Check out So Flo by the way of a local. Spend a week or a year in the sunshine state exploring the best places!

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1. Play with a tiger cub at Zoological Wildlife Foundation

Take a walk on the wild side. Miami

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 2. Indulge in Sushiritos at Phat Boy Sushi & Kitchen

Japanese fresh takes on sushi and other Japanese classics served in a laid-back and chill setting. Fort Lauderdale

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3. Spend the day at Perez Art Museum

Visit this four story contemporary art museum and see artists like Andy Warhol, John Chamberlain and Basquiat. Miami 

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4. Bayfront Park

Right next to Perez Art Museum. it overlooks Biscayne Bay with views of the water, bridge and downtown Miami. Outdoor concerts are held here as well, check out the schedule. Miami

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5. Eat South Florida’s best ice cream at Jaxson’s

This old fashioned parlor has been scooping out giant ice cream sundaes since 1956, and was recently featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Dania Beach

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6. Flagler Museum

The house that Flagler built – a man who made Florida what it is today by building a railroad throughout Florida in the late 1800s. Tour through his 55 room mansion, with an incredible backyard overlooking the intercostal. Palm Beach

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7. The Breakers

Down the street from Flagler Museum – look around this historic hotel which opened in 1896. At that time, rooms started at $4 a night, with food included (we can dream of that price now!) If you don’t want to spend $500 a night to stay there, stop by HMF and have some eclectic dishes and upscale cocktails in the lavish dining room and lounge. Palm Beach

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 8. Carb-load at The Salty Donut and Parlour Vegan Bakery

Can’t leave South Florida without these sweet treats.

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 The Salty Donut – Be sure to try their shot infused mini donuts. Miami

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The Parlour Vegan Bakery. Plantation

9. Airboat through the Everglades

Take a thrilling adventure through Everglades swamps and grasslands. Basically guaranteed to see alligators, turtles, snakes and other native Floridian animals in their natural habitat.

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10. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

This estate includes extensive Italian Renaissance gardens, native woodland landscape and a historic village outbuildings compound. Miami

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11. Peanut island

Off of Palm Beach, this island is 80 acres of tropical park with swimming areas and paved parkways. Only accessible by boat/kayak/paddle board. Bring some beers and beach chairs, and relax on the beach shores. Palm Beach

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 12. Sponsor a turtle at Loggerhead Marinelife Center

Loggerheard Marine Center focuses on threatened and endangered sea turtles through education and rescuing sea turtles. With the outside center, you can see the turtles that are being nurtured back to health before being released. When I went, I was lucky enough to see three day old hatchlings that hadn’t made it from their nest to the ocean. Juno Beach

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13. Ferry to Florida’s Dry Tortugas

7 islands + dive and snorkeling sites + 19th century Fort Jefferson. Key West

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14. Explore Miami’s art district in Wynwood

To the Wynwood to the walls.

Events: Art Basel is a collection of modern and contemporary art shows which takes place in December. Miami

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15. Bike down Hollywood boardwalk

Various types of bikes are available for rent along the boardwalk. When you want to take a break, grab a piña colada from Jimmy Buffet’s Bar. Hollywood

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16. Fort Lauderdale Beach

Fort Laudy’s beach hot spot.

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 17. Drop it like a squat at Barry’s Bootcamp

Contrary to popular belief, getting out of bed does not count as a sit-up. Group class set-up designed to give you the best cardio & strength training. Miami

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18. Lauderdale by-the-sea

A more chilled, locals beach spot. Fort Lauderdale

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19. Stroll down Lincoln Road

Although a bit touristy, this mile long, pedestrian-only promenade boasts of excellent shopping and dining. Miami Beach

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20. Morikami Japanese Gardens

Embody zen and Japanese gardens at this center for Japanese arts and culture. After taking in the bonsai and beautiful gardens, head to Cornell café, which has been featured on the Food Network.

Events: Hatsume Fair Festival in April and Lantern Festival in October. Delray Beach

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 21. Swim in crystal clear water in Bahia Honda State Park

Life’s a beach. Big Pine Key

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22. Climb up Key West’s first light house

Check out these killer views of Key West from the 360 degree view at the top. Key West

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23. Eat your way down Las Olas Boulevard

3 must try restaurants: Sweet Nectar, Taco Craft and Louie Bossi’s. Fort Lauderdale

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24. Sample a flight of local brews at Funky Buddha Brewery

A brewtiful way to end the day. Oakland Park

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24. Catch a movie in plush seats with bites & cocktails at iPic

No better way to enjoy a movie. Boca Raton

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25. Dine in opulence at the Versace House

Miami’s most photographed location, which was previously owned by Italian fashion impresario Gianni Versace – and was once listed for $125 million. Stay the night for $1000, or eat dinner inside at Gianni’s. Miami

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26. Find the best latte

No foam-o here.

