Why did you apply to volunteer with Tearfund?
I’d heard about Tearfund’s work through my church and at Christian events, and when I was planning my gap year I knew that I really wanted to get involved. I almost didn’t apply, as the prospect of volunteering abroad for 3 months seemed way too far out of my comfort zone, and the fundraising seemed impossible, but as I prayed about it, it became clear that God wouldn’t let me drop the idea and walk away. The work in Tanzania seemed so interesting and diverse, so I made the leap; and what a fantastic decision that was!
What work did your team do?
We taught English once a week at an after school programme; led girls’ and boys’ youth groups and local Sunday schools; took part in teaching on menstrual health and sanitation; got involved with health programmes in schools and health centres; helped lead a menstrual health project with local women; helped in a children’s home; worked in a café and workshop, which was an income-generating scheme for women from disadvantaged backgrounds; ran special events at a blind and albino school and a leprosy community; helped roll out a horticultural project with two farmers’ cooperatives; and we built a house, several water tanks, pit latrines, and goat sheds. Writing it all down it sounds completely crazy- it was, but it was amazing!
What were some of your responsibilities as a team leader?
I worked with three other team leaders, along with in-country leaders, overseeing the dynamics and wellbeing of our team and continually evaluating our work and objectives. On a practical basis, I was especially involved in leading the planning of the week’s work, sorting out food for the team, leading devotions/worship times and helping others to do likewise.
What were some of the challenges of being a team leader?
I was always inclined to take on way too much and end up exhausted! My team were fantastic, and learning to delegate meant that not only could I enjoy all the work more, but the team as a whole functioned so much better when everyone was using their gifts to build one another up and complete projects to the best of our ability.
What did you enjoy most about leading your team?
I love pastoral care, so having a role that meant looking out particularly carefully for the needs of my team was such a privilege. The whole thing was a huge challenge, but learning from my team and co-leaders made it a real joy, and a massively formative experience.
What things did you learn while leading?
- I learnt a lot about how to delegate and when to take a step back.
- I also realised that I can be assertive when necessary to resolve issues or get things done!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying to be a team leader?
Pray, and talk to friends and family about it. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, and at times one of the most difficult, so if you do go for it, be kind to yourself: you’re not a superhero, and you don’t need to be to do a great job as a leader. And remember at every stage, God is infinitely gracious: he will guide you, equip you and empower you- but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to rest and be wise with your time and energy!
What three qualities are helpful in a Team Leader?
Resilience, patience and gentleness.