As I stepped off the plane in Cape Town, the warm summer air hit my face and utter disbelief set in. I was in South Africa. I shuffled through baggage claim wondering what I was doing. I set off to participate in a volunteer project, but I don’t think I had any idea what that actually meant, or how it would change me.
My volunteer coordinator, Kate, from African Impact took me on an introductory drive through the Cape to show me where I would be working. Helping teachers in a pre-school in Masiphumelele, painting a wall in Oceanview, providing some much needed assistance at a pre-school in Redhill, feeding children before school in Capricorn, and playing with kids at a safe house in Noordhoek. My eyes were opened to the warmth of the people and the need in the Western Cape.
I read books, taught classes, wiped noses, and painted very straight lines and magical flowers. I danced and sang, broke-up fights, pushed swings, and raced spare tires. But really I met people, like Jackie, a 4-year-old from Masiphumelele. At first, you saw a little girl who would pick fights with the boys and rip kids from swings. Then you noticed at snack time she didn’t have anything, and then at naptime she gave the sweetest hugs and that tough exterior melted away. Uncle Donovan is the man who runs a safe house for 15 children almost entirely on his own. He was once a wealthy man, but then saw the need to provide a safe place for children to live. The government only supports six, but he doesn’t care about the financial burden. He only sees the precious lives he’s saving.
At the end of the week the disbelief set back in, but this time it’s because I was done. Eight days is enough time to fall completely in love with the people of Cape Town, but it is not enough time to spend with them. I will miss the dirty hands and runny noses that greeted me every morning, and African time…oh how I will miss the slower, sweeter pace of life.
And, that my friends is why I volunteer.
Have your own experience here.