The Motivation to Give

Hello lovely Kindness Crusaders! I hope life is kindful. 🙂

I have had some inspiring experiences in Tanzania lately, and wanted to share a little of them with you. It’s funny how even though my time in Kigamboni seemed on the surface like a totally different adventure to the Year of Kindness, kindness was still a predominant theme. Perhaps it always will be. Even when travelling to one of the most far-away and culturally different places I can imagine, I learned first had how closely connected we are by the nature of giving.

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Singing songs with some children at KCC.

Some say it is our soul, some say it is our ego. Some believe in selfless good deeds but most are willing to admit that when they give (time, materials, money) it is because they get far more out of it than anyone they might be giving to. International volunteers here are Kigamboni say they can be more creative, more useful, more appreciated, more innovative than they ever were in paid jobs back home. The experience and knowledge they are gaining is far more valuable than money. Everyone I have spoken to so far – both locals and foreigners – agrees that Tanzanians generally do not have much motivation to volunteer. Understandably, their main priority is to ensure they get money to eat and provide for the families. And yet, at the Kigamboni Community Centre there are nearly thirty people volunteering their time, energy and skills. Many of them are at KCC seven days a week, often turning down paid work to fulfil their responsibilities at the centre. This means relying on friends, family or sponsorship for their basic needs.

Since I have been in Kigamboni, the most common words I have heard apart from “Mambo” (hello) are “Karibu sana”, meaning you are very welcome. The local people have welcomed me into their classrooms and their homes. I have met their families and been offered food and drink. They have readily shared their struggles and their hopes for a different future. In short, they do not hesitate to give of themselves in every way, to anyone that may need it -whether they are a homeless local child or a Western tourist. Everyone is welcome and everyone has something to contribute. So if volunteering is unusual here, what is it exactly that motivates this unwavering dedication to giving?

Sakina, one of the local volunteer teachers at KCC tells me “you must have volunteering in your heart, otherwise you will not live your life in the right way.” Although she is a full time volunteer with no paid income for herself, she dreams of opening a house for street children to live. For Nassoro, the Entertainment & Activities Director and one of the founding members of KCC, giving is about leaving a legacy worth being remembered by.  He says he could have used his acrobatic skills to make money for himself, but he prefers to dedicate his talents to the centre because it is the only way he will feel satisfied at the end of his life. “I could have ten cars and ten houses, but when I die no one will cry for me,” he explained. However, “If I do good things for my community, even when I am no longer alive it will be like I left a part of my body behind, because many people will remember me and the great things I did.”

The Business Director and handicrafts teacher, Fanuel, has a very different take on why it is worth giving his time and energy to volunteer at KCC. He believes that if they all continue to work hard for a good cause, they will eventually be recognised with wealth and fame because that is the way it should be. He spoke with such passion that it seemed perhaps he could make his vision come to be purely by his unwavering certainty that it would. For now, however, he says “We are okay without money. We are struggling but we are happy. We help each other, we share, and we live through friendship.”

Although their specific motivations and expected outcomes may be somewhat different, all of these volunteers possess the same unwavering dedication to continue giving no matter what. So it presents the age-old question: Does it matter what our motivations are, as long as the end result is a positive one? I’m not sure what my personal answer would be, but for most people at KCC it seems the only thing that matters is working hard, collaborating with one another and believing. With these three ingredients, they are sure KCC can only get bigger and better, and with so many passionate individuals giving so wholeheartedly, it would be difficult to doubt it.

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To read more adventures, go here:

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sheila7697
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 17:30:16

    Very inspiring! I like the word you use: “kindful!”

    Love the quotes from the people you’ve met. What a wonderful motivation, to do good now so that you will be remembered as a good person after death. Very selfless. Thank you for the reminder that we in the US have so much, and we should not only be grateful, but be inspired to give to those in need. Blessings to you! ~ Sheila


    • happydancecat
      Jul 04, 2012 @ 23:36:20

      Hi Sheila. Yep, it’s one of my favourites. I’m hoping if I use it enough it will become part of the common vernacular…

      It definitely is a stark reminder of how much we take for granted in the first world. I think one of the most inspiring things about the centre was how it is empowering young Tanzanians to not rely on others to help them but also realise how they can use their own unique talents to make a better life for themselves.

      Thankyou for your thoughtful comments and sweet wishes. 🙂


  2. The Growth Guy
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 21:38:09

    As always, a relevant blog. I’ve been thinking about motivation for what we do in the world, and this strikes a chord. Lovely to see what you’re up to over there, and I feel inspired to do a bit of blogging too!


    • happydancecat
      Jul 04, 2012 @ 23:29:55

      Thanks Steve. Yes, as you know its always interesting when you ask the same question to people of vastly different cultures and backgrounds and find the responses all have similarities. Glad you’re feeling inspired. 🙂


  3. Phil Bolsta
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 04:30:44

    Thank you for being the change you wish to see in the world! Few people understand the energy of giving. It’s such an important dynamic that I addressed it in my book, “Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World.” Here’s an excerpt:

    By definition, what is given must be received. Turn down a well-intentioned gift and you inadvertently break this circle of Divine energy.

    To receive a present handsomely and in a right spirit,
    even when you have none to give in return, is to give
    one in return.
    Leigh Hunt

    Graciously and gratefully accept every gift and compliment, or you impede the circulation of loving, caring intentions in your life.

    The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him—
    it cannot fail.
    Walt Whitman

    This empathy exercise may help: Have you ever been excited about giving someone a gift only to have it refused because the recipient did not feel worthy of receiving it? Remember how disappointed you felt? That is how someone else feels when you yourself protest that a gift is not necessary. Why would you choose to make someone feel that way?

    It is not the shilling that I give you that counts, but
    the warmth that it carries with it from my hand.
    Miguel de Unamuno

    Thank you for adding such kindness and beauty to the world!


  4. Arielle
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 07:06:42

    Im so inspired! I would love to join you one day!!
    My daughter and I do a planned “random act of kindness” event every weekend. This past Sunday we hit a very popular park and passed out bags and bags of lollipops to all the kids and water bottles and chip bags to all the homeless people. You can actually watch the videos on my blog: 😀

    Also I decided to do a Giveaway geared towards those that are Giving. Do you mind sharing it on your blog? You can read about it at
    Any one can share a kindness story and be automatically entered into a free giveaway. Deadline is 9.13.13 Thank you! Keep spreading love


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