My trip to Cape Town, South Africa was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. From the moment my wonderful project coordinator greeted me with a warm welcome as I got out of the van, I knew I was in the right place.
My orientation to the projects began the next day, when my project manager took me around to all the different sites where volunteers could potentially be placed. I was introduced to all the teachers at the schools, and well informed of the great work that is being done at the projects in each different township. As we drove along the cliff-side to the school I later chose to work at, we approached a wondrous view of the white sandy beaches and blue-green ocean water; it took my breath away.
Volunteering at the school every day was always something I looked forward to, as every time I walked into the classrooms, the babies would run up to me and give me a group hug while shouting with excitement! What an amazing experience to start your day with. We would then sing songs and learn from books, go outside and play, and I would have a chance to teach the older children for an hour, a lesson of something I had prepared the night before, followed by a craft or activity to enhance their understanding of the concepts. It gave me so much joy to watch them get involved with the lessons and see how much fun they were having.
Each day was so special getting to know the caring teachers and all the children. On one of the days, we were offered a tour through the township. This was with no doubt, a humbling experience. That day gave me a chance to really learn about all the struggles the community has been through and where they stand today. This opportunity significantly impacted my perspective of the culture in South Africa, and gave me a true understanding of how the scars of apartheid are reflected through individuals and communities that were caught in the struggle, and how important it is for volunteers to support sustainable development, and advocate for peace and equality.
My time at the Over 30’s Cape Town Community Aid program was split up in such a way that allowed me to experience many facets of my volunteer experience, and contribute in so many different ways. Twice a week, the volunteers and I would wake up early and be driven to a township 20 minutes away for a feeding program, run by a very caring man at the township’s church. One little girl came up to me on the last day I was there and said “Is your name Ashley? You’ve been here a few weeks now. Thank you.” I was touched that she had noticed me there. We talked for a bit, and I found out a little bit more about her. It was that moment that I realized what an impact volunteers can really have on the children’s lives. I knew how hard it was going to be to leave this place.
Besides the dedicated volunteering I was able to participate in at the projects, we were able to have a lot of fun on the weekends as well, exploring Cape Town and getting to know the local culture. Driving out to Stellenbosch, a group of girls and I sampled wines at three different wineries, complimented by astonishing views and excellent service! We then finished our day with a tasty cheese platter at a local restaurant in the town before heading back to the guest house.
I could go on and on about how brilliant this trip was, as it was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had, and the memories will always bring a smile to my face. I feel so much gratitude for the support I received before, during, and after my trip from the organizations involved, and I am so excited to embark on another journey like this one in the near future.