Alumni Spotlight: Kathryn O'Halloran


Kathy is a Strategic Advisor for one of Australia's biggest banks. She has a passion for baking, and couldn't imagine her life without sport.

Why did you choose this program?

African Impact was initially recommended by a friend, and once I started reading up about the Sports and Community Development Project and the flexibility it offered, it sounded perfect. I have always wanted to volunteer overseas and travel to Africa, and this project allowed me to do both. I could draw on my skills and knowledge as someone who loves sport, and then spend some time being a tourist in Africa, admiring the beautiful Victoria Falls.

The website also indicated that I could choose from a variety of activities every afternoon – reading, maths, art clubs, construction work, or “getting your hands dirty at our organic farms." A final reason I chose this program was because I intended to travel with my boyfriend, and having this variety and flexibility in what activities we could choose suited our situation.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

African Impact (AI) made sure to keep me updated and provided all the information I needed. This included information about the area, my arrival, the projects, and daily schedule I'll be following, the necessary vaccinations, what to pack, and how to arrange my Visa. AI organized my transfers to and from the airport, provided accommodation throughout my stay, and provided three meals a day Monday to Friday.

I had to organize flights and travel insurance, and although AI provided the information, it was up to me to get my vaccinations and have my Visa approved.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

I wish I was there longer than three weeks! You spend the first week getting your bearings and getting to know the staff and volunteers. On the second week, you start planning/leading your own lessons and building friendships with the kids and other volunteers. By the third week, you're getting to know the locals, trying their food, and thinking of ways to contribute longer term to the program and community.

I also wish I thought about lessons I could have prepared for and taught either the Girl Impact or Women's Group. There's limited resources (printing, laminating, etc.) once you're over there so it's easier to prepare and bring material over with you especially if you want to give hand-outs. It will also save you from drawing it up once you're there.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

An average day while I was there looked a little different because I was volunteering during their school holidays, but I am so glad I did! A day looked a little like this…

  • 7:00 AM: Wake up, shower, have breakfast (a selection of toast, cereal and something hot like pancakes!)
  • 7:45 AM: Leave for morning activity. Everyone leaves around the same time but goes to different locations. I was on the teaching/sports project, and we were trusted to plan and run our lessons each day.
  • 8:00 AM: We'd arrive at the school and play with the kids. As it was school holidays, any kid from any school could join in so the number of kids varied day to day, but we would have up to 70 at times! We would eventually split the kids into years 1-3 and 4-6. Splitting the kids up made it a lot easier to handle, and allowed both the teaching and sport volunteers to plan their lessons around the expected education/skill level of that group. Half the kids would go inside with the teachers, and half would stay outside to do sport. We would warm up, play games, and focus on a different sport each week such as football, frisbee, and rugby. We'd swap around at 9:45 AM.
  • 11:00 AM: Back in the van to regroup with the rest of the volunteers back at the accommodation for lunch. Lunch could be anything from burgers and chips, to grilled cheese sandwiches and salad, pizza, or wraps! Some people would pop down to the shops to get some snacks or drinks but most of us would hang around (or in) the pool for the afternoon.
  • 1:45 PM: Back on project, everyone would do something different everyday in the afternoon. This ranged from reading, maths, girls tag league, visiting old peoples’ home, adult literacy, farming, Girl Iimpact focusing on Year 6 girls, and more. I loved this because it meant you were always working with different volunteers and seeing a new area of Livingstone.
  • 4:00 PM: We were finished for the day and would again hang out around/in the pool or go up to the markets to haggle for some souvenirs, or have clothes made for us using material we chose.
  • 6:00 PM: Right before dinner, we would prep for the morning activities and then all sit down and have dinner together. I really liked meal time because the wifi couldn't reach where we ate so it meant we all sat without our phones and had proper conversations every meal.

After dinner, there would be group activities such as movie nights, going to watch the sunset, trivia nights, or even beer pong competitions on a Friday.

On Saturday and Sunday, most volunteers tried to fit in as many touristy activities as they could, and being in Livingstone, there was a lot to choose from! Most volunteers would organize something with each other so you were never alone.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not making friends. However, as soon as I arrived at the airport and met four other people that AI were also picking up, my fear was immediately overcome. I knew I was in for a good time, and meeting those volunteers and hearing they were from all over the world got me even more excited for all the friends I was about to make.

How do you think you made the biggest impact?

During morning project, we would have kids come up to us carrying their younger siblings. I felt I made the biggest impact when I offered to take care of the younger siblings so they could join in with the sport program. Their faces would instantly light up, and it was just a really nice moment to let them run around, play games, and “be a kid”!