Morning: A typical day as a volunteer is pretty basic. I stayed in the Volunteer House because my project was in the city. You share a room with many other volunteers that may be getting up at different times. Therefore, you usually wake and get ready in the dark. But if you prepare the night before, it is not so bad. Showers get occupied pretty fast, so you need to plan around that as well. But it is just a typical morning with roommates. The kitchen has the basics for breakfast, cereal, toast, jam, etc. We made omelets the night before so we could have a decent meal but still get a few more winks of sleep. Everyone is very cheery in the morning! Then off to work we go..
Afternoon: Throughout the day, you are at your project. My project was teaching at the Preswich Primary school. We were there from 8:00- 3:00. You help the teacher with implementing lessons as well as clarifying questions for the kids as you circle around the room.
It was an amazing experience to have so many students (45, to be exact) in one room. The hum of the Xhosa language as the kids whisper to themselves left me feeling ‘lost in translation’ but having English the common language amongst us all had me realize it’s not so different after all. After school was out, a few volunteers and I would go to museum, or stroll through the parks. We even hiked up Table Mountain just in time to take the cable car down before the sun set. We definitely used every minute we had to experience all that we could!
Evening: Dinner was waiting for you at the Volunteer House when you arrived back home from a long day of volunteering and adventuring. The food was different each night, so it was never boring. People strolled into the house at different hours; but once it was time to eat, we all mingled in the kitchen and the living room to converse about the day’s events. Everyone was so nice and friendly, it was easy to get caught up in the moment. At night, many people would venture out for a night cap either down the street or to the Waterfront. The week nights were pretty low key but the weekends were where the whole house would make their way to the dance floor on Long Street or travel out of the city on adventure tours.
Highlights: The highlight of my volunteering experience was most definitely the involvement with the kids. The kids were a little skeptical with a foreigner in their class, but after a couple days they welcomed me with open arms. My biggest moment was probably towards the end of the trip. After 2 weeks of working one-on-one with some of these kiddos and having them teach me some Xhosa words, they surprised me with a going away party. They made cards and found little trinkets from their home as gifts to give me.
I didn’t realize how much of an impact I had had until that moment when tears came rushing down their cheeks.. What a small gesture of kindness can go a long way. Working with the 4th grade teacher and having those kids touch my heart made every moment of that trip worth it!
I won’t lie, the tours were very memorable; feeding the elephants, petting a cheetah, the views of the wildlife. Truly amazing! There was one moment when we were on the Garden Tour, the tour van was driving down a normal road, with mountains in the background, rustic farms on either side, and there in the distance was the most amazing site: A mother elephant and her baby, walking side by side. Before that moment, the view could have been anywhere. But what went through my mind when I saw that image-jaw dropped “I’m not in Kansas anymore.” But all in all, the wildlife was an experience but the overall the thing that really got to me was the people. Meeting the people of South Africa and becoming friends. That is what really got me to love South Africa so much. The views are spectacular, but the people made it feel like home.