Recently, we met Charlotte, a York University psychology student pursuing a postgraduate degree.
Charlotte started by telling us what her daily work consisted of:
If it was a school day, you’d get the kids up for school and they’d leave around 6:45ish. Sometimes we left around the same time as them to go and do things. We did a lot of school presentations which involved being out quite early in the morning. We did a lot of going with various CSOs to police stations and the hospital.
Then you’d be back around 2, some of the kids were back from school, some of them didn’t get home until later on. On weekends, we had the community outreach programme ‘The Tree’ on Saturday. Sometimes we’d go out after Tree, we’d go out to lunch or go to the beach, and get home later. Sunday was a bit more chill, not much really happened, but you got to spend time with the kids.
She mentioned that doing the school presentations were her favourite part of the trip and told us a bit more about them:
I did my first presentation with two other volunteers, and that was on teen pregnancy. That was with 14 – 18 year olds, so you had to be culturally minded. A lot of this stuff for us is black and white, we’ve been told it in school since age 10, but for them, it’s almost brand new information. It was really nice, because some of the students were so engaged and they asked a lot of questions.
I really loved the school presentations. I think the first one was a bit nerve-wracking, because the way they have their assemblies with the whole school, so a lot of the things we did were to a lot of kids. So it can be a bit nerve-wracking, but you have to remember that we’re there to educate them and inform them, and what you know, even if you don’t think you know a lot, is always way more than they do. It’s important to still get the message out and go to schools and drill it into them, because then they tell their friends who maybe aren’t at school. So I really loved doing that, it was definitely my favourite bit.
We know that our volunteers go into the experience with certain expectations, so we wanted to know what Charlotte’s expectations were and how her actual time in South Africa lived up to them:
I was really nervous. I was like, “if I keep an open mind, and I don’t put too much pressure on it to be something it won’t, then it’ll be fine”. Obviously I wasn’t aware of the kids. But those kids, the six that were staying there currently, made the experience and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was prepared to take care of kids, but it was six kids from the same family, so it’s very intense while you’re learning it all. But they warm up to you very quickly and they make the experience.
I didn’t put too much expectation on it, I was like “I’ll go and see what happens”. I hoped to do everything at once, and I felt like I got to do everything.
Finally, we gathered Charlotte’s final thoughts on the experience and how she thinks working at Bobbi Bear affected her:
Genuinely, I am a different person now. It changes how you view the world. Now, I’ve definitely solidified what I want to do and I’m 100% sure that working with kids is what I want to do. Literally I feel like I’m a completely different person. It definitely made a massive impact on me, it really did.
“It’s been everything I could have hoped for and more. I think it’s affected me in ways I haven’t even realised yet. I’m doing a postgraduate course, and I know I’m going to use stuff from my experience in South Africa in my dissertation. It’s genuinely been the best experience of my life.”
I’ve graduated, but a lot of the other volunteers were still in school and I think it helps them figure out what they want to do.
“Now I can go into interviews and say this experience has paved the path for me doing what I want to do, this is why I’m doing what I want to do. You don’t get to do this experience in the UK, not without being seriously qualified. You can only observe in the UK, this experience is one of a kind.”
The kids 100% made the experience and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I love those kids and I have so many memories of those kids specifically. I feel like out of all the different the memories that made Bobbi Bear, the ones with those kids were the greatest because they had really, really suffered.
The difference between when I came and when I left, watching them grow in just four weeks, has been incredible and has definitely been the biggest part of the experience because you make such a difference and you get to see that difference right before your eyes. You actually watch them grow because of stuff you were directly doing.
If Charlotte’s experience sounds like something you’re looking for, apply to Bobbi Bear here! We’re always looking for amazing volunteers like Charlotte, maybe you’re the next one!
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