I was working as a sales manager when my life changed forever, when I was caught in the middle of a life changing event, which nearly cost me my life.
This life changing event made me lose interest in making money and living a life with no meaning so after a few months of recovery I made contact with Vocational Impact and learned about their projects in South Africa and asked if I could help.
My sabbatical with Vocational Impact was for a year and can honestly say that in that year I learnt a lot about myself and my capabilities in dealing with some tragic situations.
I witnessed how the team at the project have such a positive impact on the children we rescued, and how love and empathy drive them in their fight.
The activism that the staff have instilled in the organisation inspires the police, prosecutors, magistrates, government officials, ordinary citizens and the international community supporting the project.
I started off as a driver for the project, taking staff to cases while also doing callouts. I progressed in the organisation as a project coordinator, and one of my roles was to work with volunteers in developing community outreach projects.
One particular project we set up was the Beach Project, developed as a pilot for the 2010 World Cup. We created safe zones where lost or vulnerable children could come to us for help.
During festive seasons in South Africa, thousands of people flock to the beaches and amongst those are hundreds of children who are either displaced or sexually assaulted/raped/preyed upon by sexual predators.
Our mission was to create a safe environment where children could come to as well as having enough volunteers to patrol areas working alongside law enforcement as well as collaborating with other role players.
The Vocational Impact international volunteers played a vital role in the project and assisted us on the ground locating parents of lost children, comforting distressed children, identifying potential predators.
We were actually able to arrest a paedophile. We noticed he was taking photos of young girls which struck as strange so we tipped off the authorities and he ended up being arrested. They got the camera off him and found it had some very explicit images.
There was one case of a young man who had been deemed mentally insane by the police because he’d been running away for two days. When I got the call I went to the police station and it I only took me a few minutes to realise he had been sexually assaulted.
It turned out he had been molested by his stepfather and there was no legal framework to recognise rape between males so we actually had to deal with a very sympathetic police officer but that says a lot about the system in South Africa.
I was dealing with a lot of domestic abuse cases so I spoke to the staff and told them that I wanted to start my own organisation. I went ahead and called it Kids in Conflict – we did victim mediation in domestic violence cases, assessing what the problems actually were and working out solutions.
It wasn’t so much a problem for me because I went to school in South Africa so I knew the language quite well but even so, the staff were bilingual in English and Zulu.
Also, there’s the ‘Bear‘ which is just amazing to witness how much good it does in these abuse cases – you don’t need to speak English the child will understand what the bear is and use it to communicate.
Any parting words for potential sabbatical workers?
As a sabbatical worker you definitely gain a lot both mentally and culturally, working with an organisation such as Vocational Impact as part of such a close-knit family.
A lot of the volunteers I’ve worked with from Holland and the UK I have kept in contact with, you make lifelong friends whilst working in a mentally hard environment, yet it is nothing compared to what the victims themselves have gone through.
It’s also important to respect the culture because a lot of the volunteers just come there and want to change the world without understanding the culture so obviously the training session that the project does with them at the start to go through the do’s and dont’s is very important so it important to respect the different culture when you’re in that country.
Would you like to Volunteer with us or know more?
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!