Two weeks voluntary work in South-Africa… I can honestly say that was one of the best things I have ever done. A few years ago, I got the chance to do some voluntary work in South-Africa. My high school organized this trip for a group of enthusiastic students in cooperation with a Dutch Christian organization that aims to help needy orphans and widows in South-Africa.
During my time in South-Africa, I helped in the construction of a house for disabled people and worked at a Daycare Centre, which was an absolute delight. From playing with the children to teaching them, it was all just an amazing experience. The assistance in exciting educational projects in the rural South-African village (Reagile), offered me an incredible opportunity to gain experience about this amazing country. I was fully immersed in the culture, language, customs and beautiful nature of South-Africa. The village and community were great. People were warm, nice and hospitable. I was often speechless and moved by the poverty, moved by the beauty and moved by how happy and friendly people can be when they have so little.
I remember the first day in South-Africa very well. We arrived at the day care centre for the first time and all the children stood outside with drawings and signs with texts like ‘we love you’ and ‘thank you for coming’. When we entered the day care centre, they all wanted to touch us and experience the feeling of a white skin, blond hair and see how those cameras, which we brought with us, worked. It was amazing to see how happy those kids were. We mainly played games with the children and taught them bible stories and English lessons.
The first day at the construction site was a bit more stressing. It was one big mess. Everywhere was garbage. We were supposed to build a fence around the building, but there was still an old fence and everywhere were plants of at least one meter high or higher. The first days, we spent our time with removing all the garbage and parts of the old fence. After that, we started digging and laying the foundation for the fence. It is incredible what you can find while digging in the African grounds. We found obviously lots of garbage, but also strange objects like a car door. After two weeks, we succeeded in placing a new fence around the building.
Next to the activities of the day care centre and the construction place, we also did other voluntary activities. We visited townships (small villages with small homes which are built of scraps of tin and plywood to provide shelter) to deliver food parcels and toys to the children. It is shocking how the people live in those townships. They live in terrible conditions, but are very happy. They live with an average of seven people in one small house.
Next to the townships, we also visited a local hospital to deliver toys to the children over there. Unfortunately, also the hospitals of South-Africa provide less medical possibilities and have a lower hygiene than in our European hospitals. A visit to the local townships and hospitals will certainly makes you appreciate how fortunate we (western people) are.
This trip definitely changed my life. It is amazing to travel to a place where you can contribute to the importance of developing social and life skills of many children of the disadvantaged communities and at the same time can enjoy travelling, the local wildlife, beautiful landscapes and especially making the world a better place to live in.