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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 

Volunteers' Stories

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MELANIE GREEN
British

Teaching Drama to Underprivileged Children on a voluntary placement in Knysna, South Africa
         

I wanted to send you a small note to say a huge thank you for helping me to have an amazing trip. I absolutely loved every minute of it!

Once I got passed the initial culture shock, it was amazing! I decided to mainly teach the older end of the school (grade 7, 11- 15 yr olds), as these children can speak the best English, and, as I was wanting to teach drama, it was more appropriate. Grade 7 have a lesson called Art and Culture, and the teacher was away on maternity leave, so I took over from a past volunteer, Katy and continued to teach these classes, with help from the 2 other volunteers, Aarti and Becky.

At first me and Katy taught quite a bit on music from around the world, which was really good fun. Those kids can really dance! Then I focused quite a lot on "performing" and what was involved in performances. All these lessons lead to an amazing talent show which was held in the last week of our placement. We had rehearsed a lot throughout the weeks before in class time, but mostly after school, with acts such as gospel singing, kwaito and pop dancing, rapping, gumbance dancing and acting sketches!

 Although very stressful, by the time the kids knew what they were doing and we'd hired the big sound system, it was fantastic! We also charged the affordable fee of 2 rand to watch so we fundraised money for the school. I have so many amazing memories of the school. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, especially because I got close to a lot of the kids. I’ve got a book full of messages from Grade 7, and they're lovely souvenirs. All the staff were fantastic too, and we enjoyed a few cocktails in Chilli Groove bar when we left!!

Past volunteers told me about a soup kitchen that was set up in a small house in one of the townships, and we went along to help one day. It was heart breaking to see so many kids, hungry and dirty, but with the biggest smiles on their faces. I automatically felt committed and continued to go when the 2 volunteers went home. The soup - side of things was only the first 15 minutes or so, when we would hand out bread and fill their little chipped cups up with soup. The rest of the time, we spent dancing, singing, playing games, skipping and having a real laugh with them. They were so cute, ranging from 2 years old to 18. They were all so curious of us at first, which is understandable, but once they realised we were there to help, they really warmed to us! They'd talk to us about their days at school, what they enjoyed doing, who they "fancied", ask us questions about ourselves, or some would just sit on you and stroke your skin and hair or just dance and sing! After about a week, they were calling us their best friends!

It was such a brilliant experience and again, it was so hard to leave. We got close to a lot of them, especially the older ones, as they'd come and chat to us and ask advice on boys/girls and it was like having a friend from home with us!!

When we left, Benji (the guy who runs it), was telling us about a creche he is wanting to set up, linked with the soup kitchen and I would love to go back to see how its going. And of course how could I forget to mention Newton Street! The house I was living in was fantastic and so much fun! Everyone was so nice and our regular Friday nights out in town certainly did bring us closer together!! I loved staying in the house, and the lifts to school every morning with Jim and the food Pauline cooked and talking to Julie (our excellent cleaner) everyday after school. It all added to my brilliant time in South Africa! I would definitely recommend it to other potential GAP year takers!

It definitely was a real culture shock for me and it has changed my life for the better! I see things in England very differently and can't wait to get back out there! I'm still in touch with a lot of the friends I made out there. Teachers from the school, pupils from the school and a few of the older ones at the soup kitchen, via air mail, texting and emailing.

It really was the best experience I’ve had and I am already planning to go back next year in my uni summer vacations, if you'll have me!! I made some really good friends in the house as well who I am planning to meet up with within the next few weeks! So thanks again and can't wait to get in touch to plan my next placement!

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DRAMA &  MUSIC PROJECTS in South Africa
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