Today’s HOT Chat is the first time I’m interviewing a Melburnian who actually no longer  lives in Melbourne. Melbourne-born Carley Andrews now lives in Tanzania with her husband, running a hostel focusing on providing volunteer work opportunities. I was inspired to interview her after reading about her new project, a childrens’ home, which she has just started with Melbourne lawyer Lucy Bradlow. Thanks Carley!

Carley, tell me a bit more about your background, how you ended up in Arusha, Tanzania and came to run the Ujamaa Hostel?

I first volunteered in Kenya in 2006 and loved the experience, but I went with large company, paid lots of money (none of which went to the project) and was disappointed with the level of support.

A year later I went to Tanzania to volunteer with an independent company, I intended to stay for about a month,  but I never left! I met my husband (who is Tanzanian) when I was volunteering in a town called Moshi, which is about an hour away from where I now live.

We decided to move to Arusha and set up the Ujamaa Hostel because we both love volunteering and helping other people. We also wanted to provide a cost-effective and safe way for others to volunteer in the local community.

What is the philosophy of Ujamaa Hostel?

“Ujamaa” is the Swahili word for “familyhood” and is based on the community working together for the good of the whole. Many of the big companies charge huge amounts of money to volunteer and none of the money goes to the projects. We wanted to change that. We believe that if you spend your money coming here and give your time to help others, then you shouldn’t have to pay to volunteer. And if you have extra money to donate, it should go directly to the projects, not to an off-shore company.

When you volunteer with us the only cost is your accommodation. We spend time sourcing reputable and worthwhile local projects where volunteers can spend their time and we provide them with a range of in-country support.

Your first project is the Ujamaa Children’s Home, which you started in conjunction with Melbourne lawyer Lucy Bradlow. What inspired you both to start this project and what is the purpose of the Ujamaa Children’s Home?

I have worked with and managed many projects over the years and have learnt a great deal from these experiences. I have always wanted to create my own project, but I felt that I needed to spend time on the ground here learning the culture and the language before I could effectively run my own project.

I met Lucy when she was working in Arusha at the Rwanda War Crimes Tribunal and she volunteered with us in her spare time. Our goals and beliefs were so similar we started working together and fundraising for different projects. We decided to create our own project after seeing others being mis-managed and we felt that we have the experience, dedication and commitment to build a successful and long-lasting Home for children in need.

Our relationship works really well because I am able to manage the Ujamaa Children’s Home on the ground in Tanzania and Lucy is able deal with the fundraising and legal aspects back in Australia.

What have you found to be some of the most interesting or challenging aspects of living and working in Tanzania?

Tanzania is different from many other African countries because it is socially and politically stable. There are over 120 tribes here and they all live together in harmony. They are proud of their tribe, but they are more proud to be Tanzanian. Tribal beliefs are strong and well-maintained and while Swahili and English are the official languages you can’t go a day without hearing many other tribal dialects.

The culture here is incredibly rich and interesting, but it is very different from Australia. First and foremost, there is “Africa time”. There’s no hurry in Africa and everything happens at its own pace. You really can’t force things to happen at a normal “Western” pace and if you do, you’ll just end up frustrated and things still won’t happen any faster. This also allows for setting your own work hours and relaxing into a lifestyle that can be reasonably stress free.

There is a lot that is available here, but nothing quite works the way you’ll expect it to, so everyday is an adventure…which is sometimes a bit tiring! There are regular power and water cuts, but generally I live a fairly normal life.

The scenery is incredible and I live just an hour away from Mt Kilimanjaro and a couple of hours from the world’s greatest safari parks. There are often monkeys around town too.

For the most part I feel safe in Arusha, however you cannot walk around at night and we do have Masai Guards at the house 24/7.

The poverty level here is high and there is so much need, but you just do what you can to help and you have to understand that you can’t fix everything.

What are your next plans for Ujamaa Hostel and the Ujamaa Children’s Home?

Ujamaa Hostel continues to expand and we are working with a range of different projects including an orphanage, a Nursery School and some Vocational Training Centres for disadvantaged youths. We love having our volunteers and are so lucky to be able to provide people with this experience. It really has a profound effect on people and it’s awesome that we get to be a part of that.

With Ujamaa Children’s Home, firstly we are looking to gain steady financial support so that we can take in more children. We currently have 5 amazing kids in the house and we’d love to help more.

Our next goal is to raise money to buy land and build a proper house for the Home. We’re currently renting a house which is fine for now, but we want to build a house that is designed specifically for our needs.

You’ve live in Tanzania for nearly 3 years but many of your family and friends still live in Melbourne. What are your favourite places to visit or things to do when you return to Melbourne?

I love coming back to Melbourne and visiting friends and family. My Mum’s cooking is always top of the list and I often spend a lot of time in the Supermarket, there just isn’t the same variety in Arusha.

If I’m eating out, I always go to Rococo (87 Acland St, St Kilda +61 3 9525 3232) with my brother, they have the most amazing salads, breads and pastas. I can never get Mexican food in Arusha, so I make sure I go to Amigos (7/478 Chapel St, South Yarra, +61 3 9826 1653) as well.

The food in Australia is great, because it’s always fresh and quick, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get it.

The London (92 Beach St, Port Melbourne +61 3 9646 4644) in Port Melbourne is my parent’s “local” so we always go there for a meal and a drink. Awesome steak sandwich.

If it’s summer, we’ll go to The Local Taphouse (184 Carlisle St, St Kilda East, +61 3 9537 2633) or The Railway Hotel (29 Chapel Street, Windsor +61 3 9510 4050).

I really love just walking around town and getting a coffee with friends. There are no shops in Arusha that sell new items, so I’m always stocking up on clothes and DVDs.

I also love to get some acupuncture at Vitality in Albert Park and to stock up on organic products (282 Richardson Street, Middle Park +61 3 9682 8866).