Visit An Orphanage in Tanzania, Africa

Nothing could have prepared me for a visit to an African orphanage. Nothing.  Kibowa Orphanage is on the outskirts of downtown Arusha, hidden down a bumpy dirt road and painted in a friendly pale blue. There are 48 children that call it home and, after four days on an African safari, we were going to meet them.

Kibowa Orphanage was started by two women who worked with HIV patients, many of whom were parents. After the parents had died, the children had no place to go, so they started this centre for them in 2005. Kibowa African Orphanage

Kibowa is supported by Natasa, the Shadows of Africa owner whom we were on safari with in Tanzania. Thankfully, she decided to take us to the orphanage on our last day in the country.

Mama Mina was the first to greet us, she is the main caretaker of the children and there was no doubt why.

There was something so warm and comforting about her. Even I wanted to curl up in her cozy hug.
Kibowa African Orphanage

The children were having lunch when we arrived, beans with Ugali, African porridge. A meal that they have everyday. Though the garden is now growing one vegetable, similar to spinach, in order to get something green into the children’s diet.

Many of the children came outdoors to greet us, shyly saying “Karibu”, which means welcome in Swahili. Kibowa African Orphanage

Prior to arriving we had stopped by the store to pick up little gifts to bring. I chose colorful balloons that could be turned into animals. Maybe someone would know how to make a giraffe. Jonny of Don’t Stop Living brought marbles and a ball, Raymond of Man on the Lam brought Canadian pencils and stickers.

We were armed with fun.

One of the older boys got out a bike pump and started blowing up balloons. He was almost immediately swarmed by children wanting their own colorful latex filled with air.  At first, they all stood around with their snake-long balloons, occasionally bopping one of their friends on the head, not knowing what else to do with them. Then the same older boy began creatively shaping animals. Where’d he learn how to do that? There was a sea of children surrounding him waving their future pets. Kibowa African Orphanage

By the end of the visit almost every child toted a balloon, some on their legs, some on their heads. One smarty-pants was even trying to turn one into a water balloon. Brilliant.
Kibowa Orphanage in Africa African Orphanage African Orphanage

On the same day, we also paid a visit to Essa School, a 600 student private school where the orphanage children attend.

Natasa, a huge advocate of Kibowa Orphanage, said that “with knowledge and support these children can have opportunity.”

She is right. And that’s why it is so important to her that they attend this school, a school that will teach them English, which will give them more opportunities as they grow older.
Essa School Tanzania Africa Essa School Tanzania Africa

Children piled out of the classrooms when they saw us approaching, curiously eyeing the foreigners that had landed on their turf.

It took all of two minutes before the children warmed up to us, coming close and touching our cameras. I took a picture of the group and then turned the camera around to show them their smiling faces. The giggles were uncontrollable. And for the next hour the kids waved to get our attention and then struck their best pose for the camera.
Essa School Tanzania Africa
Essa School Tanzania Africa

I fell in love a dozen times that day.

There are times when you sit back to reflect on your life experiences and are overwhelmed with emotion. This was that time. The thought of sitting in the middle of smiling children, who have plenty of reasons not to, is inspiring. Yes. They inspired me. They do not need much to be happy. Just each other. And a little hope.

Want to help? Contact Kibowa for volunteer and other support opportunities.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Shadows of Africa, but all the words I write come straight from my, sometimes distorted, mind. Just as it should be.


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2017-12-30T14:15:27+00:00 September 27th, 2013|Categories: Africa, LIFESTYLE, Tanzania, TOP PICKS, TRAVEL|Tags: , |


  1. Savi of Bruised Passports September 27, 2013 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Really enjoyed reading this – those smiles are priceless!

    • Annette White September 27, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

      I just love those smiles too, they make me smile 🙂

  2. Jonny Blair September 27, 2013 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    Great post Annette! I plan to write about these two trips too at some point! Safe travels, Jonny

  3. Mike | Earthdrifter September 28, 2013 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Great to promote awareness of this situation in Tanzania. It’s a tad sad that they have to eat the same thing everyday for lunch but they look healthy from it. What a great opportunity for them to be able to interact with you and vice-versa.

    • Annette White September 28, 2013 at 3:47 pm - Reply

      I definitely felt blessed to spend a short time there. You just can truly know the situation unless you see it for yourself.

