“The beautiful surroundings, the warm climate, the remarkable people... I can not even describe exactly
what it is, but Africa has stolen my heart."The Dutch Emma-Marije Wijnia followed her heart and has lived in Tanzania
for five years.Here she runs a safari company with her partner Elemesi and supports runaway Masai girls to build a better future.
The idea for Shemeji Safari came up in the middle of the night. "I wanted to do something good for the country and show tourists the beauty of Tanzania. When I couldn't sleep, I thought of Shemeji Safari. Shemeji means sister-in-law. With the safari company we support our sisters, the Masai girls. Tanzania is a beautiful country, but Masai girls have a hard existence. They are often married off, circumcised and suppressed at a young age. We use part of our revenues for the school fees of masai girls, so that they get a better future. "
Emma-Marije has been living an adventurous life since she graduated. "I was 23, lived in Holland and I was not ready to settle. I packed my things and worked for two years in restaurants and cafes in various places in Austria, Mallorca, Crete and Croatia. That was a great time! After that I went to work in the PR and marketing, but the passion for travel remained. In 2011 I went to Africa for the first time. I spent a month volunteering in rural Uganda. Once back in the Netherlands, Africa didn't let me go. I had to get used to the western rhythm, the complaining about nothing and materialism. I worked as a marketeer in Amsterdam. A good job, but I missed traveling and freedom. I also wanted to help others. "
What Emma-Marije followed her dream. She went to Tanzania in 2013 for a month. "I worked there as a volunteer at a school and taught English." Here too people and the environment made a big impression on her. "It became increasingly clear to me: I had lost my heart to Africa and the people who live there. I went back to the Netherlands to set up my own foundation so that I could help more people in Tanzania. Two months later, I went back to Tanzania to start a nursery school and community center for disadvantaged families.
After a brief return to the Netherlands, Emma-Marije bought another ticket to Tanzania to continue her work. "The return ticket was valid for three months, but I stayed in Tanzania. I have done a lot of great projects in a few years. For example, we helped women set up their own market stall and bought teaching materials and school desks for schools."
In the meantime Emma-Marijes's own life was moving on as well. Her first son David was born, she started a volunteer organization and arranged safaris and day trips for volunteers. "In the middle of the night I thought I could extend the safaris for volunteers for tourists. In this way I could make money, but also do something good for the people. I started immediately the next day. I made a website, searched a safari car and good guides to guide the tourists. Tanzania is a difficult country to get things settled. If you do not know the right people, you often unnecessarily pay a lot of money for things like permits. It can take forever for you to have official documents arranged. Things can move very slowly here. I still can not get used to that. "
Soon the first tourists booked a safari at Shemeji. "We never thought it would go this fast. We receive tourists from all over the world. They sometimes even take some goodies with me like chocolate, super sweet! Sometimes clients ask me if they can bring something for the children of Tanzania. If I have time, I take them to a school or orphanage myself so they can bring the materials or clothes themselves. That makes their visit to Tanzania really special."
In 2018 Emma and Elemesi had a second son Leon. They are enjoying their life in Africa and who knows what the future might bring. They hope to see you one day in Tanzania!