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Switchbox Coffee. Oakland Park

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Brew Urban Cafe. Fort Lauderdale

27. Get your glam on at Academy of Glam

Get made up by celebrity make up artist Victoria Duke, and her glam squad. They offer makeovers, lessons and incredible beauty products. Davie

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28. Cleanse at Jugo Fresh

Miami-based fresh, organic and plain ol’ good cold-pressed juices, smoothies, food and treats. Sold in Whole Foods throughout South Florida, as well as their flagship store at Wynwood Walls.

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Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada is probably one of the most expensive National Parks to visit.  Don’t let that stop you from fulfilling your bucket list item.

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Accommodation:

 There are many options depending on your preference of travel and comfort.  My husband and I love the outdoors, so we opted to camp in one of the beautiful camp grounds. We stayed at Two Jack Main Campground. There is also a Hostel option.  Of course the town Center of Banff has fine hotels to choose from, but remember, we are doing this on a budget. You are not there to sleep all day in a resort.  You are there to be with nature.

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(Two Jack Main Campground)

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(Whistler Campground, Jasper)

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(Part of the welcoming committee)

What to bring:

Park Canada offers equipped camping on certain campgrounds.  You can rent the rest of the items you need in town from a reputable outfitter. Between equipped camping sites and renting camping items, you don’t have to bring any gear at all. 

Food:

The town center was just 15 minutes from our campground, yet we felt worlds away.  There are dining options downtown if you must, or go to Safeway or Nester Market for groceries.  Don’t buy a lot, remember, it is bear and wolf country. The Banff Farmer’s Market is every Wednesday in Downtown Banff, get the bacon and elk sausage – it’s the best I’ve ever had!

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(Rise and shine it’s breakfast time!)

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(Banff Farmer’s Market)

Transportation:

Fly into Calgary International. Rent a small car. You don’t need an SUV. Stay in Calgary for the night. Visit Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and purchase Bear Spray and the Park Entrance fee.

What to buy in Calgary:

Find a store that sells everything.  Grab basic can goods and a cheap pillow you can leave behind after your trip.  Two key essentials are water and a lock for the bear box. Prices of food increases in Banff.  The drive from Calgary to Banff is about an hour and a half.

Park Fee: 

Decide the fee to fit your needs.  There is a day pass, and an annual Discovery pass. There is more information on Banff park fees and camping fees here. 

 Once you get to the campground:

Check in is at 2:00 p.m. You have plenty of time to explore and get the lay of the land before you go to your campground.  You must get up early everyday and get to your destination first thing in the morning.  Parking is a premium at Lake Louise and other hot spots. Arrive there around 8:00 a.m.  The GPS is probably better than other directional gear so you get satellite service.  Signage is well place and you cannot get lost.  There is one major highway.

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(Peyto Lake, a glacier fed lake in Banff)

thumbnail_img_0537(Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise)

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(Chocolate and coffee at Bear’s Den Smokehouse & Patio)

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Enjoy your adventure.  Here are some websites to get you started.  Don’t let the tour buses bother you.  It is a good option for tourist thats are not too mobile. 

Helpful Websites to get you started:

Banff National ParkEquipped CampingHostelHorse back trail ridesRock ClimbingCamping Gear Rental

-Written By Vi Phillips

Vi is an incredible photographer who is just as passionate about photography as she is about UCF Knights and staying in shape! She is selling her beautiful collection of Canada photos, and in the process of creating a website. Comment below for any questions or comments you have for Vi.

Meet Layni, a girl with a passion for adventure and giving back. Read about her journey teaching in rural Thailand, and backpacking throughout Asia after.laynicgirlboss

1. What inspired you to volunteer in Thailand?

Hmm.. That’s a question I feel like I get all the time, and I never know how to answer. I had originally wanted to go to Thailand and teach English for the entire year, but taking the LSAT and applying for law school took priority over that. So instead, I decided to go and volunteer for six weeks, and travel throughout Asia after. I wanted to make an impact on the people that needed it the most, so decided volunteering teaching children was the best fit.  I bought a plane ticket and knew I would figure it out!

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2. Where exactly were you volunteering, and what was the mission?

