It’s hard to track her whereabouts, because while you’ve come to the idea that she might be backpacking across Europe, she is already on foot touring Israel. Her last checkpoint, she is stationed in Tanzania, and to no surprise have recently joined a goat race. Although, her blog described it as, “more about goats than racing. And they’re more about socializing than goats.” So what is this 20-something-year-old, roll-up-your-sleeves, enthusiastic world traveller doing in Tanzania?
Meet Barbara Forbes. Her hometown is Westlock Alberta but she is currently in her 4th year in the International Development Studies (IDS) co-op program at the University of Toronto Scarborough. For her 12-month placement, Barbara will be working as a Project Management Advisor at the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) national office in Dar Es Salaam. VSO is a British organization affiliated with the Canadian organization Cuso International.
There, she’ll dive into a range of work from orienting newly-arrived volunteers, editing funding proposals or supporting volunteer-led research to bigger tasks like providing support in hosting a one-day conference in November. And although she’s used to packing up her bags and jet-setting, there are some challenges ahead. The language—but not in the way you might assume. English is widely spoken in the city, so Barbara cites she would find it difficult to learn Swahili. As for the distance, it’s always a challenge to leave family and friends behind, but she’s quick to reassure us, “I’m lucky to be surrounded by a great community at work and with my fellow volunteers.” And the cooking! Apparently, food preparation isn’t her favourite thing to do. Sigh.
So what makes her do this? What made her passionate about international development? Here’s what she had to say:
In high school I spent one year in Taiwan as a Rotary Exchange Student. It was a brilliant year! Taiwan was fascinating for many reasons, but one in particular was that 60 years ago it was called a ‘developing’ country’ but today it is not. (I much prefer Taipei’s public transit to Toronto’s!) The 12 months there sparked my interest in learning about international development and how countries change.
Why do you think that your work matters?
A few years ago I spent 10 weeks in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Almost every Burkinabé I met there had a plan of what they would do with a bit of money - maybe they would open a youth centre, start a business, or send their kids to school. There is funding that is available to be spent on development projects. It’s going to be spent whether I’m there or not. Hopefully my involvement will ensure it is used the most economical, efficient, and effective way possible to grant community members opportunities they may not otherwise have - such as opening their own business or granting their kids an education.
In the future, Barbara hopes to obtain a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) or a Masters in Public Administration (MPA). However, at the moment, she is very interested in exploring and learning how international development organizations are managed. In the end though, she anticipates, “I will gain a lot more from this year than what I am able to give.”
To follow Barbara’s exciting journey in Tanzania for the next year, follow her blog: travellinbabs.tumblr.com.