“I went to conduct primary research for my Anthropology dissertation and degree. The dissertation was titled ‘Bearing Witness to Child Rape: negotiating adult perceptions of childhood in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa’.
This formed an essential credit for my final degree mark at St Andrews University.”
How long were you with them?
“The first time I came across Vocational Impact’s South Africa project when we visited the ‘Tree Clinic’ as part of a larger trip around South Africa. I returned to learn more and understand the culture, the need for the project and to research my dissertation for six weeks.”
Has this decision affected your onward career choices? Understanding of life? How?
“Working with the women, staff at the project made me want to do similar work and ignited my interest in child protection. It definitely shaped my academic choices and my career aspirations. I now work in a large charity, working in the fundraising and development department.
What did your volunteering work consist of? What were your highlights? Day-to-day look like?
“Volunteering at the Vocational Impact project is unlikely to be consistent due to the nature of the work. In my experience I spent time at police stations, in courtrooms, at the hospital, the tree clinic, Saturday support group, the volunteer house and in the main office.
I worked with the staff and everyday I helped look after two little girls who were in the project’s care at the time. I would help get them ready for school, they would eat with us, we would help with homework and we would put them to bed. I also went to a fundraising event.”
“With only a six week research period I didn’t spend my weekends away from the project although other volunteers did take some time to explore. The work at the project is challenging and emotionally draining but the people you work with are amazing and getting to know them and learning from them is definitely the highlight.”
What were your expectations before starting? Did these match up to your experience when you finished?
“I had some idea of the Vocational Impact project’s work after having been to the community project and an understanding of the context as a result of research for my dissertation. I didn’t really go with set expectations, I knew it would be hard and I knew it would be challenging but I don’t think you will ever be fully prepared for that sort of experience. The experience definitely changed me, I’m not sure you could come away from it entirely unchanged.”
Why should someone chose to volunteer with Vocational Impact? Who do you think is most suited to spend time in South Africa?
“Vocational Impact’s South Africa project, in my opinion, is an incredible project to volunteer with. Those who practice or are studying social work, counselling, psychology, child development, youth work or anthropology, I believe can gain a lot from this experience.
Working within a different cultural framework, understanding the challenges of that environment and learning how the project works to overcome them can deepen your understanding of a subject and enable you to broaden your approach to it.”
In your opinion, should people volunteer abroad? Why?
“As an anthropologist I think that we can learn a lot from other cultures and think that as a result volunteering abroad can enhance the experience. I am incredibly aware of the critical and ethical concerns and agree that some volunteering can have a negative impact. But the right people in the right projects can have a positive impact for all involved. I think volunteering must always be sustainable and should never be approached ethnocentrically.”
Would you like to Volunteer with us or know more? Understand how to apply your university degree to help others?
Questions? Would you like to participate? That’s great – feel free to email us or call/whatsapp us on: +44 (0) 7704 129 816
Alternatively, complete an application to begin the process of volunteering, and we’ll be in touch with more details!