Sat at home in England reflecting on my time in South Africa, I’m glad I’ve waited to write my blog entry, as I feel it is only now I can fully grasp how lucky I have been the past seven weeks. There are far too many individual highlights for me to mention them all, but skydiving, safari and swimming with dolphins aside, it is the experience as a whole that leaves you desperate to go back.
Within three days of arriving in South Africa I was on my way to coach at my first school. I was so unsure what to expect but within minutes of driving through the school gates we were swamped with children screaming with excitement to see us. Within ten minutes of being at the school, you already feel like you know the kids and the session ahead seems far less daunting. In addition to this it helps that most sessions start with various silly warm up games and end with being completely humiliated by the kid’s superior dancing and singing skills. Some of the children are so keen to learn new skills, whereas others are much more of a challenge to encourage but whatever the children have been like that day, you arrive home with such a sense of achievement (alongside a significant amount of exhaustion, of course).
At the end of the placement we helped organise a sports tournament for a number of the schools we taught. During this tournament we had an opportunity to scout some of the children to go the Junior School of Excellence Program for their sports talent. This program is designed to help the children get into better senior schools, get better grades and in turn have more opportunities open to them in life. It was such an amazing feeling to see some of the kids getting scouted due to skills we had helped them develop. Although not every day was easy working in the townships, and although it as not always easy hearing some of the children’s stories, seeing the achievements some of them accomplished in the tournament really made me believe, that even if it is only for an hour a day, you really can make a difference in some of these children’s lives.
In addition to meeting some of the most entertaining and amazing children, you can’t help but grow so close to the other volunteers you live with. I have left South Africa with friends I know I will stay in touch with, having shared some of the most incredible moments with them. The memories I made in South Africa will never leave me, especially those of the children, and the letters I received from them when leaving are enough to ensure I will never forget them and my time there.
Millie Karlsen xxx
(If you would like to do some volunteer sports coaching, or teaching or orphanage work, in South Africa like Millie, placements are for 5 – 12 weeks and cost from £1,150 to £1,850. Placement price includes local airport transfers, accommodation in the Volunteer House, food, transport to placements, orientation and 2 to 2 excursions. Send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org, check out the website http://www.volunteervacations.co.uk or give us a ring on 01483 331551 or 07833 208 158 for more details about start dates)