Jess is Africa-bound!

Our Electro Optics editor Jessica Rowbury will soon be taking some time off to complete a volunteer writing and communications placement for a charity in Tanzania. Here she details what she’ll be doing during her time there…

In September, I will be taking a sabbatical to take on a 13-week volunteer communications and writing role in Tanzania for a sustainable development charity called Raleigh International.

Raleigh focuses on providing access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene, protecting vulnerable environments, building resilient communities and supporting youth development. The charity works in partnership with local communities, organisations and project partners to encourage sustainable change.

Approximately 75 per cent of Tanzanians live in rural communities, where adequate access to safe water and sanitation is limited, and few economic opportunities exist for young people.

At the same time, Tanzania has a rapidly growing economy. With a large population of young people, there is a growing need for employment opportunities. One of Raleigh’s focus areas is supporting young entrepreneurs to set up small businesses in their communities, which benefit themselves and the people around them. In turn, their communities can become more resilient to social and environmental change.

I’ll be using my experience as an editor to report on the charity’s three independent projects in Tanzania, which are being led by local groups such as the Tanzanian Forestry Conservation Group and the Ministry of Information, Youth, and Sport. I’ll be spending around half of my time working with office staff in Tanzania, doing things like planning media coverage and giving presentations to potential charitable donors, and the other half travelling to the three rural projects across the country to write about what’s happening in each location.

I chose Raleigh because unlike some organisations working in Africa that want to ‘fix’ everything, I feel like the charity really takes into account the problems that can be created from certain kinds of ‘charitable’ actions, which can actually impede a community or country’s development. Rather than coming in and leading things, Raleigh works with local charities, businesses and government bodies to understand what’s genuinely needed and to ensure that they’re following the lead of local groups. Instead of just building something and leaving, Raleigh spends as much time as is needed in each location until the changes can be sustained without outside help. Also, at least half of all staff and volunteers are from Tanzania, rather than the charity being run by foreigners.

In addition to doing something that will hopefully be worthwhile, I expect to gain communication and leadership skills that will enhance my capabilities as an editor.

My last day in the office is the 31 August, and I’ll be back on 2 January. For any enquiries while I’m away, please contact

I’m fundraising to contribute to part of the cost of hosting volunteers; all money received will go directly to Raleigh International.  Any donations will be greatly appreciated.

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