Family volunteering gives you a chance to experience the world and grow as a family by doing things you wouldn’t ordinarily do. The Shelleys reflect on their experience volunteering in South Africa.
Jo and Lucy, the parents
When we started thinking about how to make the most of our time together as a family whilst Jo was ‘between jobs’, the idea of volunteering really leapt off the page.
To bring the children to Africa and just have done an amazing safari would have been great, but would certainly not have told the whole story of the place. At the same time, there were concerns too. What could we do that would actually help? Would it be safe? Would it be too much for the children?
All I can say is that it is shaping up to be the best 2 weeks of our 2 month time away together. The experience for all of us has been amazing and a real chance to explore challenging issues together as a family.
From the moment we contacted the African Impact team they have been fantastic and really enthusiastic about us coming as a family. The St Lucia Education project is just perfect too. There is lots of variety, so while we have mostly been working with pre-school children, we have also spent time with kids of a similar age to our own. We have also taken part in support groups, helped with vegetable gardens, and built furniture for the elderly.
It has been hugely eye-opening for all of us. Our children have felt welcomed and valued, and both have been able to really contribute, even leading sessions at the crèche. It has been fantastic to see their confidence and independence growing throughout the experience. We have all learnt so much and felt 100% safe the whole time, except perhaps for the odd hippo walking the streets of the town in the evening!
The lodge in the town is a perfect place to stay with great food, a lovely pool, and a really supportive and fun environment where you get to know all the other volunteers and the local African Impact team.
The volunteering can be emotionally challenging at times, but fun and uplifting as well. Also, to balance things out, there are so many amazing things to do while you are here, from snorkeling in the Indian Ocean and sunset boat rides, to seeing hippos and crocodiles, horseback safaris, and big game drives further inland.
Most important of all, having learnt so much, I think we will leave Africa with a new perspective and with a real awareness of how fortunate we are and a real sense of purpose to ‘do our bit’ in the future. At the same time, we have had a huge amount of fun and have seen so many amazing things. What more could you ask for from two weeks spent away together?
If you’re in any doubt about whether to go for it…Don’t be! It really has been truly incredible!
Emily, aged 13
When I heard that we were going to be volunteering with African impact, I was super excited because I want to become a teacher, so I thought this would be an amazing opportunity to get a first taste of that world…
African impact has lived up to every expectation. It has been eye opening being part of something so much bigger than I realized, and meeting all of the other volunteers – making new friends, has been awesome too.
The planning for all of our activities can sometimes be a little tough, as I suppose it is in the life of a teacher. But it is so rewarding seeing the children flourish in creche because of our hard work. Seeing others deeply appreciate what we’ve done for them is the best feeling, and even if it’s not much, a little thing can change someone’s life for the better.
All in all, I have definitely become more aware of the hard work put into teaching and I also now understand just how lucky we are in our sheltered worlds. It is incredible being part of African impact for even just a little while and feeling like you are helping other, less fortunate people, to make their lives better.
Thomas, aged 11
I came to St Lucia imagining a couple of worn-down classrooms with young kids that we would be teaching somehow. I was wrong. In fact, it has been much more varied and really well organized.
Each week a timetable is put on a board showing what activities we would be doing and when. We had a different activity every morning and afternoon (things like crèche sessions, reading clubs, gardening, and support groups discussing things like nutrition and HIV). We also got to plan everything that we would do each week as a group. I think that’s a really good idea because it makes you think about who you are helping and it also helps the classes run smoothly.
We also had time to mix with the other volunteers and form friendships.
One of my favorite places we went was to a lady called Mbali and her family. We really felt like we were making a difference. We all had something to do, like helping with homework, helping make crafts, or helping the adults improve their family’s life with things like CV practice.
I definitely advise families to come here. This experience has changed how I look at things. Like if I see a bit of plastic on the floor, I remember all the plastic that was shoved in the grass so I pick the plastic up.
There’s lots of fun stuff to do too like swimming, safaris, and Zulu nights…oh and the food is really delicious as well.
Overall it’s been an eye-opening experience and I have loved it. Although the St. Lucia project has been particularly popular with families, many of our volunteer projects can be tailored to suit families. It’s just a matter of deciding where they want to go and what experience would be most rewarding.
If you have been dreaming about an adventure holiday but also want to integrate with local communities or assist with wildlife conservation, we can help you create the ultimate family volunteering trip.
Our destination managers have comprehensive knowledge of the locations we work in, ensuring we are able to accommodate a mixture of ages and different interests that your family may have.