For as long as I can remember, volunteerism has been a vital part of my existence. Since a little kid, I’ve always been involved in some form of service. Before leaving America, I made a mental pact to continue my passion of service while abroad. In fact, I was even more excited to fulfil this mission because, service looks different everywhere and international volunteering would be new for me. Although I had a late start with my involvement in South Africa, I’ve found a way to give back within my last few weeks here. With the help of the amazing Cape Town CIEE staff, I was quickly arranged with two programs that I’ve been working with regularly. The first is Baphumelele Children's Home in the township of Khayelitsha and the second is with Youth Solutions Africa. Both of my experiences have been great with the two organizations. I appreciate the assistance of the Student Life team at my GI because, both programs match perfectly with my interests.
So Baphumelele… at the orphanage, my role is to generally assist the girls with their homework or help the other house mothers with whatever they need. I enjoy working here because it feels so natural. Some volunteer experiences are very structured and limiting, but Baphumelele allows me opportunity to help where the youth need me, and I feel that’s most important. I genuinely cherish the conversations had and relationships developed with the girls. I feel that I can relate to them and that they appreciate my presence, just as much as I appreciate theirs. My favorite memory was on my first day when I was taught a few hand games and was selected to read in isiXhosa. What I enjoyed most about this was their curiosity and sense of welcome they provided me with. They were so surprised that I could read in their home language (pretty well, I might add) and that I could keep up with their games. I left SO tired but, at the same time so energized to come back. I’m going to miss them the most!
At Youth Solutions I work more behind the scenes, but still am involved in equally important tasks. Youth Solutions is a homeless shelter that works with preparation and rehabilitation for those living there to gain independence. I volunteer mainly in the soup kitchen and interact most with other volunteers. I love Youth Solutions because, I am able to gain a different perspective of South Africa. I work with the homeless population at home and have had some of the most valuable experiences via simple interaction. Youth Solutions and Baphumelele provide me with that.
I was worried after my first few weeks here that I wouldn’t get to coexist and interact with actual South Africans who live outside of tourist locations and predominantly white areas. I value the opportunities I’ve had to learn and teach through volunteerism extremely meaningful. Without them, I don’t think I would have been able to meet my satisfaction of service here. Although my time in Cape Town is coming to an end, I can’t wait to plan my next visit to return and work again with both organizations. They have amazing missions and I’m so grateful to have had opportunity to be apart!
P.S.: I’m attaching their links below, definitely check them out!
Youth Solutions Africa-
Baphumelele Children's Home-