I volunteered in Chiang Rai, Thailand! It was a very rural area that many people have never heard of. It was about three hours north of Chiang Mai, and about an hour to Laos and Myanmar boarder (The Golden Triangle). My job as a volunteer was to teach English to Thai children. I volunteered at the Mirror Foundation, where there were many different missions; but the main jobs of the volunteers were teaching English and outside work.

One of my great friends who I made there from Paris, Alix, was on the outdoor team. Even though we had different jobs, at the end of the day it was all about helping the local people in any way possible.

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3. How did you choose the program, and how did you know it was legit?

I just Googled what I wanted to do and this foundation seemed like the best option for me! I knew it was a legitimate program after researching online, and reading positive experiences – it’s all about doing the right research ultimately.

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 4. What is your advice to people looking to volunteer abroad, or in Thailand?

DO IT! Seriously though, do it – and stay positive!! It was one of the best experiences of my life and I would go back tomorrow if I could. Don’t be afraid. Honestly, it can be scary at first, especially arriving in Asia and not knowing anything or having any expectations.

I had a bumpy start to my trip, but I quickly become accustom to the “Asia lifestyle”. It was intimidating at first, but people are always willing to help. For example, when I was stuck in an airport in Vietnam, I was crying (of course) but seriously, I was scared, it’s normal, but I didn’t know what to do. Nobody spoke English, I was alone and wasn’t allowed to leave the airport. While sitting on a bench, this man walked up to me (who I later found out was from Kansas) and asked me if I needed assistance. I was SO thankful for him at that moment. He gave me his business card and told me to call him if I needed anything. This wasn’t the only circumstance where I was offered help, but it was definitely the most memorable. Because of this specific instance, I made sure that I always offered help to anyone in need. I promise you that it’s worth it; it will make you a more independent person and forces you to grow throughout it all.

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5. Do you feel like you accomplished a lot during your time there?

I definitely feel like I accomplished a lot while I was there! Our program was very unique, where we would go to different schools every day, but we would still see the same children every week. I could see the kids growing and learning as the weeks went by, and it was one of the most incredible feelings! You become attached to the kids, so every day we went to at least 3 different schools, and on your way there you just get so excited to see them and you want to just hug them and take them all home with you. The day care I taught at was truly incredible, the children were ages 3 and 4 and you could see them learning every single day; one day you’ll be teaching them numbers 1-15, and then you come back the next day and they remember!! It’s a great feeling when they remember things you teach them because it makes you feel like you’re making a difference.

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6. What was your day to days like?

Every morning we would have similar schedules but at the different schools. We would: wake up, eat breakfast, go to a school and teach, come back for lunch, tgo back and teach, then come home and lesson plan, have dinner, and usually do something together as a group. With every being at a new school, it was always something new! Of course we went to the same schools every week, but I think the break up in the different classes every day really made the entire experience that much better, because you didn’t feel as if you were doing the same thing every day.

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 7. What was the highlight of your volunteer trip?

I had two absolutely incredible experiences during my trip. I think the absolute highlight of my trip was going on my home stay and the second highlight was teaching the Monks.

So to start, my home stay was absolutely incredible! A bunch of us went and stayed at a principal’s guest home for a week, while teaching at his school. A principle in Thailand is essentially a movie star in Thailand. Joking, but also serious… They know EVERYONE and are very highly respected. During the home stay, the couple took us to the Golden Triangle, running around with wild monkeys, going to a Thai University, running through tea fields, eating delicious home made food, and SO much more! ALSO, the principle and his wife didn’t speak English well, but we still connected on a different level. It’s so funny that we didn’t speak the same language, but we, as human beings, still connected and established such a deep friendship. The day I was leaving Chiang Rai, I arrived at the airport at 4 in the morning, and I got there and the Principal and his wife were there, with presents and cards for me – they lived an hour and a half away and they came ALL that way just to say goodbye to me! I couldn’t believe it. The people in Asia are absolutely incredible, I can’t say it enough. I can’t wait until I can go back and visit everyone and hopefully one day live in Asia!

Teaching the Monks was another highlight of my trip. I mean, in all honesty, I learned more from the Monks than I think they taught me. Buddhism is such an amazing religion and I loved learning about it while I was there.

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 8. How much money did you bring for your trip?

I saved a total of $2,000, and didn’t spend it all while I was there. Asia is the easiest place to budget while backpacking!

 9. What was the most difficult moment of your trip?

I’m not going to lie, I had a few moments when I wondered why I was even in Asia. I think the most difficult moment was arriving in Asia, not being able to communicate since no one spoke English, being detained in the airport (that’s another story!), and being stared at when I arrived. I have blonde hair, so everywhere I went I was asked to take pictures with people or stared at. Once I adjusted to life in Asia, I was completely fine and any issue I had I could deal with. I got sick a few times and that was obviously awful, but it honestly wasn’t a big deal. Again, I think the most difficult moment was arriving in Asia initially.

