Connor Quinn - Surfing in South Africa
I spent the best month of my life in Cape Town. Going in, I was not sure what to expect, from my doctors and family warning me about the disease and crime, I was quite wary. I arrived on a Friday morning when all of my soon to be housemates were out at their projects, so it was just my host family and me. It was a bit awkward at first but once we got to know each other, I felt at home and quite relaxed. That night I met all of my roommates. They were from Switzerland, France, England, Italy, Connecticut, Luxemburg, Japan, and Canada, all in the same house! They became some of the best friends that I have ever had.
For the first week, I only had one project, the Surf program at Muizenberg Beach. I went in not expecting to get so attached to the kids that I worked with, but after the first day I really loved each and every one of them. I would have to catch the ten o’clock train to arrive at the beach by around 10:15. Once arrived, I would suit up and surf with co-volunteers till about 12 o’clock. We would break for lunch then return before the kids walked over from Capricorn Primary. The surf program is not mandatory so kids had the option of showing up one day but not the next, which meant we were sometimes over or understaffed.
We would stretch and warm up for about 30 minutes to get everybody used to their suits, then grab boards and go into the water. We tried to have one volunteer per every two children. It was a blast! I got to know about 8 kids really well. To learn about their home situations and what they have experienced was life changing for me. After the kids were gone I would dry myself off, then change to catch the 6 o’clock train home. Once home, my host mom would have dinner waiting for us, always huge servings of amazing new foods.
For the next three weeks, I worked on two projects, Surf program at Muizenberg Beach, and a Care Project at Little Eagles Educare in Vrygrond, Capricorn. I thought that I had been working with people that had it bad but my eyes were opened at Little Eagles, where we were in the heart of poverty. I was used to just working with the kids from an informal settlement, not actually going in and working in these communities for the day.
At first, I was greeted by over 60 kids and just 2 teachers and the principal. I taught 2-7 year olds how to write, count, colors, etc. For my first two days there I didn’t really know about the kids that I worked with but when teacher Jolie sat me down and told me about their lives, I was in shock. From learning about the 2 year old’s mom being only 11 to most of the kids being HIV positive. Those facts did not scare me away at all, I feel like I got closer to them if anything.
During the nights and weekends, it was our free time. My only suggestion is to take advantage of every minute and before going, have ideas on what you want to experience while you are there. Every night was something new and amazing. We would go to downtown Cape Town one night and the next day be on a safari.
I honestly can say that my month there was the best in my life. Looking back, even the moments on the train or in the taxi, which you think at the time are boring, were all fun and different. I loved talking to everyone, experiencing their culture and hanging out with them. Not only did I learn about them, I learned a lot about me. Everything was just amazing!
Once I arrived back home, I was a changed man. I am more accepting and can tolerate people easier now. Some of my best friends now are from all over the world and I still talk to them weekly. I hope to continue doing this type of volunteerism in the future.