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    DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ Tamara Braun (Ava) enjoyed the adventure of a lifetime

    FYIFYIFYIFYI

    Follow Up: @TamaraBraun and www.tamarabraun.com.
    Travel Plans: “I hope to go back to Tanzania and to outer space!” Braun says.
    In The Kitchen: “My best dish?” Braun laughs. “The one that delights my taste buds and nourishes my body.”
    Remember When? “My favorite nonsoap role was in the play Tennessee In The Summer,” Braun reveals.

    Sometimes in life, you feel the call to fi nd more purpose. Prior to returning to her role of DAYS OF OUR LIVES’ Ava recently, Tamara Braun (Reese, ALL MY CHILDREN; ex-Carly, GENERAL HOSPITAL) decided to answer that call by signing up with the Tanzania Children’s Fund (tanzanianchildrensfund.org) to work at their Rift Valley Children’s Village. “I’d had a dream in which my friends, Gary Lippman, Vera Szombathelyi and I were in Africa volunteering,” Braun explains. “We were in this concrete structure, and a very tall, thin, African man was showing us what we were supposed to do.”

    No Looking Back
    After relating the dream to her pals, Braun was astonished to hear that they were involved with TCF orphans and was thrilled to be invited along. “As an actor, you spend a lot of your life putting things on hold,” she says of why she’d jumped at the opportunity. “And I didn’t want to do that because this was too important to me.”

    Last November, the trio arrived in Karatu, a district of the Arusha Region of Tanzania, and began working for three weeks at a facility that houses, educates and provides medical care for nearly 100 orphaned and marginalized children. “What founders India Howell and Peter Mmassy have done there is just mind-blowing,” Braun shares. “They provide a family structure full of love, respect, freedom, playtime and happiness for these kids.”

    Lessons Learned
    Assigned to live in a house full of young boys and their loving caregivers, Mama Renea and Mama Grace, Braun soon fell into their daily routine and came to enjoy its simplicity. “When you get outside of your regular life, it’s easier to see how little we really need in terms of stuff to be happy and thrive,” she reflects, adding, “What’s really needed is love, support, food, education and healthcare.”

    In her new role as a volunteer teacher, Braun set about sharing lessons in math and reading, but also just about life as she and her pupils traded stories and hugs. However, she soon discovered a few things of her own along the way. “I learned that I should turn my rain boots upside down at night,” Braun laughs, “because one morning, I went to put them on to go to have breakfast, and I felt something squishy inside. It was what they called a konokono… a slug!”

    On The Road Again
    After sharing tender good-byes with the many children that she’d grown to love (“I wanted them all to come home with me,” she confides), Braun and her companions went on safari to see the animals in the Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara and the Serengeti. “Our driver said, ‘Yeah, you don’t want to mess around with an elephant when they’re charging,’” she recalls of the one they shared a close encounter with. “You can tell when their ears are out, their tail is stiff, and they’re not trumpeting that they mean business!”

    It’s The Small Things

    A nightly ritual left Braun with the sweetest of memories

    Braun formed tight bonds with all the boys in her care but especially with kindergartner Ema (short for Emanuel). “He would always hold my face and look at me with his beautiful, deep, soulful brown eyes,” Braun reflects. “One time, I was putting him to bed and he asked, ‘Show me how your mom tucked you in?’” So began their nightly ritual. “I would make sure all the covers were underneath him like a burrito,” Braun sighs. “And I’d give him kisses and hugs, and we’d wish each other the sweetest of dreams.” Cuddling Ema and sharing moments like that remains one of the actress’ favorite memories. “It broke my heart and warmed it at the same time because he doesn’t have a mom to tuck him in,” she says. “I was happy to play that role, if only briefl y.”

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