Reflections on being a volunteer in South Africa

I was asked to reflect on my life as a volunteer worker in South Africa for Urban Kids Educentre and Urban Life Church.

I’ve volunteered in many different places in the world. I’ve built houses in Mexico, taught Sunday School in Siberia, and acted in a Gospel presentation on the streets of Northern Ireland. And now I’ve been living life as a volunteer in South Africa for 18 months and have just applied to extend my stay for at least 3 more years.

I was thrown in the deep end when I came to South Africa. You can read books and talk to people who stress being flexible to expectations but the reality of it can be very difficult sometimes. I arrived on a Wednesday, visited the school on Thursday and Friday afternoon was in tears as I faced the reality of having a class of my own on Monday. A class full of wonderful and challenging children. I had different teaching practices to get used to. New language to learn. New coworkers to get to know. Let alone figuring out life in South Africa. I was overwhelmed as my jet lagged brain tried to cope and face the reality of a whole new life here.

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But that didn’t last forever. I’ve enjoyed the children here – even if they can be a handful sometimes! I have wonderful new friends in the people I work with everyday.  I’ve cried, I’ve laughed, I’ve learnt and grown. I came expecting to only teach in the classroom for 4 months and that has turned into 18 months and more. I’ve also been helping with media at the church, teaching youth, doing computer training, and more. I’ve been on safari’s, attended weddings and funerals, been to baby showers and birthday celebrations. I’ve even fallen in love with an amazing man here.

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I have invested my life in South Africa and I’m giving it my all. I’m not thinking: “I’m going to be gone someday, so I shouldn’t do too much”, but I’m pouring my life out to the community around me with all that I’ve got.I just glanced through all my blog posts since I’ve been here. I’ve grown so much. Been through so much. The biggest thing I’ve learned during my time here, is the importance of reaching out and relying on other people around you. I was very self-sufficient back home in San Francisco. I could take care of myself and my needs. But here, I have learned I need to include people in on my life, and how I’m feeling and what needs I may have. It’s an ongoing lesson, that even last week I struggled with as I faced difficulties involving extending my visa renewal.Being a volunteer worker is a great privilege. I love blessing the people around me and sharing with family and friends back home all that is happening in this country across the world. It’s amazing to be making differences in the lives of children. I’m so thrilled to have built new friendships here.

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I value being involved in teaching the youngest child their colours and shapes and then the next day teaching a women in the township how type a document on a computer.

Life is amazing and I am so blessed!

By Kjaere Friestad. You can follow her blog here: https://inqaba.wordpress.com/

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About Us

Botshabelo was born, in 2000, out of a burning passion for the community and its desperate need for a place of safety, support and resources. The Babies Home, Urban Kids Educentre and offices are located on the 20 acre property of 64 on Main, Midrand. From this base we serve the community of Olievenhoutbosch and surrounds through our Early Childhood Development programme (UpliftED Training Programme). Botshabelo is passionate about transforming children’s lives through excellent education and residential care.

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