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.

Kibowa African Orphanage

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

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.

Annette White at Kibowa African Orphanage in Tanzania

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.

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

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.

More About Africa

The African Big Five: The Top 5 Animals to Spot on Safari
African Safari in Tanzania: The Ultimate Itinerary and Tour
Africa’s Maasai Tribe: The Culture & Traditions of The People
Safari Animal Bucket List: 35 Top African Wildlife to Spot
Four Seasons Safari Lodge: Luxury in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park
9 Things To Do on a Long Haul Flight to Cure Boredom

32 thoughts on “Visit An Orphanage in Tanzania, Africa”

  1. 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.

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

    • 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.


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Hey Bucket Listers!
I'm Annette.

I’m a goal obsessed mid-lifer, traveler, experience collector, fear crusher, digital marketer and author with big bucket list dreams. Let's Connect!

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