South Africa is Project Trust’s largest country programme; not only does it hold the greatest number of Volunteers but it also offers the most diverse range of projects. Volunteers work in Primary and Secondary Schools, Hospitals, Children’s Homes and in Outward Bound projects. Each placement is strikingly unique. Therefore, it is impossible to define, or to generalise, what a South African placement will entail.

Instead of attempting to do so, we have asked our Volunteers to describe their year in their own words. With only two months left before they return home, our Volunteers reflect on what they’ve experienced, learnt and achieved. Each Volunteer has provided a flavour of what makes their project placement distinctive.

Here is a snapshot of what a year in South Africa might look like for you.

6 Things Alex Learned

“Bethany Home: Place of Safety is a children’s home situated in the township of Ikwezi in Mthatha. It is home to around 80 children from the ages of 0-6 years old who have been orphaned, neglected, abandoned or abused. This home is a place of safety and a home full of love for these kids; all the kids are given everything possible from love and cuddles to big hearty meals. It is an incredible project and has a long history of a close knit family of volunteers, it is also arguably one of the best and most rewarding projects as we are able to work with some of the most disadvantaged but amazing kids.

In the Nursery you’ll be watching the kids learning to walk and beginning to see their brilliant personalities shine through, or you’ll be working with the older kids where you get to run around with them and see how proud they are when they get a sum right or write their name correctly.

It is a home full of happy faces and laughs and we decided that we would give back to this home and paint a wall mural which represents the joy these kids not only bring us but also the community. The wall took a lot of work but with butterflies, flowers, the sun and a tree with the leaves made up of the children’s hands, (so they could get involved too), we feel like we really have brightened up this wall.”
Alex Bell and Zoe Atkinson, Bethany Home

6 Things Alex Learned

“Outward Bound South Africa is truly a once in a life time experience. I know that’s a cliché thing to say but what other project has you travelling South Africa doing rafting, hiking, rock climbing and camping in areas that hardly anyone gets to see? We get to work with a huge range of people here at OB, from nine year olds to sixty year olds, cooperate groups or groups at risk. No matter what someone’s background is, everyone here is prepared to give their all to ensure that their participants learn and develop themselves while on their Outward Bound journey. Living here at Outward Bound is incredible as there is a huge range of cultures between all the staff. Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans or English;, everyone brings something to the table and always with a big smile or laugh.

There is never a typical week here at Outward Bound and that keeps things exciting! One minute we could be doing maintenance around base such as fixing gutters or washing sleeping bags, and then the next we could be working on a course acting as water or abseil support. Safety checks on all the equipment we use is also an important job and any spare time we find we’re always receiving new training so we’re all constantly improving our skill set. A 17km beach run at 6am? Exploring a new location on the lookout for the perfect rock climbing spot? Watching to see if a group’s raft makes it successfully or not across the water? OB really does have it all, but if you are lucky enough to get the opportunity to volunteer here, just make sure you pack a pair of crocs – a must have in any OBSA instructors wardrobe!”
Rachel Egan, Outward Bound

6 Things Alex Learned

“Five months of living in South Africa has shown me how special the rural town of Lady Grey has become to me. The town is filled with everyday treasures, the most beautiful souls, and incredible memories that will hold onto my mind forever. My project in Lady Grey is not just my project but my new home. It is a unique town and the inhabitants are captivated by the musical and artistic talents of the students who live there. My project is special to me because being involved in the Passion Play, teaching the Grade 3 class and being surrounded in a diverse and expressive culture has made me more confident and resilient.”
Kiera Furness, Lady Grey Arts Academy

6 Things Alex Learned

“Why choose South Africa? The diversity is just one of the many reasons to want to pick this as your volunteer location. As you drive down the garden route, you will see a vast variety of scenery just hours apart. The Axium Education Zithulele project specifically is great because the community spirit here makes you feel right at home. The project is also very diverse as we have found we are teaching 5 year olds up until 20 year olds with all the secondary projects we have added on. This project is really what you make of it and you have the freedom to utilize your talents and interests be it music, dance, academia, sport or healthcare with the hospital right next door.”
Fiona Duxbury and Jasmine Peters, Axium Education

6 Things Alex Learned

“The image I had for Boys Town was terrifying. Teenage boys with behavioural issues. They like stealing. They like fighting. They won’t listen to anything I say. Even scarier was the knowledge that there would be boys of my age… how could I possibly cope with that?!? The simple fact is these boys are difficult, and they throw challenges my way every day. But for me … it’s totally worth it. When we push past the differences and the problems in the lives of these kids, they are really just like you or me. They have ambitions and dreams. They have worries and fears. They have good days and they have moody days. There is so much natural talent and ability in the kids but it is often hidden away. Maybe they haven’t had the opportunity to discover it for themselves, or maybe another aspect of their life got in the way. Helping to remove obstacles and bring out these talents is so rewarding.

Although our lives are worlds apart, there are so many moments when the differences are forgotten and we just have fun. Whether it is in the gym dancing to gqom, swimming in the pool or teaching them maths, there is never a dull moment. I have also grown unbelievable amounts. This year has taught me to be a more tolerant and resilient person, and has helped me look at the world through the eyes of others. Boys Town is the best project in the world for me because I can see aspects of myself in each and every boy, and I feel honoured to be able to play a part in helping them reach their full potential.”
John Buchanan, Boys Town Tongaat

6 Things Alex Learned

“Why Helen Bishop Home is special. We work with the most inspiring children every day of the week and they never fail to radiate happiness.  The love we have for the children, that they reciprocate, is unconditional. Watching them grow and develop is a tribute to our own growth as caring and aware individuals.  They have taught us that disability does not define a person.  We’ve lived alongside them for nine months and we are grateful to call them family.  This is why Helen Bishop Home is Special.”
Kirsty McLean, Caitlin Kidd, Holly Buchan and Dahnya Marinelli, Helen Bishop Home

6 Things Alex Learned

“Our project at Lady Grey Arts Academy has definitely emphasised the versatility of this country to me.  There are three main cultural groups and about four languages spoken in the small town of Lady Grey alone, yet they all merge together to form an extremely strong community.  Project Trust is all about diving head first into an entirely different culture and that’s exactly what we’ve been able to do here.  Of course, you will more than likely face a few challenges along the way such as load shedding or water shortages but that’s part of what makes the experience so rewarding!  You will realise that you are able to adapt to these experiences quicker than you thought, as well as being able to empathise with the members of your local community.  It’s been through challenges like these that I have learned to be resilient and realised that actually I’m stronger than I thought!  I love how unique our project is, being able to combine my love for music with teaching children and helping them develop their love for the arts too!  I’m so glad I got to come to South Africa with Project Trust, the vast size of the country as well as the huge levels of diversity means the opportunities you will have throughout your time here are endless!”
Louise Kelly, Lady Grey Arts Academy

6 Things Alex Learned

“It was extremely difficult to choose just one photo to show why SA is such a special place. One reason I think South Africa is particularly special is due to my project; I get to teach and work with a variety of children from a vast range of age groups, getting to know and see each child grow and develop individually. From teaching them in the classroom, to playing sports, to singing and dancing with them. Most importantly each and every child at Thembelihle has the most infectious smile, no matter the circumstance!

South Africa is one of the most amazing places I think I will ever see, from Cape Town and Table Mountain to Coffee bay in the Transkei. The huge variety of nature, landscapes and animals is breathtaking. The diversity in culture is also incredible to see and learn about. South Africa will show you one extreme to another. South Africa is the place to be.”
Ellie Patel, Thembelihle