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10. Did you travel after volunteering in Chang Rai?

Yes! I went to Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and traveled all over Thailand!

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11. What are your best tips for people looking to backpack through Asia?

Stay positive and do your research. I would ensure you know where you want to go, what you want to see, what happens in certain countries i.e., what to do when you get sick (because that happens A LOT), what you need to bring, where your nearest hospitals are (there are certain hospitals you don’t want to go in Asia), how much money you want to spend (aka budget plan), etc. Asia is a whole different trip then backpacking around Europe. I always say my trip to Asia was a whole different world compared to my trips to Europe.

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 12. What was the most essential item you brought from America when traveling around Asia?

This is going to sound silly, but I was so happy I brought dry shampoo, a journal, a book, a sweater for the temples, a long skirt, GoPro, and Toms! Everyone dresses very conservatively in Asia, so you want to make sure you respect their culture – there’s nothing worse than going to Asia and seeing girls wearing short shorts.

13. What were your overall favorite moments?

Some my favorite moments:

Going to an elephant sanctuary in Thailand

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Visiting the Monkey Temple in Bali and seeing the rice paddies and coffee plantations in Bali

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Going to the waterfalls and hiking all throughout Asia

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Eating street food (Banana Roti with condensed milk is my favorite – also you can never go wrong with street Pad Thai)

Exploring Thai beaches

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Going to Siem Reap

Floating down the river in Laos with a beer in hand

Hot air ballooning in Laos at sunrise

Catching the sunrise over Laos (from Thailand)

Meeting amazing people in hostels

Swimming in Ha Long Bay

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Getting custom suits made in Vietnam

Drinking Thai tea and Vietnamese Coffee

Eating authentic Pho and Banh Mi on the streets in Vietnam

Riding on mopeds in crazy traffic

going to the Gili Islands and swinging on a swing in the middle of the ocean

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Dining at the Cliff bar in Nusa Dua

Walking around Sihanoukille and relaxing on the beach

Spending the day at Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak, Bali

Participating in a Thai cooking class

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Buying souvenirs at the night markets and day markets

Seeing a Thai boxing match

And so much more!

Every single day in Asia was an amazing day. It’s hard to come back to real life after living in Asia. I miss the every day life in Asia. The people are so peaceful, calm and caring. I look forward to the next time I get to go back!

 Follow Layni on Instagram@Layniic and comment below with any questions you have for her about teaching abroad or traveling throughout Southeast Asia.


Just a few reasons why you should pack Mother Dearest on your next vacation.

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Your mom was your first ever travel buddy and here are 6 reasons (not including endless memories and unparalleled bonding) to bring your mom along on your next traveling adventure.

1. She can be your personal photographer

She will undoubtedly need a basic photography lesson, but with enough support and practice she may just be able to get you that insta pic you’ve been dreaming of. She won’t necessarily understand what you are going for, or know why the first 399 pictures weren’t good enough, but she will click away until you are satisfied.

2. She packs things like gloves

As you’re preparing for your trip you think to yourself “I wouldn’t be caught dead walking around with gloves on my hands when it’s not snowing”. You imagine yourself blending in with locals as you tell your mom to leave the gloves at home.  Flash forward to when as you are walking down a city street with numb fingers and your mom whips out the gloves you told her not to pack you understand the saying “mother knows best.”

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3. She understands you

After a long day on your feet, when even though you’re on vacation,  you just want to buy a pint of good ‘ole  Ben & Jerrys – she won’t judge you. She will find an American television station and help you finish the whole thing, eating just the right amount to give you enough, but ensure you don’t hate yourself the next morning.

4. She’s a better driver than you

As you plan your trip abroad, you casually rent a car to get around Ireland the most efficient and convenient way. It’s not until you are in a stick-shift car, on the left side of the road, on what should be a one-way street, with a jaw sore from clenching your teeth that you are thanking the Lord above that your mom is behind the wheel – and not you!

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5. She can be your excuse for doing touristy things

Traveling is tough as you try to balance having a true cultural experience, and seeing everything you can. Most of the times cheesy touristy things don’t include either of those—but SOMETIMES they are fun/funny/you can see a lot/you have to try them because you are indeed a tourist. And in those sometimes, it’s nice to have Mum with you to blame on “dragging you” on….a duck tour of Dublin per say…that ends up being a hilarious way to see the city.

