Volunteer in South Africa – Teach Children and Surf in Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa
“I want to see the world”
That is what I said to myself after my summer break, where I had met a lot of new international friends in a 2-week summer school. “I want to go traveling, as far and often as possible. Especially now, that I still have the time.” That is easier said than done: My name is Jonathan and I am a 17 year old high school student from Switzerland. Obviously, my financial resources are rather small and traveling as a minor is not easy.
And still, I managed to spend two of my three weeks of fall break in South Africa, where I acted as a teacher in one of Cape Town’s Townships, having the time of my life. I chose GoEco because it was the one organization I could find that offered volunteering projects for minors at a very reasonable price and a short duration, which were all crucial points for me.
I applied for the program just 4 weeks before it started and did not really expect to be accepted. Fortunately, the GoEco-staff was very supportive and helped me get on the project in time.
When I arrived in Cape Town, I was positively surprised by how welcoming not only the staff but also the volunteers were. I had no problems at all finding new friends and engaging with everybody around. The average age was about 21, even though there were exceptions with ages ranging up to 65! I was immediately briefed on the project and on what to expect from it and never felt lost at all. When I finally got to the school on Monday, the first thing that struck me was seeing the Dunoon Township where it was located. Even though I had seen similar slums in the news a number of times, being there and seeing how these people had to live still sent shivers down my spine.
All the more I was surprised by how happy and open the kids in the school, which were around age 6, seemed to be. They immediately ran up to me and started hugging me. I want to add that I felt totally safe at all times, even though the not only the Townships but Cape Town in general is not the same as Europe when talking safety. The local staff did a great job telling us what to pay attention to and what to do and what not to stay safe.
In the school, our job was to teach the children basic skills in phonetics, math and so on. Even though the infrastructure of the school was quite good, it unfortunately did not have any teachers. That meant that the kids relied on us teaching them, which came with great responsibility but also made me feel like I genuinely improved their life and helped them. I was fortunate to share my class with a volunteer who actually is a teacher back in England where she is originally from.
The children did not have school the second week I was there because of their holidays. So instead of teaching, we spent the days with older kids from a different school doing fun stuff like going to a water park or ice skating.
On two afternoons, we went surfing. I had never been before and enjoyed learning it very much. Other than that, we, the volunteers, took several trips on the weekends to see Cape Town and to have fun together. The atmosphere in general was very friendly and lively.
Back in Switzerland looking back on my time in Cape Town, I must say that it was an unbelievable experience and that I am very happy to have gone there on my own. I certainly recommend it to everybody, no matter the age or gender, and look forward to taking more volunteering trips, perhaps again with GoEco. – Jonathan