Jenny Ferris

Jenny Ferris is a teacher on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada. She took a group of ten youth to volunteer in August 2011. Jenny grew up in South Africa, and lived in England and New Zealand. When she is not teaching in the classroom, she is guiding groups from a kayak in the wilderness or sailing. Her teaching career has been eclectic and spans from the visual and performing arts to the humanities and environmental sciences.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Edge of Africa in South Africa?

Jenny: Our school promotes global service initiatives. I decided to take a group of youth to South Africa and I went online to see if there was a non-profit organization we could help. I found the Edge of Africa website. I proceeded to investigate the possibilities of us connecting with the company.

Describe your day-to-day activities as a volunteer.

Measuring mosquito fish

Jenny: Our group of 10 volunteers and two adults were engaged in conservation initiatives every day. Our students were guided in the preparation of lessons to present to children in schools in the Knysna area, which was followed by them interacting with the local children in hands-on experiences and teaching about the need for conservation and environmental awareness.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

Jenny: The experience changed the attitude of all our youth towards the discrepancy between the abundance they live in and the reality of poverty. It also highlighted the wealth of joy present for some who lack the wealth of material assets. I suggest that all volunteers should be open to new perspectives of life, and appreciate that we do not all have the same values or beliefs, but this diversity makes our experiences richer.

How has this experience impacted your future?

Jenny: Two of our youth are from South Africa, and I know that their lives will be altered forever as a result of their experience with the projects. I hope that they will engage in future similar projects. I would welcome continued opportunities to take groups to Knysna and have them engage in the rich experiences that Edge of Africa has to offer. Unfortunately, we live on the other side of the planet, and the cost of travel is very high, so I cannot promise how often we could return. If I had my druthers, I would take groups every year.