Thursday, 29 January 2015

Volunteering with VA32 in South Africa - Mandela Park Crèche

To put my first week as a volunteer in South Africa in a few paragraphs is near impossible. I’ve learnt more, been challenged more and met more interesting people than I have in my twenty one years of living.  My initial expectation of the trip was that I would feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction from helping those who needed it.  However I was soon to realize I also was in need of help. A different kind of help.  The kind that opens your eyes and mind, and allows you to feel things you have never felt before.

Each week day our group of thirteen, along with Jax (our project leader), Miller and Ash (local co-ordinators), worked on restoring a crèche named “Mandela Park Day Care” situated in Mzwini. The task of watering the vegetables in the garden was my very first task and it was not as simple as getting the hose and turning on the tap. The most basic things I had taken for granted in Australia, I was soon to realize, took a much longer process here. Watering involved walking a short distance to fill buckets of water and individually carry them back.  By the time I had reached the vegetables I had already thoroughly watered myself! Every step of the way I received support from the excited kids in the township. No task was ever dull or without reward.  A few boys decided to stop their own fun on their hand-made, wooden go-kart and lend it to us to pull the buckets on. If there was a lesson to be learnt that first day it was that we should all try to be more like these boys.  Every day was much like this, and every task became a fun activity with laughing children around us. They were always trying to assist us, even when the job really was too labour intensive for them.  When they were not assisting they were showering us in hugs and kisses.

When we were not working we were discovering steep dunes on the beach to conquer, or going for breathtaking hikes through bush and beach. In only one week I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. A family unit has formed in the house thanks to bonding activities like beach volleyball and late nights playing and teaching each other card games. It has made my experience of South Africa and volunteering so much more than what I had expected.

Jax’s enthusiasm and knowledge of all things South Africa and conservation inspired all of us to work that much harder to complete our project.  My daily interactions with not only the kids, but also with Jax, Miller and Ash, have opened my eyes and mind, allowing me to view the world from a different perspective. One where an individual really does have the ability to make a difference. That is what Volunteer Africa has offered me, and I have gladly accepted.

A happy little volunteer,

Find out more about VA32's projects in South Africa -

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