Volunteer Review: Andrew A., Combined Law & Human Rights in South Africa
My name is Andrew A. and I have just returned from spending the most memorable 5 weeks of my life in Cape Town. When I told people that I was going to South Africa during the June-July period, they immediately assumed that I was going for the Soccer World Cup. However, I was in fact unaware of such an international event almost until I arrived. The true reasons why I choose to travel to South Africa was to engage in my passion; helping people in need. Through years of doing various forms of humanitarian work, I always felt that I wanted to do so much more. But the opportunities which Projects Abroad provided me not only fulfilled my passion, but also greatly cultivated it.
Whilst working in the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office (PAHRO) in Cape Town, I was given a multitude of ways in which I could help people in need, ranging from working with refugees in the office dealing with legal matters to social justice projects.
Aided with the appropriate amount of assistance when needed from the very helpful staff members I chose to focus on a number of projects, including anti-human trafficking, community development, raising awareness about HIV and fighting to uphold the rights of refugees. Projects Abroad opened so many doors for me, giving me the chance to live my dream each and every day, I was like a kid in a candy store.
It was during this internship that I had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the most inspiring people imaginable. One such individual was Ronnie, a HIV survivor who had battled with the virus since 2005. In 2007 Ronnie fell critically ill, the virus shut down his immune system, causing him to contract both tuberculosis and pneumonia. However through his indomitable will, Ronnie chose to live on, and to make sense of his situation by devoting his life to raising awareness about the virus so that others wouldn’t have to suffer the hardships he experienced.
Ronnie showed me what it meant to be a hero, to live on and fight in the face of something that you can never triumph over, but to fight anyway and do it with charming style and unshakable smile. His message will stay with me forever.
Throughout my internship, I worked with over 10 different refugees. Each of my clients required assistance in a range of fields such as finding jobs, accommodation, schools for their child, educational grants and even helping them compose a CV. Relentlessly every day I worked my very best to fulfill the needs of my clients. I found this work extremely rewarding, because when I delivered I was always left with a sense of achievement knowing that I had made a meaningful difference in someone’s life. All of my clients were tremendously thankful for the work I did for them to such a point, that when I had to go home, a number of them broke into tears. The intense emotional impact this experience imprinted on me has made me realize that I want to practice law in the future.
On my final weekend, ten volunteers and I arranged for 15 kids from the township, Khayelitsha, to climb Table Mountain together. Many of the kids had never climbed Table Mountain before, which meant that it would be an experience which they would remember for the rest of their lives. I discovered that there was only one thing better than climbing Table Mountain for the first time... it’s climbing Table Mountain for the first time and sharing that first time experience with 15 other people.
The experience demanded that every person worked together in a team which developed trust, communication and a family like bond. No one was left behind, everyone ensured that we all worked together and made it to the very top of the mountain as a unit. When we finally made it to the top after a 2 and a half hour tiring slog, we all bathed in the glory of what we had just achieved.
It was at the top of the mountain whilst we were enjoying the breath taking view that one of the senior leaders from Khayelitsha youth group told me the secret to success... “one bangle doesn’t jingle”; meaning that when there are 10 bangles doing their own thing in disregard to the other bangles, there will be a symphony of disjointed noise. But when all the bangles are united as one, that is to say when we all listen and empathize with each other, we are able to work together in harmony to achieve any goal desirable.
Every night I had the most welcoming and loving host family to return to. Building up a tremendous appetite throughout my eventful day, I always looked forward to an authentic and delicious South African meal which awaited me when I arrived home. My host family treated me in such a loving way which automatically made me feel no less than an actual nephew.
After working very hard in the office I found that there was no better way to counter balance the day than to party even harder on Long Street (Cape Town’s clubbing area). Cape Town has a night life like no other, and I was lucky enough to enjoy the experience with some truly amazing people. Meeting people from around the world gave me the opportunity to sample a whole range of different points of view and perspectives.
All in all, Projects Abroad provided me with a life changing experience which has both greatly altered my perspective and increased my passion to help those in need tenfold. If I had the chance to re-live the experience exactly in the same way, I would gladly do it over again and again.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.