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By Mussa Mbugi (YES 2012-2013, Tanzania, recruited by IRIS, hosted by ASEE in Redmond, OR)

Originally posted on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study website

My exchange year taught me that the more you give back to the community, the more you develop in your profession, and the more you grow as a human being. In Oregon, I learned it is possible for individuals from various and diverse ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds to coexist in harmony in one community. Returning to Tanzania, I kept these lessons in mind and made a promise that I would make a difference in my community by helping those I can, no matter the religion, background, tribe, age, or profession.

Since returning to Tanzania, I have volunteered with various community serving NGOs such as the Youths of the United Nations Association in Tanzania. It was through this organization that I managed to start a United Nations Club to promote the work of the UN and further its objectives among Tanzanian youth. Through the United Nations Club, I organize volunteering activities of various aspects from planting trees, cleaning hospitals, visiting the sick, and supporting orphans. I’ve helped organize and participate in various forums on a range of topics such as entrepreneurship, business management, self-reliance, climate change, sexual and reproductive health, autism, international affairs and promotion of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

A session with Jeff Ladenson, the United States Embassy Cultural Affairs Officer discussing the history of baseball in the United States and the shared significance of Jackie Robinson.

One of the projects that I’ve poured the most energy into, and was influenced greatly by my time in Oregon, is my initiative to teach Tanzanian youth baseball, and use it as an opportunity to encourage teamwork, leadership, and peace. In the U.S. I was my high school team’s manager and it was my first real exposure to the game. Now, I am a member of Tanzania’s National Team and have proudly represented my country in the All African Games. But for me, baseball isn’t just developing my own skills, but bringing the sport to others.

Volunteering has a ripple effect – the influence of one action can continue to expand. Former members of the United Nations Club that I founded are spread across the country doing notable community work. Some have been elected to work in the Youths of United Nations Association at the national level and some have started community serving associations. A former member, Elizabeth Zahab, became the founder and director of Shining Hearts Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower youth from poverty.

I’ve trained over 400 Tanzanian youth, both male and female, in baseball and softball. A majority of the kids that I have worked with have reported an increased rate of attendance in school as well as improving on their overall performance in their exams. Also, some of my players have been selected for the national team, and this year will participate in the Olympics Qualifiers. (Read more about Mussa’s baseball initiative.)

A group photo students of Mbagala Primary School, Coach Salim Ahmed (blue polo shirt in the middle) after a baseball clinic

Excitingly, the more I spread the love of baseball, my own teammates have been inspired to volunteer and promote baseball. They have begun volunteering as baseball coaches in schools. Some of them have found themselves employed by the very schools to be permanent coach.

A group photo students of Mbagala Primary School, Coach Salim Ahmed (blue polo shirt in the middle) after a baseball clinic

I believe that I personally and professionally grow when I engage in community service projects. It gives me the opportunity to listen and learn from the community. Furthermore, volunteering makes me happy as I get to interact with different individuals of different backgrounds at the same time increasing my social network. I am inspired by the fact that the community I volunteer for benefits in one way or another. I’m inspired knowing that kids that I volunteer to coach have an opportunity to have a career in baseball later on, if not them then their future generation. I’m inspired that the work I do now, may have an impact on beneficiaries future endeavors.

Batting practice with students of Kibwegere Primary school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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