Helping orphans

Young Gainesville woman spending a year in Tanzania helping children


Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 3:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 12:00 a.m.
For the past several months, Dominique Giampaolo has been busy raising money. She has organized garage sales, sold her artwork, prepared a fund-raising brunch for friends and neighbors and sent letters to businesses and corporations asking for their sponsorship. Her efforts and donations from friends and acquaintances have helped her raise $6,200.
Giampaolo, who works as a nanny in Gainesville, collected the money to help fund a year-long stay in Tanzania, where she will be working at the Amani orphanage in Moshi with a group called Visions in Action. The organization was established in Tanzania in 1995 and has sent more than 100 volunteers from all over the world to work. The volunteers work in agriculture, helping rural farmers with income generation and environmental protection, or business, helping small businesses become prosperous and helping entrepreneurial men and women in rural areas create income, employment and economic growth for their families. Some volunteers, like Giampaolo, will work with the children helping to provide health, education, social work, staff-development and fundraising projects.
"A lot of people have asked me, 'Why Africa? why do you need to go all the way there? There are plenty of underprivileged kids here,' " said Giampaolo. "But not like the kids at Amani. These are street kids, orphans, who have nothing and no one to love them. I want to give myself to them. I see this as the start of my career working with children."
Giampaolo left this week for Moshi, Tanzania, which is near Mount Kilamanjaro. The Visions in Action program emphasizes community development, youth, children, health, small business, refugees and the environment. The children in the orphanage may stay temporarily, but many are permanent residents. They are children who are at risk of HIV transmission and malnutrition. They are street children and AIDS orphans.
Giampaolo, 22, is a vegan and will need to "modify" her diet, since the diet in Tanzania is heavily into meat. She plans to prepare her own meals, buy fresh vegetables, and go to the local market to satisfy her vegan diet.
Volunteers, who commit to a six- or 12-month stay, live in group housing and pay $4,000 to $4,800 in program fees, which does not include airfare. This money pays for their housing, health insurance, orientation, staff support and program administration. Giampaolo said she's taking money with her for living expenses. Part of the program fees are donated to the organization and go directly to helping the children.
Each volunteer must meet three requirements before joining. The first is to complete a project while they are there. The projects can be as simple as painting murals on classroom walls or as crucial as providing medical care to the children. Giampaolo hopes to work with the orphans and street children in a social work or educational capacity. The main objective is that she be able to spend quality time with children.
The second requirement is that volunteers learn Swahili, which Giampaolo studied for a month under a tutor. She will also participate in lessons once she arrives in Moshi.
The third requirement is that volunteers work with minimal assistance. The orphanage's small staff feeds, counsels, teaches and takes care of the daily needs of the children and doesn't have time to supervise the volunteers.
Giampaolo first traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where is staying for a week before orientation begins. She then travels by train or shuttle to Arusha where she will take Swahili lessons and learn about development and cultural issues in Tanzania. After two weeks, she travels to the orphanage in Moshi where she will live and work for the rest of the year. She will have weekends off and hopes to travel to see the countryside and climb Mt. Kilamanjaro.
Giampaolo has a passion for helping people and states she is "committed to changing the things in our world that inhibit us all from living amazing lives full of love, enjoyment, and connection to each other."
To learn more about her trip visit websandwich.net/tanz.
Billie Sturgeon can be reached at 374-5038 or sturgeb@gvillesun.com

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