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6. She’s your best bet at a good travel buddy

She has already seen you at your worst…multiple times. And she did carry you around for 9 months…so if you don’t travel well with your mother, there might be something wrong! Traveling can bring out the worst in people as you deal with the inevitable travel debacle (including but not limited to: delayed/cancelled flight, medical emergency, cosmetic emergency) all while living out of a suitcase for a number of weeks. Being with your mum is the best because she knows just how to deal with you in this situations—when to leave you alone, when to let you take the lead, and so on. She will also still love you after the trip…no matter what.

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Guest Blog – Written by Maddy Hart

Honored to introduce Amanda, a girl with a heart of gold. She’s following the legacy of her cousin, Tim, to create a lasting impact on the underprivileged children of Arusha, Tanzania. Read about her incredible journey continuing Tim’s mission, providing the most disadvantaged children with quality education and a safe place to live.

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1. What inspired you to volunteer in Africa?

My cousin, Tim, quit his job to live in Africa and help the people there who are suffering. Sadly, last summer he passed away and a school was built in his honor to help underprivileged children in Arusha. I felt a calling to visit, walk in his footsteps, and understand the love he had for this place and it’s people. I knew if I didn’t go now, I might never get to experience it!

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2. Where exactly were you volunteering, and what was the mission?

A primary school in Arusha. Arusha is a city in northern Tanzania beneath Mount Meru. Unga Limited is the name of the slum our children primarily come from. The school continues Tim’s mission by providing the most disadvantaged children with quality education and a safe place to live. Here they learn life skills since many don’t have adult role models in their life. Tim’s “Kaka” and our brother, Yesaya Wilfredy, oversees and manages the school. He posts about the children, often with signs thanking donors and sponsors. 

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3. How long were you there, and what did you accomplish?

I was in Africa for about 2 weeks; my family is funding the building of dorms for the children who are going to the school to keep them from living in the slums. This allows them get to school easier (it took us half an hour to pick up the kids up for school in the morning) and to be in a safe environment. A humbling moment was when my Dad, cousin Jeff, and I got to personally work on the construction of the dorms –with help of the locals of course!

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4. What did your day to day look like?

We actually slept at the dorms in wooden beds with mosquito nets. I would wake around 6:30 to the rooster, brush my teeth with bottled water, the “toilet” was a hole in the floor with a bucket to manually flush (I brought my own toilet paper from the states). We would drive to three locations to pick up the kids for school. When at school, they did warm up exercise and songs before splitting up by class. We would teach numbers, colors, animals, mathematics etc. the kids would sometimes even lead the class. We would have a traditional meal from the school chef and at the end of the day, drive them home and walked them through the slums guided by a governmental peace leader, Amani, to their individual homes.

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5. What was the highlight of your trip?

Taking the kids to see the dorms! All 40 of them- they were running. The children of Arusha are so loving, each of them wanted to hold my hand, which was difficult at times so I let them each hold one of my fingers. That is a memory I will never forget. We built a playground out front and it was happy chaos, they were so happy they were climbing on every inch of the playground equipment and taking turns on the swings. Also, meeting the mothers and grandmother of the children-only one girl had a father figure in her life. Many times grandmothers are primary caretakers. Women in Tanzania don’t have the same rights and only speak when spoken to; only people with education are permitted to voice options. Social customs aside, they were composedly overjoyed to meet us and share stories and hardships.

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6. What was the most difficult moment of your trip?

 Visiting Unga Limited was one of the most difficult moments. Definitely eye opening. Basically everyone is Arusha is in need, but this is where the poorest people “live”… more like survive. It is like nothing I’ve experienced before. I want to put everything in quotations because their “houses” aren’t houses, rather a closet sized room of mud with no light where on average 8 people sleep. They live so differently, no water-dirty or clean- no place to go to the bathroom. One room had some solar power so all the kids were packed in the hut and neighboring children were peering in to watch from the outside slits in the house.

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7. What did you have to do to prepare beforehand?

Primarily, I applied for my Tanzanian visa, and then got malaria pills, a tetanus shot, and Typhoid- luckily I already had the hepatitis A and B vaccinations. I started collecting toilet paper that was halfway gone so it would fit in my bag easier. Deet spray is a must. Baby wipes are your best friend; showers are few and far between so wipes help with hygiene! I had to have buckets of water poured over my hair to wash it. I downloaded an app to learn some Swahili too!

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How you can help:

Yesaya posts pictures almost daily of the children, often with signs thanking donors and sponsors. Visit the Facebook page or make a donation

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