How much money do you think I will need to bring? How much do you think food, travel etc. cost?
This is dependent on what you would like to do around your volunteer programme. There are options to go on a Durban night tour, Tala the local game reserve (safari). There are also options to go to a local Zulu church, street market, township. These will all be relatively cheap. I would say £200 extra per month. Regarding food, there is a supermarket next to Bobbi Bear HQ, so base this on your current daily food budget.
Is it still possible for me to visit friends/adventure away from Bobbi Bear during my programme?
Yes. Operation Bobbi Bear can offer advice on day trips and how to visit places you may wish to go. We will help you plan your itinerary. We would like to highlight that as a volunteer, your time is very precious to the Bobbi Bear team. If you want to travel further afield/throughout South Africa, this may best be done, before your programme/after.
Should I organise anything else to do with my time or will I be occupied most of the time?
You will be busy, but the nature of the charity means that sometimes you will have free time to yourself. Operation Bobbi Bear is an emergency rescue centre, so it can be hard to predict when you will be very busy, and when you will have some down time. Our advice is to expect the unexpected and be flexible.
The average week is usually busy in the mornings, and then more quiet in the afternoons/evenings. There may be children living at the house with you, and there will be morning and night requirements. Helping them up, have breakfast and general playing. Then Friday and Saturday will be ‘The Tree’ and the community projects. Therefore we ask if you do want to arrange trips, in the week is a better time.
Do we know yet what I’ll be doing while I’m at Bobbi Bear? Is there a set plan or is it more of a day-by-day schedule?
We can give a rough plan but there may be changes. You will go with staff on cases to support victims at the police station and hospitals. You will visit townships and victims for post- trauma counselling. There will be an element of routine, but there will also be times where everyone has to jump in the cars and attend emergency situations. There may or may not be children staying at the house, so this will depend on the time you are there.
Go to emergency call-outs and support the Operation Bobbi Bear Child Safety Officers (CSOs) throughout the abuse cases that come in during your programme.
Visit local police stations, hospitals and the High Court to assist with trauma recovery and support victims throughout the process.
Be closely involved with the rescued children when they come to the rescue centre, and/or support on site where the case is attended too on location, this will include comforting them, counselling them and loving them, using your experience and knowable working in this field.
During your stay you will shadow the Bobbi Bear staff and support where needed. You will give guidance, listen and learn about the different cultures and policies within them.
You will gain insight and experience the social welfare system of South Africa
You will participate in lectures at rural schools to raise awareness about sensitive issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse and sex education through the use of the ‘Edu-Toy’
Attend ‘The Tree’ clinic and help develop outreach programmes that bring rural communities together to share stores and empower women and children.
You will learn about the ‘Bobbi Bear bear’ a toy used to support the case building from first contact to prosecution.
Are there any projects that you would specifically like me to raise awareness of in the follow up to my trip?
One of the most useful things you can do is document your experience. How you are feeling before and during your programme, what you are hoping to gain, what were your biggest challenges, what gaps for improvement are you able to see?
A Bobbi Bear diary is a great way to remember your programme too.
Your experience and story will become key in future volunteers supporting the work of Bobbi Bear. Volunteer Invest can provide guidelines for this, week by week to help you record your time with Bobbi Bear. Another very useful thing to do is tell your network and community about your experience through social media. Don’t forget to use our #volunteerinvest so we can share.
Is there anything specific you think I need to bring other than basic necessities? Eg does Bobbi Bear have any particular clothing policy? Is there anything I shouldn’t bring for security reasons or is the house fairly secure?
The house is very secure. We advise volunteers to take some long skirts, for example, the Zulu church requires long skirts to be worn by the women. It can be hot in the summer, so dress for this. There is aircon, so do take cardigans. Also, July is their winter, so trousers, shoes and jumpers. You will also be provided a Volunteer Invest T-shirt.
How are volunteers trained? What is the process?
We assess each application separately, looking at their reasons and motivations. We are approaching phycology students and therapy courses because of the nature of the South Africa project at Bobbi Bear. We don’t want to decide for people, only giving them the core information and allowing them to decide if it’s right for them. We aren’t a big company we are a small charity looking to build a sustainable model in the charity sector and offer reliable income for the Arms Around the Child projects on the ground in India, Ghana and South Africa. We will keep our size small to stay personable at all times. We want to build a community of like- minded people, who want to gain and give in different ways.
During your stay, you will be given orienteering and training with the staff on the ground. These are people who have been dedicated and working with the projects for a considerable time.
How do you maintain a relationship with the organisation after your volunteer programme is complete?
Many of the volunteers have such a life changing experience that they want to help share their stories, which we put on our blog, and send out to out networks via email. We believe the experience will be so powerful that word of mouth will enhance the volunteer numbers. An organic growth process is our aim.
Do returned volunteers recruit new volunteers?
This isn’t intentional, but it happens. We don’t force anything onto our volunteers. If they want to tell their story, and share then of course we will support this. But it’s not an aim, more of a coincidence. The nature of the programme means that we do have repeat volunteers and referrals. We love expanding the community of like-minded people.
What are the programme outcomes for the volunteer and partner organisations?
The volunteers will gain valuable experience working with vulnerable children and communities. They will experience the inside workings of a busy charity on the ground saving and supporting children affected by austerity. They will gain valuable perspective on different cultures and customs.
For the organisation, they gain a stable income to support their work, doing what they do, and not have to worry about how to turn on the lights or feed themselves. They also gain physical support and they learn a great amount from international volunteers. You can see interviews with all the project founders on our YouTube channel, talking about the impact to their organisations from receiving international volunteers.
How are you supporting volunteers whilst on site?
We have volunteer coordinators at all sites and we are in constant communication with them while they are there. We know the teams on the ground very well and they too give us daily updates. We do everything we can to help them have an amazing time, knowing they are supported. But we are also aware that we don’t want everything to be too processed. We are here to help guide the whole process, from early engagement, during, and after.