- Oxford University Student Shares Her Volunteer Abroad Story. With an interest in Criminology, Human Rights and International Development she shares her typical day volunteering.
- Talks about her experience visiting the courts and working along-side local staff on child-abuse and trauma cases
- Top lawyers and police calling staff to seek professional advice
- Reflections on school talks, court visits, switching her focus after volunteering. And spending more time working directly with international charities
- Would recommend volunteering with Vocational Impact to friends university students.
We spoke with fourth-year Oxford University Classics student Molly after she returned from volunteering with our project partner in Durban, South Africa.
Molly described to us what a typical day at the centre which deals with young victims of sexual abuse was like.
VOLUNTEERS VISITING LAW COURTS
“That was pretty incredible, I loved court stuff. Before I went to the courts I did talks in schools and we had so many girls come up and give their statements to us. We knew what happens initially when a case opens but we didn’t know how it ended or where it went from there. Going to the court was the perfect follow up to that.
It was a trial of a man who had been accused of rape and it turned out he knew the victim so it was intense. He was let out on bail. It was really interesting but also a really harrowing moment in the two weeks because it showed how people fell through the cracks. Also, that he was allowed to walk free. That was pretty hard.
All of the pretty difficult stuff was made better by having Mildred with us. The judge and the legal differences felt pretty depressing at times. Being given access to the front seat in the court was such an experience. They’re quite small so you’re right in the middle of it and Mildred is such a big figure that you get in all the interesting situations.”
“All the volunteers would get up quite early to get the children up out of bed, change nappies and get everyone off to school. There was always at least one other person in the house helping us out in the mornings because it was a little chaotic. We’d have a bit of time to have breakfast ourselves and then around 8:30 we’d get picked up. Shadowing Mildred was the best. We’d go around the police stations and courts and helped out with whatever she was doing. We’d normally get back around 5 pm and look after the kids when they came home from schools. We would do bath times and homework and play with them and then they’d be in bed by eight.”
VOLUNTEERS WORKING WITH LOCAL STAFF
“I’m slightly in love with Mildred, she’s so kind and encompassed all the right ways to do charity work. She wasn’t jaded but she knew the realities. She did everything in such a warm way. We followed her around and she just had everybody. The head of the police force and the main lawyer were calling her all the time asking for help because she has such an authority on everything.
She doesn’t stop, she spends the day campaigning for people’s rights and then she goes home to the 23 children she’s taken in. Probably one of the most impressive people that I’ve ever met. She was the perfect example of someone who can break the cycle of abuse.”
VOLUNTEERS GIVING SCHOOL TALKS
“This was really fun. It was nice having the other volunteers at that point because I’m not a massive fan of public speaking. It was actually so relaxed. It was cool because they were so responsive to what we were saying and so happy that we’d come all this way to talk to them. They wanted to speak to us the whole time afterwards, they really wanted to engage with us. We were talking about some quite intense stuff with such young children. You find points of similarity with them and you can speak about personal things with them so comfortably. It was a very good way of showing how much abuse and how much crime was going on because after the talks we would hold a drop-in session. We had up to 15-20 children coming in and making statements and reporting things.”
“That was incredible. We had a day there. It was me and Jacky doing the first aid stall and we had a stream of children for about an hour and they were all so malnourished and beaten and had terrible sores so that was the first time I saw how bad the problem was. The second time I went to the Tree they did a Zulu ceremony where they give you your name and that was really lovely and you meet everyone and that was the day before I left so it was a good ending.”
MOST POWERFUL VOLUNTEER MOMENTS
“Just sitting outside the first time we went to the school with some kids I was talking about my sister who was their age and they all wanted to see photos and we were just speaking and earning their trust and then they all gave their statements and we wrote them down.
That was the first time we really connected with the victims and found out so much about their lives and having to write out these quite horrible statements. It was quite touching but also quite upsetting.
On my final night, one of the boys had such terrible social anxiety that he was vomiting with fear before school and it was really hard for him to open up and wouldn’t show any affection. He took me upstairs on the last night and wanted me to put him to bed.
He’d never really shown any affection to his siblings but that night he tucked them all in and then he made me pray with him and made me make a list of all the things that I was happy for and he basically prayed for me to God and it was so unbelievably touching, him listing all the things he was happy for. It was such a step for him wanting affection, it was a big turnaround for him.
It was nice as it was just as I left. They all became such different people in the two weeks I was there. They all changed so much which was so amazing, a lot of powerful moments like that.”