Saturday, December 04, 2010

When Chelsy Pillsbury returned from a missions trip from Tanzania she found it more difficult to get back into American culture than into the lifestyle of Tanzania. So Pillsbury plans on returning and lead a team of volunteers to help out at a Tanzanian elementary school and orphanage.

From the Brattleboro Reformer, writer Jaime Cone interviews Pillsbury about her trip.

Pillsbury, a 2008 Brattleboro High School graduate who is currently enrolled at Champlain College in Burlington, spent three weeks in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, helping the local people renovate two schools and one orphanage.

"Coming back was hard," Pillsbury said. "We lived in poverty with these people for three weeks."

"I came back and nannied two little boys for the summer," she said. "It was hard to come back from being around children who had lost their parents to AIDS or malaria, who were making their own toys from tires and banana leaves, to going to a really nice house and caring for children who had more than what they needed."

She said the people living in Bagamoyo didn't have much in the way of personal possessions, placing a higher value instead on their personal relationships.

"Walking down the streets, you would see people living in dirt huts that were made out of mud and sticks, literally," she said. "But, when it would rain, they would see us walking by and invite us in for shelter, and be super open and nice... even though they do not have nearly so much, they are in tune with each other. It was really refreshing."

Pillsbury enjoyed her time in Tanzania so much that she's planning to back again next May as a group leader.

"I've been keeping in touch with the owners of the organizations (we volunteered with), and we'll get to pick up where we left off, or where they're still headed," she said. "Though it's difficult for these organizations to move forward without a good jump start from volunteers because their resources are so limited, I think we gave them a lot to work with."

She and her fellow students traveled to Africa with two suitcases-- one full of personal belongings and another stocked with donated supplies.

The group arrived with additional money it had raised as well, which amounted to a total of $2,000 for each of the three organizations the students worked on-- one art school for older students, one elementary school and one orphanage.

The art program is designed to gives students a safe place to learn drumming and take dance lessons, Pillsbury said.

"It's totally free for them," she said. "Basically, it's a way to get youth off the street."

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