Author’s note: This post is part of a series on my recent trip and climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, to read all posts click here

Wherever I travel in the world, the one thing that always touches me most is the children of a place. It amazes me that joy, creativity and the desire to be loved is a universal thing that transcends borders, cultures, languages and even circumstances in life. Despite some of the utter hardships some children face – whether it be war, poverty, hunger or disease – I find that kids are still kids no matter what. They all love to play, to learn, to have attention and love, and of course to smile.

Visiting children at either a local school, community-lead program or orphanage has become something I try to do on every trip to the developing world. I have found that even a short time spent playing and interacting with children, even if we can’t speak the same language, does wonders for the soul. There are tons of places in need of volunteers and visitors however finding the right place to visit can be the tricky part. Thankfully the perfect place to visit was just a short walk away from the gates of our hotel in Moshi, Tanzania

Moshi, Tanzania

Right behind the Springlands hotel lies an entire community of homes. I could smell the smoke from the fires filtering into my hotel room and wondered where it came from.

The Springlands Hotel is the base of Zara Tours, one of the leading trekking and safari outfitters in Moshi and is the company we employed for our climb to Mount Kilimanjaro. Run by Zainab Ansell, Zara Tours has been brining guests on amazing adventures for over two decades and has also given back to the community in which they serve through the Zara Tanzania Charity. Zara Charity works to develop and support vulnerable groups within their community such as porters, Maasai women, and local orphans improving the lives for many.

Like most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania has been ravaged by the HIV/AIDS epidemic that swept across the continent killing an estimated 30 million people from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic twenty years ago (UNAID 2010 report). In Tanzania alone, HIV/AIDS has devastated an entire generation leaving a nation of orphans. UNICEF estimates that there are over 3.1 million children in Tanzania living without parents of which an estimated 1.3 million are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.  For many of these children, an orphanage is the only place they have to find food, shelter, education and medical attention. 

The city of Moshi was not spared in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Right behind the Springlands Hotel lies the small community of Pasua, a dirt-lined street of homes and small businesses.  In 2009, Edward “Teacher” Lazaro, a native Tanzanian, founded The Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre in response to the dire need to provide care and shelter to an increasing population of orphaned children in the Kilimanjaro region. Lazaro collaborated with Zainab Ansell of Zara Charity to set up the orphanage and today the center cares for 60 resident orphans with the help of many dedicated local and international volunteers.

I spent an hour visiting the nearby orphanage and playing with the lovely children. Volunteers and donations are always welcome. Here are some of my snapshots from my visit.

Moshi, Tanzania

En route to the Kilimanjaro Orphanage, I passed lots of local children asking for their photos to be taken. The kids love seeing themselves on the digital screen!

Moshi, Tanzania

Children love to play with tires and are incredibly creative when it comes to making their own toys from odds and ends. Even plastic water bottles can be used as a makeshift soccer ball or toy.

Moshi Tanzania

These girls live right outside the orphanage and are school age. When girls in Tanzania go to school, it is customary to shave their heads.

Moshi Tanzania

Of course I couldn’t resist getting my picture taken with these lovely girls.

After a short five-minute walk, twisting and turning down the serpentine dirt streets of the village, I arrived at the gates of the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Centre. I could hear the laughter of the children from outside the gates. A large group of 20 volunteers were already inside playing frisbee with the children. This group would spend the next several days visiting the kids before doing a Kilimanjaro climb in honor of their charity.

The children were lovely and well cared for. My only regret is that I only had an hour to spend with them.

Kilimanjaro Orphanage Moshi Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Orphanage Moshi Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Orphanage Moshi Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Orphanage Moshi Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Orphanage Moshi Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Orphanage Moshi Tanzania

Kilimanjaro Orphanage Moshi Tanzania

To learn more about the Kilimanjaro Orphanage Center and how you can help, click here.

I’m ending with a short YouTube video clip published in May 2015 about the orphanage and Dr. Greg Higgin’s work there.  It is a lovely introduction to the orphanage and some of the amazing, dedicated staff that supports it. 


    1. Thank you so much! It was a wonderful place to visit. I love children. They always make me laugh and smile (and get mad of course too with my own when they misbehave!) 🙂

      1. Yes they were very adorable. They loved having their photos taken and then when I’d show them on the screen, they just roared laughing especially the older ones. Really special.

  1. This is my experience in Africa too–kids are kids wherever they go. It was especially hilarious to me to hear that they also don’t enjoy what’s on their plates–like their north american counterparts. My mom was wrong–I didn’t need to finish my food because some kids in Africa were starving, lots of African kids still didn’t want what was on my plate!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and reading about the kids. It is a really special place! 🙂 Gives you faith in people and their immense dedication to volunteerism and helping others.

    1. Yes me too Debra. The kids are very lucky they are at the center though as there are many HIV/AIDS orphans who aren’t and end up homeless or in very hard situations. AT this place, they receive health care, love from the wonderful dedicated staff and schooling which is really really critical since most families in Tanzania don’t have the funds to pay school fees for their children especially for girls. So there is a lot of hope for them. 🙂

    1. Yes it is so true. There are so many children who are orphans in Africa due to HIV/Aids, war, other disease and poverty. Without a place like this center, they really have no chance in life. Here they are loved, cared for, go to school and hopefully will have a much brighter future. I just wish there were more places like this in the world. 🙂

    1. It is pretty special Sally. Last year when I was in Ethiopia I spent a few hours at an orphanage where the children themselves had HIV/AIDS. It was incredible. Here it was nice to see that despite losing their families,the kids were resilient and happy. They are eating well, are healthy and going to school. So it was very good to see. Warmed my heart. I’d love to spend time down the road volunteering at a place like this as I really truly think you can impact a child’s future by helping inspire them to learn.

  2. Incredible, Nicole. I particularly like the photo of the kids peeking from behind the bright orange frisbees. I am curious as to why they shave their heads when they start school. When I taught elementary school, the school nurse visited our classrooms frequently for lice checks. Do you think that has anything to do with it? Once again you’ve written an eye-opening report of the fine things this orphanage is doing. Their playground looks awesome, too.

    1. Thanks Debbie! Good question about shaving the heads. I asked a woman on the trip and she said it was for two reasons: First, for lice control and Second, it is easier to manage their hair, especially for the girls. Braids can take hours on end to do and are a ton of work, so shaving their heads until the girls are older is much better.

  3. I totally agree with you that visits with children while traveling (either a local school, community-lead program or orphanage) does wonders for the soul. Beautiful images Nicole.

    1. Emily, what an absolutely beautiful quote. I love that. Yes, I love being around kids. Being able to spend time with them always makes me smile. I hope to do a lot more with children when I retire. 🙂 maybe teach english or volunteer more abroad? Have to wait until my kids are through school and my husband can retire. But waiting is good as life goes too fast already and need it to slow down so I can enjoy this amazing world and family!

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