there, and I know I want to go back. I hope that I can.”

Mueller’s saga began with a chance meeting with Ruth and Erich Schultz on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria.

“We started chatting about the work they were doing in Africa and by the time the ferry arrived and I was heading to my car, I knew I had to go to there (Africa) to help,” said Mueller.

The organization the Schultz’s introduced to Mueller is called For the Love of Africa. Based in Victoria, it was founded in 2004 after a group of 14 local volunteers travelled to Dodoma, Tanzania where they helped in the construction of the Kizota Student Centre. The organization now has more than 50 active members and has logged seven trips to Africa, each time in support of a different project.

Recently, Mueller was able to fulfill her desire to lend her support to the organization when she and a group of 11 Victorians travelled to Nala, Tanzania, where they spent a month aiding in the construction of the Dodama Technical Institute, a school now teaching marketable trade skills to area residents. It’s a $180,000 project which, without the assistance of the aid group, would simply be out of reach to area residents.

“You have no idea how poor these people are,” said Ruth. “I asked one young person who was helping with the project what his most valued possession was and he proudly showed me a pencil, telling me that it belonged just to him and he didn’t have to share it with anyone. In the evening you often see children beating the tall grass, searching for mice…they use them to supplement their diet and provide some protein to their diet.”

The school that Mueller helped construct will help alleviate at least some of that poverty. It’s set to teach masonry and tailoring right now and other trades are going to be added as things progress.

“Those skills can be life altering for the young people in the community…we made a difference,” said Mueller.

A testimonial to the difference made by the organization was expressed by one of the local workers, a man named Elijah Lawrence, who joined Mueller’s group in their efforts. In a letter to the organization Lawrence wrote:

“I learnt a lot of things from you… to help a helpless family is not a show.”

He goes on to state that his interaction with the volunteers has taught him about humility, acceptance generosity and kindness. He finishes his letter with a commitment to become a volunteer himself, and to pass along the lessons he’s learned.

Despite being back in Victoria for now, Mueller’s work with the For the Love of Africa organization hasn’t stopped. Upon her return home she joined the executive of the organization and now helps in fundraising while simultaneously spreading the message about the group’s work.