2020-09-03 TANZANIA

Diego Fernando Pérez González, Mexico: Marist volunteer experience in Mwanza

Diego Fernando Pérez González, 20 years old, from Zapopan, Mexico (Province México Occidental) has been a volunteer since September 2019 at the Marist school of Nyakato in Mwanza, Tanzania (PACE Province), living in the local Marist community. He describes his experience both in the Marist school and the community before and during the pandemic.

An intense experience in every way … A personal journey which, with time, evolved to one of much sharing and brought me to the conclusion, for the first time in my life, that happiness is solid, lasting, and real only when shared …


I tried to avoid imagining any specific scenario before arriving in the Marist community and school of Nyakato, Mwanza in Tanzania. I was aware that in the end it would be meaningless since the experience would probably be something completely different.

The day finally came – September 24, 2019. It was night when I arrived at the place that would be my home for what I expected at that time would be around 15 months. That night, I could only settle down and recover from the trip. The good things started the next day when I finally felt the significance of what I had come into. I remember very well finishing that day exhausted with so many introductions and hundreds of new faces …

A key part of the adaptation process was culture shock. No matter how hard I tried, it was difficult at first to understand why people act as they act, think as they think, their motives and, above all, differentiate whether their intentions were good or not. The latter made me hesitant at first to move out of school and explore the city. For the first 3 months, my trips were few; I stayed within the school and community facilities all the time.

Two other great challenges that were present at the beginning were the emotional aspect and finding my place as a Marist volunteer. Regarding the first, I was continually thinking of my family, I missed them, I felt very alone. I realized that I had to work on that part of affective maturity. By the second I mean that I struggled to find activities through which I could contribute to the school and my community. You can’t expect to go on an adventure like this thinking that things will go smoothly and everything will be rosy.

Flow / find the rhythm

“There’s no rush here in Africa” is something that several people there told me. It was also something that I could observe. Taking this phrase as a point of reference, I began to relax a little more, to be more patient with me and in general to enjoy more. All this, added to the practical knowledge that I was accumulating, helped me to find the rhythm of life there, to connect more with people. I began to get closer to the students of the school in a more natural and effective way, to take on more responsibilities and to contribute more. I had finally found my place within the community.
My Kiswahili was improving little by little. In turn, I began to go out on my own outside the school to explore, discover more of the culture, and enjoy myself. I found a balance between the time given to others and to myself.

Through all of this, I discovered what detachment from the ego implies. This helped dissipate a feeling of “being the center of attention” which set me apart from others. It also helped me to be more honest with myself and with others – if there was something I did not know how to do, I would ask, seek help, etc. In general and across many aspects, it helped me enjoy the experience more.


On March 18, 2020, the government announced that schools would close indefinitely. Everything went very quickly, overnight. That’s how the Tanzanian government and many other African countries handle things. So the next day, closing day, was chaotic – calls to parents, them arriving for their children, students taking some of their things and leaving other things, cleaning and everything else. We were running from one place to another.

I was able to make the most of the situation: I restructured my schedule of activities; I began to live more with the postulants (they ended up being like brothers to me); I began to do things that I hadn’t had time for when the school was in action. Above all, before the situation became too bad, I was going out a lot – those were the days when I was most immersed in African culture, in all simplicity.

Return to Mexico

Quite suddenly, one day at the end of May, the government announced the reopening of airports. Since no one had the slightest idea yet when the schools would reopen, I decided it better not to swim against the tide but go home to my family. I was able to say goodbye to the Brothers, the postulants and even the teachers. Unfortunately it was not the same case with the students; there were few that I could see, once the school closed.

I came back calm, content, happy and grateful to each of the members of the community, satisfied with what I had lived, experienced and learned in those lands.

Putting aside the current circumstances linked to the pandemic and the damage it has caused, I would recommend to anyone giving themselves the opportunity (without taking it lightly) to experience community life in Tanzania.


Postulancy in the Province of México Occiden...


Marist Memorial of Saints, Martyrs and Victim...