I was between jobs when I wanted to do something useful and exciting than just hanging around. After talking with friends and hours of Internet research I came across GoEco and their variety of volunteer projects. It took time to figure out which one would suit me, but I finally decided to book the Over 30’s Cape Town Community Aid project in Cape Town. Even before leaving Germany I started to feel homesick. I was asking myself all these questions like, “Was this the right decision?” After a long flight I finally arrived in Cape Town. The weather wasn’t great, but I was prepared for this because I was traveling in the winter. We did however have some beautiful weather through out my time there.
At the airport I met the project coordinator and fellow volunteers from all over the world. We went to the house and I met more staff and volunteers. Everyone was very welcoming and warm. We went straight to Khayelitsha to spend our afternoon with children in an after school program. Although I knew this would not be one of my projects, I felt that I could learn a lot about happiness, directness and optimism from the kids.
Once my projects began I worked at two different preschools in Red Hill in the morning. The kids ranged from 3 to 6 years old and there were always things to do. We taught them how to write their names, recognize colors and shapes and played various games. If you choose to stay for a longer time you get the opportunity to bond more closely with the children.
In the afternoon, we either organized after school play and homework in Masiphumelele Library or in a foster home. I really loved the idea of giving the kids a safe place to go instead of being alone at home or hanging around in the streets. These kids were older than my morning kids, so I had several conversations about school and their wishes for the future which was really awesome. Once they finished their homework a merciless round of UNO or football would usually follow.
The evenings and weekends were full of hikes, shopping trips, tours, days at the beach and so much more (winter in South Africa was more fun than at home!). During my time volunteering in South Africa, I used every minute of my free time to see everything in Cape Town and the surrounding area. The city is full of places that are connected to its history such as Robben Island and the District Six Museum. It is also very beautiful and one thing I know is that I have to come back! Cape Town, you got me!
I met a lot of interesting and open minded people such as the staff members, volunteers, teachers, kids or random strangers in the streets. I was inspired by the staff members who were there doing the job they loved and not the one that offered them the most money. I found friends among the volunteers that challenged me and taught me that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what your culture is, which job you have or how old you are – having fun together counts the most! After an amazing trip, I was suddenly standing at the airport spending my last Rands and realized how sad I was to be leaving this amazing country. I took one last look around and thought about all my experiences and the wonderful people I met and knew that I would be back!