      • Nete February 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm - Reply

        Hi Annette…thank for s great post and especially your generosity. In . Tanzania we say karibu sana

  4. Kieron September 29, 2013 at 5:10 am - Reply

    This is something that’s high on my to-do list – an experience I really want to have and to be able to give something back in the very near future!

    • Annette White September 29, 2013 at 10:38 am - Reply

      I do hope you get to Visit an Orphanage in Africa in the near future! It is such a memorable experience.

  5. The Yum List September 29, 2013 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    I would want to take them all home.

  6. estherjulee October 2, 2013 at 10:52 am - Reply

    I love this! We went to visit Haiti a couple times, and I am always amazed at how much the kids laugh and smile…

    • Annette White October 2, 2013 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      It warmed my heart to see them laughing and smiling. I could learn a thing or two from them!

  7. What a sweet and eye opening trip.

  8. Renuka October 3, 2013 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Very different experience, I must say! Yeah, these children are inspiring with their innocent smiles – they know the key to happiness!

    • Annette White October 3, 2013 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      I have thought about where their happiness comes from many times. Is it that with their simpler lifestyle that is doesn’t take much to make them happy? Or is it that they are just innocent children who don’t dwell on their worries? Either way, I want some of that!

  9. Gabriel - We Travel and Blog October 6, 2013 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Haha you got some great shots in there. Kids love the camera. It’s the same here in the DR. I pull out my camera during practice and all of the kids some running towards it trying to get pictures of themselves.

    • Annette White October 6, 2013 at 4:30 pm - Reply

      I don’t know if I could ever tire of seeing their smiling faces pose for the camera!

  10. Heather October 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    What a wonderfully rewarding experience this must have been. Heartbreaking and inspiring, in equal measure.

  11. sakhi October 8, 2013 at 2:51 am - Reply

    touched…your one day visit brought priceless happiness to them…God bless you

  12. Agness October 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    The place looks so poor, but kids still seem to be so happy to see you. That’s been a great and emotional experience for you I guess. The pictures make me smile! They really made my day. Never been to Africa, but hope to make it there one day to interact with local people and kids.

    • Annette White October 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      Being there made me realize that you don’t need much to be happy!

    • Nete February 9, 2015 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      There is so much that has been written by visitors who have had opportunity to visit this country. People are happy and very hospitable with very little they have.

  13. Michelle - Very Hungry Explorer October 15, 2013 at 1:00 am - Reply

    What a wonderful and inspiring post – thanks for sharing.

  14. searchingforsubstance October 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    agh! what a great post, for real. the pics of those kids at the end makes me literally just want to smile for hours.

    i dont know what it is about children who rarely see a camera, and then suddenly see the instant image of their faces imposed upon the screen. i encountered the very same thing when i visited cambodia for the first time, back when few people had iphones and cameras. i remember taking photos and showing it to my nieces and nephews (who lived in the rural countryside) and after that they couldn’t stop asking me to take their photos, their smiles reaching to the ends of the earth. playing with them really fills one with joy, it makes your heart ache.

    so when i read your post i thought.. ah.. i know what that feels like. =) thanks for sharing this post and highlighting the work of the school and the NGOs in tanzania. that is really awesome, and its this kind of spotlight that NGOs need.

    • Annette White October 15, 2013 at 8:52 pm - Reply

      Their smiling faces for the camera is something etched in my memory and I look forward to the day that I can experience it again!

  15. […] My travel buddies on this trip Annette and Raymond were equally overwhelmed by the vibrancy of these children. Annette wrote an excellent overview on her website too, where she reported on the Esa School and Kibowa Orphanage visits, you can read it here: Esa School visit on Bucket List Journey. […]

  16. […] while on safari in Serengeti, you confirmed that happiness is a state of mind while visiting the Kibowa orphanage in Arusha and you taught me that my hands are handy eating utensils while dining on traditional […]

  17. […] Read More > Visit an Orphanage in Tanzania […]

  18. Solomon March 6, 2015 at 8:22 am - Reply

    Visiting an orphanage in Africa is one of the most fulfilling things to do. This is one way to give back to the host communities and making them believe that tourism can actually be of a benefit to them. Many children are orphaned by diseases and political instabilities and tourism is one way of rebuilding such traumatized children as it gives them ability to appreciate their countries.

  19. […] go glamping in Serengeti, eat a traditional Ugali meal at a local restaurant, spend time at an orphanage in Arusha and visit the most amazing children in a private […]

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