Gap Year Scheme

by Paul Temple

We are pleased to invite applications from students and any other volunteers to participate in The Luhimba Project Gap Year Scheme. Below is an outline of how the scheme operates.


Luhimba is a remote and poor village in southern Tanzania, East Africa. It is situated about 1000km south-west of Dar es Salaam, the administrative capital, and 32 km from the town of Songea, the regional capital. Luhimba is one of 6 villages in the Gumbiro ward, and is inhabited by around 3000 delightful people who live in clusters of basic huts over a scattered area. There is no electricity, apart from a few solar panels and generators, and water comes from the 22 wells around the village. The main language is Swahili, plus their tribal languages, but most of the younger generation now speak English as well. English is taught in the primary schools, and all subjects in the secondary school are taught in English.

In 1984 a project was started to help the villagers improve their quality of life. At their request the project has concentrated on education, health, agriculture and clean water. The project is a Weston-super-Mare based charity run by eight volunteers. We visit the village regularly and over the years our partnership with the villagers has produced remarkable achievements, including:

* Refurbishing the old primary school
* Building 2 new primary schools in outlying areas of the village
* Building a secondary school to serve the wider community
* Building a dispensary, and this year adding a 20-bed ward to it
* Installing 22 water wells
* Setting up a small business scheme and a heifer project to support farming groups
* Providing sponsorship for students and training for the medical officer
* Linking the schools with schools in the UK.

All these have been achieved through a happy working relationship between us and the villagers, based on friendship, trust and mutual understanding. Luhimba is a safe place to live. The people are happy, hospitable and friendly in spite of their extreme poverty.
Plans for 2008/9 include building a care home and to start setting up an irrigation scheme, as well as providing continuing support for all the other village projects.


Who can apply?
We are pleased to receive applications from students and any other volunteers of any age. Participants in this scheme do not need any specialist qualifications, just a keen interest in helping a poor community in a developing country to improve their lives through education, better health facilities, agriculture or the provision of clean water.

How do I get to Luhimba?
You will fly to Dar es Salaam, where accommodation will be provided before the journey to the village. The journey takes you through the beautiful Tanzanian landscape, via Mikumi National Park, then up the mountains en route to the village.

What would I do in the village?
This depends on your interests. Volunteers are welcome to work in the schools, the dispensary or with farming groups. This can be discussed further when you apply.

How long would I stay in the village?
This can be anything from a month to a year. During your stay, as well as working as a volunteer, you will also have plenty of opportunity to visit the surrounding areas.

Accommodation in the village is comfortable, safe, but obviously quite basic. We own a small house in the centre of the village. It has three bedrooms, living room, kitchen (although all cooking is done outside), toilet and wash room. The housekeeper lives in the house. The village primary school and the secondary school are within a few minutes walk from the house, and the other two primary schools are about 2 miles away. You will be provided with a bicycle for the duration of your stay. The dispensary is next to the house. There is a water well in the garden and the house has solar power for lighting.

Food is all fresh. Vegetables, rice, eggs and milk can be bought very cheaply from local farmers. The diet is very suitable for vegetarians. There is a small village shop which sells soft drinks, soap, tea, coffee etc.

Surrounding area
Luhimba is about 2 miles from the main road where you can catch a bus to the town of Songea. The journey takes about 30 minutes. In Songea there are the administrative offices for the region, an excellent market, shops, e-mail facilities, post office etc. Two of Luhimba’s neighbouring villages are accessible by bicycle. The other three villages in the ward are further afield.

Luhimba is in a tropical region in the southern hemisphere. The cool season is June, July and August, when temperatures are around 20 – 25 degrees. The hottest months are December, January and February when temperatures can reach up to about 30 – 32 degrees. The rainy season starts in November and continues until April. It is dry from April to November.

Medical care for volunteers
You will be advised on the necessary vaccinations and antimalarial precautions well before your journey. Whilst in Luhimba you will have full access to the dispensary, which is next to the house. In Songea there is a hospital and several chemist shops and near Songea there is a brilliant medical centre at Peramiho.

Support for volunteers

Your welfare and safety is our priority. You will be accompanied by one of our team during your journey to and from the village and for the whole duration of your stay in Luhimba. You will receive a thorough induction prior to your visit when we will provide all the information and advice you need.
Whilst in Luhimba there will also be key people you can turn to. Wherever possible we arrange visits in small groups. In some parts of the village there is a good mobile phone signal, so you can contact project leaders and keep in touch with home.

The cost will vary according to your chosen length of stay, and time of year, but will include return flight, travel to and from the village, accommodation, full medical and health insurance, support network and your living costs. Your living costs will be returned to you as a salary on a monthly basis.

Other places to visit in Tanzania
If you wish to travel in Tanzania for a period after your stay in the village, there are some wonderful places to visit, including Mt Kilimanjaro in the north, national parks such as the Serengeti and the Ngorogoro Crater, not forgetting the beautiful spice island of Zanzibar, which can be reached quite easily by ferry from Dar es Salaam. But of course such visits are not included in our costs.

And finally
Life in Luhimba is relaxed and things get done in ‘African time’. This scheme provides a wonderful opportunity to be part of the community, to live and work alongside the villagers, at the same time providing much needed support. Isn’t it a good feeling to know that you can have an immediate and very positive impact on the lives of this poor community in a developing country?

To find out more about the scheme, or to apply for a place, please contactDave Cook at Weston College (01934 411455 or 0787 680 396).

Paul Temple, Luhimba Project leader will be in Africa until 16 Nov 08. After that he can be contacted on Mob: 07786651458 E-mail: