Liberata Rushaigo - General Care Projects in South Africa
Before embarking on any volunteer opportunity, it is important to know why you want to do it. I did it because I was stressed with University work, but even more because I wanted to see how life would be like doing some humanitarian work.
I thought of South Africa and thought of the sun (I needed it at the time), Table Mountain, you name it! But I was yet to experience the true meaning of a development project (in my case, care).
If you are ready to live outside yourself, make new friends, and change the lives of countless others, then international volunteering is good for you, and Projects Abroad is certainly the organization for you. Yes, it is expensive, but the people at Projects Abroad are very helpful, and extremely considerate about their volunteers.
I arrived in Cape Town a few days late due to heavy snowing and flight cancellations from England. (It was sorted by Projects Abroad which was great!). Better still, upon arriving, Denver Flowers (surprising how you remember the first people you meet) was ready to pick me up and drive me home (to my host family). He was very kind, warm and welcoming, and it was then that I knew South Africa was the place for me.
I worked at a day-care center in a township in the morning and surfed with older children in the evening. It could get tiring and hot at times, but it was all worth it. For one, the teachers at the center (Little Eagles) were always motivating, eager to teach the little ones and learn from us volunteers. It was always nice (at least for me), going home after a long day knowing that a child learnt to spell his/her name. That was very rewarding. Still, you get to learn about these children and their families. Being a sociology undergraduate, I was easily drawn to their backgrounds which made me understand and work with them even better.
The beach in Muizenberg (where all the surfing happened) was the peak of my time in Cape Town. The area is beautiful, and the children we surfed with, they just loved it! Truth is, I might have taught them how to surf, but they surely taught me how to appreciate and enjoy life. They were full of laughter and hope even though at times they came without shoes, or left their homes having had nothing to eat.
Other volunteers always made sandwiches and packed fruits for them. (I helped with distributing). Woody was another amazing fellow who is dedicated to those children and I believe by his love and guidance, surfing will keep most of them out of trouble. Even more, it will continue to give them hope, to give us (volunteers) hope that although we leave our projects, there are people like Woody who keep things running.
Now you do not have to be a Sociologist or university student to be interested in the lives of others, it only involves your willingness, and the love for other people, which my colleagues definitely had.
(Besides, isn’t that why I/ we volunteer?).
Then again, every society has people who will either manipulate or fail to do the work they are supposed to. We are human, and I was glad that Projects Abroad’s Cape Town office, allowed volunteers to voice any concerns/complaints they might have concerning their projects or host families. (It was very thoughtful and I was at ease knowing that I could always raise any concerns).
Going to Cape Town has been an eye opener, not simply on how differently people live, but of life in general, and living outside myself by living, serving and working with others. I hope a similar experience will do even more good for you.
Thank you Projects Abroad team for making every step possible and a special thanks to my host family, whose love and friendship made my stay in Cape Town even more rewarding.
With warm memories and best wishes.