My volunteer experiences in Cape Town
I came to Cape Town for a holiday with my parents two years ago and I absolutely fell in love with this city!
I was sure I will come back one day for a longer time. Last year I just finished my tourism studies and I had the urge to explore something different before I head into the working world. So I came up with the idea of volunteering in South Africa and I wanted to stay in Cape Town.
After a lot of research in the internet and lots of applications, I got very frustrated as I didn’t receive any positive answer by an organization dealing with Child care. While my research I came across the website from Kickstart which offered three programmes I was interested in. Finally I decided to participate in a programme which runs a crčche and a preschool for township kids in Hout Bay. There are about 110 children between the age of 1-6 years. Kickstart set up everything for me: accommodation, airport pickup, transport, visa…and I was quiet happy to meet somebody at the airport I could ask a lot of questions as I was pretty excited to be back all by myself!
After two days exploring Cape Town with my flatmates and meeting a lot of new people through the Kickstart student network I already felt comfortable in my new home! On Monday morning Sandra picked me up and gave me a lift to my volunteer project to introduce me to the people. It was such a nice vibe there, all the staff friendly and the kids curious and incredible cute. Within 2 minutes I had 2 children on both arms hanging on me all begging for attention and asking me lots of questions. That was a completely different experience as the children in Germany are very reserved and pretty shy towards strangers at the beginning.
First I was concerned about the language barrier as the smaller children don’t speak (or just very little) English as their mother tongue is mainly Xhosa. Also the kitchen lady Martha didn’t speak any English, but it didn’t matter, we communicate with hands and feet and got along with each other very well. The first days I was just observing and assisted the staff where help was needed. Particularly hard was to remember all the names which are almost impossible to keep in mind for foreigners.
My tasks were for example: feeding the babies (around 1year old), change nappies and put them to bed for a lunch nap, while playing with the older children during the preschool break outside. On the venue is a little playground and they have some material to play with. This time is quiet exhausting as everybody wants your attention and wants you to be part of their game. Then the older children get lunch and before they start to eat they said a prayer and sang a song. This preschool is very Christian. After lunch the children have a bit of sparetime which can be used to read out of a book, painting or doing some sporty activities. In total I was motivated to set up my own activities. I spoke to my supervisor Annie about my ideas and she gave me the go ahead to realize my projects like doing some sport in the sports hall, having an art lesson where the children could make presents for their parents or studying a dance.
After a while I was more involved in teaching in classes. I assist the teacher and helped the kids with their tasks and answered their questions. You have to have good nerves as it can be incredibly loud with so many kids in one class, but it is really good fun!!!
I was staying for 2,5months and I must really say that I struggled on my last day to say goodbye to everybody. The staff was so friendly and thankful and the children became quiet close to me in this short time. Some of them were giving me presents and they were dancing the dance I taught them, so cute….Some of them were crying and I needed to promise them to write them.
The project is fundraised by some Swiss and German people and they started to build more classrooms while I was there.
This project is incredible important as the parents don’t have to pay for their children and they get breakfast, lunch and free education. It would be great to offer this opportunity to many more children from the nearby township!!
After my volunteering I joined an overland tour with some other Kickstart students from Holland, France and Finland. It was great fun and we saw amazing landscape and wildlife. We camped in the bushes or slept underneath the stars while hearing some animals roaring further away.
I can definitely say that this was an experience of a lifetime and I feel very attached to Cape Town and its people- I will come back one day- that’s for sure!!
Everybody who wants to explore something different, like to help and want to see this country from a different angle while having fun – come to Cape Town!
Steffi, 24 years, from Germany