After a fabulous and busy trip to Cape Town, I’d like to share my experience and encourage others to volunteer abroad!
Although many people on the teaching project teach English, as a music student I was thoroughly interested in being placed within a school that could use help in that area. I phoned the Projects Abroad head office and they found a placement completely suited to me.
My host family lived just down the road from my placement and 6 other volunteers stayed at the same house (3 of those were placed in the same school as me so we walked together every day). I could not have asked for a better host family to look out for me. They treated me like family from the minute I arrived; giving me advice on where to visit, how to travel around, cooking me fantastic Capetonian meals every night, and of course my 5-year-old host sister keeping me company throughout my stay!
My placement mostly involved taking choir and band rehearsals, as academic music was not taught in most schools due to budget cuts. I therefore made the most of it, arranging a song by Jason Mraz to teach the main school choir. By the end of the month, the choir had learnt the song by heart and performed it to Projects Abroad staff, causing me to well up with pride. (If you would like to have a listen to the end result click, on this link: https://soundcloud.com/jessicanorton14/i-wont-give-up-hyde-park)
Even during break and lunchtimes, myself and other volunteers at the school found that we were never left alone by the kids! They would always be asking us questions about our life back home, how long we were staying, and occasionally I found myself being asked whether I would eventually marry one of the other volunteers.... (it didn’t help that Brian, the other volunteer involved in this rumor, would agree with them and start describing the ceremony...!)
As our placement finished at about 3:30pm each day, myself and the other volunteers in my house would explore Cape Town every afternoon, taking a minibus taxi to the train station. The forms of transport out there were so familiar to us in such a short time, and on our induction we were told an easy way to tell which minibus taxis we should use. They usually came by our road every 10 minutes. Although we didn’t hit the town hard every night, we did go out just before each volunteer left to give them a proper send off, and for this our host family suggested a private taxi driver that they had used for years, so no matter where I went, or when, I always felt safe.
Throughout the planning and the trip itself, Projects Abroad staff really were fantastic. The personal webpage was invaluable, giving me all the information I needed including who I would be living with and a bit about my placement. I was called by a staff member in South Africa the day before I left to make sure I didn’t have any last-minute worries or queries, and at the airport I was greeted by a member of staff to take me straight to my host family.
If you are thinking of traveling abroad, I would thoroughly recommend Projects Abroad; they care about each and every one of their volunteers and will make sure you have the best time on your placement. Not only that but you meet people from all corners of the globe in the same situation as you. You make friends for life on these trips, and will have experiences that will stay with you for the rest of your life. I will always have a place in my heart for the people and places I experienced whilst volunteering, and I hope you grab the opportunity to do the same!