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RB volunteers tackle the issue of hygiene to bring about real change in rural Tanzania

For its 2019 Global Volunteer Challenge, RB partnered with Raleigh Tanzania to share skills and knowledge to drive positive changes in hygiene practices in rural Africa

09 Jul 20195 minute read

When you take part in a project like this it makes you realise ‘This is why I do my job; this is what it’s all about.’

That was the feedback from one of the 30 RB employees from 23 countries who recently took part in the company’s two-week Global Volunteer Challenge. It’s been running since 2007 and is one of the flagship events of RB’s ongoing Give Time volunteering programme.

The challenge, to improve hygiene practices in villages in rural Tanzania, was devised in partnership with the sustainable development charity Raleigh International. Raleigh is expert at running volunteering programmes and has a background in working to improve access to clean water and sanitation, along with hygiene education – issues that connect directly with RB’s business and its social impact strategy.

This year, for the first time, the challenge drew on RB employees’ professional skills and brought a mix of experience from across the business – ranging from R&D to sales – to offer fresh perspectives on initiatives.

Working in partnership to tackle the issues
Raleigh has been working in rural Tanzania since 2013; building toilet blocks in schools, running hand-washing initiatives and educating about clean water. But with people still getting sick from unsafe water and poor hygiene – leading to two million deaths a year globally – it was keen for new insights into how to improve the situation. The charity hoped that the 30 RB employees with their various professional skills, and working in partnership with Tanzanian youth volunteers, could develop an innovative approach to tackling this issue.

Working in groups of six, the teams were tasked with devising a new approach to help improve hygiene practices in local communities. As well as benefitting from the formative research carried out by the Tanzanian volunteers prior to RB’s arrival, all the volunteers experienced what it was like to live in rural communities by staying in local homestays for four days. This proved to be vitally important as only then were they really able to experience the local culture and challenges.

On-the-ground experience
When we were staying in the village, our homestay ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ made sure we had everything we might need, including meals and clean water,” says Natalia Diaz, who’s been with RB for five years and is brand manager in Chile.

“But it was clear that they have very limited access to water, which makes the practice of hygiene habits difficult. They have to walk miles to the well or river to get water, which is contaminated, so they either have to boil it or use tablets to purify it.”

Following their time in the village, the teams returned to the Morogoro training centre where they reviewed their findings and translated them into possible interventions. Each group prepared a pitch proposal on how to improve hygiene practices, including how their target audiences could help drive the changes and proposed activations. They also had to explain how they would measure the impact and success of their initiative.

The successful proposal (or proposals) will be piloted in communities before a live programme is launched by the end of the year, which RB will continue to support.

A life-changing opportunity
“As we’re from outside the NGO world, our volunteers were definitely able to provide a fresh perspective to this ongoing issue and bring new ideas, thoughts and approaches to the table,” says Sandra Hennessy, RB social impact and partnerships manager, who planned the trip with Raleigh and joined the volunteers in Tanzania. “It was clear that every single person was so engaged and passionate and really wanted to make a difference.

That view is supported by Tim Foster, RB’s national business manager, Australia, who describes the experience as “incredibly enriching”.

“The biggest learning for me from the project was that knowledge is power,” he says. “By giving the villagers the knowledge to make informed decisions we are enabling them to make a difference in their lives."