Volunteer and Intern Interviews: Matias Bertola

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I met Matias on a Sunday. It was the day I arrived at the Volunteer House in Madale, Dar es Salaam. He had just come back from the beach with some of the other volunteers and he introduced himself to me. He was friendly, accommodating and a good conversationalist and I thoroughly enjoy being around him. Matias was kind enough to let me interview him on his experiences here in Tanzania and so this is the conversation that we had.

The following interview took place on 21st June, 2016.

Dolly: What is your name?

Matias: Matias Bertola

D: Where are you from?

M: I’m from Italy and Argentina. I grew up in both but now I’m studying in the UK. So, maybe I brought my internationality as well.

D: How long have you been here?

M: I’ve been here three and a half weeks.

D: How much longer are you staying here?

M: I’m staying two and a half more weeks so in total, it’s going to be six weeks.

D: What project are you handling?

M: I’m working on an internship on solar power. So, we’re trying to see how to integrate solar power in the eco compound of Art in Tanzania to satisfy its current demand and then since expansion is happening, a new demand. To do that, we’re kind of trying to build up a project so that this works as a pilot, showing to the community that even though you need a big initial investment, the potential income and benefit of the project is big as we’re looking at a payback period of about a fifth of its lifetime.

D: Has this project met your expectations?

M: In terms of organisation, No, because it’s pretty much up to me what I do. There’s nobody checking me but then, it actually exceeded expectations from the potential it has because I can actually do more things than was expected and although, I had to research in order to manage to get to that level of expertise to do them.

D: Have you learned from this?

M: Yes, I’ve learned a lot definitely but it’s mostly independent learning so, I think if you’re willing to work hard for yourself and you have other purposes other than working for an employer who tells you what to do, then this might be a right place but, you have to come with an organised project.

D: Are you confident in applying the skills that you have learned?

M: Yes, definitely. Actually, I think it’s going to help a lot with my next year. Potentially, it’s given me many ideas in showing me what the difficulties are in learning and what difficulties are in, for example, in the energy in Tanzania or in developing countries. So, it’s actually showing the problems and if you see the problems, you can start thinking about solutions.

D: Why Tanzania?

M: Mostly, because I have a work placement module for my university career and this was a great opportunity to work in a project that actually makes a difference and creates something real instead of working in an office, maybe in a big company, where I might learn more from professionals and about the industry, but I wouldn’t have learned as much about the real difficulties in developing countries. So, the decision to come here has shaped a bit my career and where my thoughts are going at the moment but I think mostly, it’s about the opportunity of doing something productive and real.

D: How do you find living in the volunteer house?

M: The volunteer house is different. It could be challenging for someone who, maybe, is expecting a higher level of accommodation but on the other hand, for an intern as me, it’s quite inspiring to see all these different projects or internships or volunteers who come abroad and it’s quite a nice environment – very friendly and very relaxed – which is nice for a summer internship, I suppose, because the other option for me would have been working in an office and living in a little apartment on my own.

D: Do you feel that you are more exposed?

M: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we have volunteering places we go, we work with local people, so we are kind of learning Swahili in between. You know, we have people from all over the world – actually from all the continents and its quite inspiring to see how we can all blend together and create a new community; kind of sort of a family after two weeks we’re here and I’ve already experienced, like a change. When I got here, all the people that were here, almost all of them have left and now, we’re getting new people. So, it kind of shows you how community life works, which is something we might be missing in big cities and in our more modern lifestyles.

D: Well, Thank you so much for this, Matias

M: Thank you.

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