- Leeds University Psychology student shares her volunteer abroad psychology placement experience in South Africa
- First impressions of the centre in South Africa and the psychological work they do with child abuse, protection and rescue.
- No day is the same at the Psychology programme in South Africa at the Durban project.
- Observing the success of the project and staff in law Courts.
- Learning about the community outreach programmes and the psychology impacts in the area.
We caught up with one of our volunteers, a second-year Leeds University, psychology student, Emily.
Emily explained that project is a centre based in South Africa for young victims of sexual abuse, in which volunteers helped the children with their pre and post-school routines whilst simultaneously helping with the local community.
Emily described it as “the most amazing trip ever.” She went to the project in South Africa for three weeks. When we asked about her impressions of the centre itself, she said; “it might seem daunting at first but they’re so welcoming. Their work is tied mainly around sexual abuse and working with children, but they are such a huge part of the community, everyone comes to the centre.”
Emily recalls one incident specifically: “we worked with a couple whose child the project had helped, and even though it had all been sorted, they had kept up the association with them to help them get over drug addiction.
They were such a nice couple and the project staff wanted to try to get them to rehab even though it’s not their specialisation. It happened and they even paid for them to go. It was really amazing. That’s one of my highlights, I think. I would say that there are so many different things to experience. It’s not just children, they get you involved in everything and you’ll always feel a part of the team, you feel like you’re a top priority to them, it’s really special.”
“There was a focus on uplifting mothers and women, educating women and promoting women’s rights.”
TYPICAL VOLUNTEER DAY
When asked to describe a typical day during her trip Emily said, “it’s actually really hard to describe because there are no typical days as such. The craziest things happen every day. We lived at the volunteer house, which is the main rescue centre, so towards the end, we had six kids living with us so we would wake up to screaming children in the morning.
We’d go down and everybody would already be there. It was very chill, it was very relaxed really, we’d go to the office and chat about the day ahead. Then it depended on the day, you’d either travel to different centres or courts, hospitals and schools. Towards the end, we just spent a lot of time in the house looking after the kids.
“They didn’t know what a pillow was. They couldn’t believe that a toilet flushed, they didn’t know what toilet roll was. You wouldn’t get that experience here in the UK.”
Emily was able to see one of the largest abuse cases the project had ever seen. The children arrived at the centre from the extremely poor conditions in which they had been staying previously. “They were in the most awful conditions, we needed to get them into the volunteer house.
When we first arrived, they didn’t know what a pillow was, they just didn’t get it. They just couldn’t believe that a toilet flushed, they didn’t know what toilet roll was, it was really sad and it put everything into perspective for me. When I first heard they were coming I was so happy. They were the best part of the trip, it was stressful but I didn’t care. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help. That last week, it was like 24-hour care, that was the best thing because we really felt we made a difference. The six kids were a massive part of our trip.”
“You’ll always feel a part of the team, you feel like you’re a top priority to them, it’s really special. You’d either travel to different centres or courts, hospitals and schools.”
VOLUNTEER MEMORABLE MOMENTS
When we asked Emily to highlight some more memorable aspects of her stay, she said; “I think for me it was the courts, they were so interesting. It was so shocking really to be in that environment, it was so strange, the lawyers were just chatting with each other, everything was just so laid back. It’s just such a difficult situation, but it was fascinating really. You would never get that experience here in the UK.
One hugely powerful moment for me was when this guy was sentenced to like 200 years in prison for rape and murder. All the victims and family and friends all burst into tears and were so happy, and when outside they chanted and sung Zulu songs, it was such a powerful moment. You could see the hurt that they had all experienced from this one man. We also went to police stations and talked to them about doing talks in schools. The police spoke about past talks and how successful they were. They had a lot of success stories about action happening after their talks because from that point the children would be educated about what rape was whereas before they wouldn’t have been.”
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