Volunteer Neele joined us back at the very start of 2016, when we first launched our gender equality initiative in Cape Town. A year later, this program has exploded in size and is having a huge impact on the lives of young girls and boys in the township communities outside the city.
As one of the first 3 volunteers to ever join us on this program, she shares with us her experience of kick-starting a new volunteer program and the impact it has had on her life since.
“I've been asked to blog about my experiences with African Impact for a while now, but I’ve only just found enough time to describe all the overwhelming feelings I had while volunteering with African Impact on the Girl Impact project in 2016. Even now, I can remember the excitement I felt on every single day with Girl Impact as if it was yesterday.
When I booked, I was aware Girl Impact was a new project, but as I arrived and was told I was one of the first three volunteers ever, I could see and feel how our faces first dropped… then lit up with even more excitement! My heart started to bounce… I mean we were the ones starting a whole new era. It was kind of scary, because no one really knew what to expect, how exactly things were going to work out, but mostly it was a wonderful feeling to know. We were the ones starting a project that was going to make such a huge impact!
Gender Equality is still not the same level in Africa as it is in most of the countries we volunteers’ come from, but that's what makes this special project so important.
Let me tell you about what you’d be part of as a Girl Impact volunteer:
I never thought English lessons could be so much fun! Working with carers who look after orphaned and neglected children in a care home in Cape Town, you practice English skills which provides them with the skills to better look after the children in their care, as well as communicate with future volunteers.
You will find that not only will you be educating others, but you yourself will also become more educated! You will learn about the backgrounds of all the carers, what amazing work they're doing with the children, and get a sense of what these women have gone through to make them the strong ladies they are today. It will leave you endlessly impressed and will influence your behaviour in tough times. They'll make you laugh, will show you how fun simple things can be and even if you have the feeling they're a bit distanced, let me tell you, they'll be so thankful for every little thing you teach them that will raise their self-confidence.
Then there’s the work we do at a local dance group, which focuses on mentorship and empowering girls and boys of all ages. The work you do with them will give you a strong insight into life in the township communities, as you're actually working with them in the home of the wonderful women who brought the dance group to life. They let you enter their safe place which is such an honour, and you should be so grateful for. You'll feel the strong bonds between every single member, like a big loving family, which will let you see that not just blood makes one another become a family.
If you're lucky you'll get to see them in action, which will be one of the most beautiful things you'll ever see. They'll show you so many emotions in whatever they're doing it'll leave you speechless.
By volunteering with the Girl Impact, you'll give wonderful personalities the chance to see what opportunities they have, what they can do for themselves, that they can become whatever they want to be. You have the chance to teach them that there's a bright future for them if they take chances. You'll show them that every person is equal and that they have the right to that equality. You give them a chance to a better life.
I know this may come across as just a lot of words, but they can't nearly describe what you'll experience with African Impact. You will have a big impact on the lives of the awesome people you'll work with, but it'll definitely also have a huge impact on your own life. You'll start to appreciate things more, find new respect for every single human being, stop judging books by their cover, become more confident, and you’ll never forget what these people have given you (sometimes without them even knowing it!).
And finally, every time you think back at the time you volunteered with them, it'll hurt a bit because you miss every single second.”
If you’re inspired by Neele’s experience, we are continually looking for new volunteers to join us on our Girl Impact programs in Africa: