Alcindo from Brazil ()
"For those who don't know, I was in South Africa but not as a tourist. It was quite the opposite. I worked as a volunteer at a Children's Hospital in Cape Town. Basically, my role was to help the kids be happy in their day-to-day lives in the hospital. Nice eh? Unfortunately, I've heard some asking me: "Why are you going to help South Africa, if we also need help here in Brazil?" or saying: "You don’t get anything in return for volunteering” and even referring to me as a "slave of the 21st century".
Here are my answers to these questions and my reasons for volunteering. My main idea in volunteering is to help to build a better future for people, whoever they are and wherever they are. In this big world called earth, we have so many needing help. So, why not try to help as many people as possible, creating a network of help and support and love that therefore impacts more people? That's the thought.
Volunteering in Africa and helping people there, gave me the opportunity to see other corners of this planet, and other people that have the same goals and the same purpose. I met people from all over the world, each with their own ideas, experiences and desires. We got to share so much of these with each other. Volunteering at the hospital was what I can only explain as, a networking sensation, where we heard from each, different perspectives and realities and got to see some of these other realities being lived here in Africa. All these different realities, that I am not used to.
I experienced pure empathy and these are moments that we must share so that we can grow together. The idea is to be able to take all these experiences and different visions to Brazil, so that, together, we can help and positively impact more people and then build a more desirable future for everyone! The lessons I learnt in South Africa, I will use to help my own country.
And now for part 2, my personal experience as a volunteer. During my volunteer work I met a boy named Julius Sensational (pseudonym). Julius was in and out of hospital for his 13-14 years. He had a heart problem and had already gone through 5 surgeries. The medical equipment he used, made it difficult to walk, so he had to get around by wheelchair normally. From all the health complications, it would be difficult for him to go to school. So Julius learnt everything at home in what they call "Home studies" and the kid was smart. Now, he had a Friday surgery booked but Julius was brave. Very brave.
That Thursday, I had the opportunity to talk for about an hour with him. And that conversation! He gave me a lecture about biology, history, and movies. The boy was a fan of marvel and DC, and yes, he didn't have that "one is better than the other". For him, the two were very good and he liked them both. Sensational! He talked about how he liked superheroes and knew all the details of each one. That was a good conversation! We smiled, we joked and we laughed. Unfortunately I had to leave the ward because time was up for the day for volunteers. It was me and another friend volunteer, Dani (pseudonym), chatting with Julius and his mother and we didn’t want to leave! We hugged them and we left. And so, I never saw Julius again. The next day, Dani saw him and said he was doing well. One day I come back to the hospital and I got the news that Julius passed away during the night. My world didn't fall, it collapsed. Actually, I wasn’t sure what to say until now.
Just wanted to give a warning: Death, unannounced, enough. When we least expect it. It's not because you're rich, poor, intelligent, famous, businessman, politician, you will escape. Sooner or later she arrives. Life is fleeting. Don't let it wait for you to do things. You're in a fight with someone? Call now for him and try to make amends! Tell your parents today how much you love them? You know the one friend that you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Send a message to them and say hi! We tend to put things off and not live in the present. What are your priorities today? Family, friends, work, college? Let's think about that. For those who live waiting for the future to be happy, loses the joy of this and every present moment of life. If you have any bitterness of the past holding you back, let's break free and seize the opportunities to be happy that life gives. Stop complaining and let's start. Or rather, start over! Consider yourself lucky if you are taking that chance! You can be sure that life well lived has nothing to do with money, social status, appearance and etc. It is in inner peace, in the small details. Shake hands with the next, embrace, smile, play like a child, live!
And, let's go help others! What is in your own control, are the seeds you will plant along the way in your life. So wherever you are, seek to take love and to give it and to share it! Imagine if we all helped each other! At first, I had come to South Africa to help others but they helped me. And that's what makes life, mysterious, but beautiful! Heaven gained a star, Julius! A Radiant Star! Your greatness will leave unforgettable memories to each person who came into your life. And you can be sure that after all of our conversation, I realize that today, my hero, is not a character from marvel or DC. It's you, Julius!"
Marília from Brazil ()
"When I started the saga by agencies, I already knew that I wanted to volunteer in Africa. But it was something specific, I had to spend a lot of time searching for agencies until I found the right one. I chose the Children's Hospital project, where I had to play with the hospitalized children and organize the toy store where the toys were stored.
It took about 3 months to close. I enrolled in Good Hope Volunteers, where I had to submit specific documentation and participate in an English interview for level test (the level required for this project was intermediate to pre-advanced). After that was the rush to accommodation. I was installed in a house for volunteers (a mega house), and because the vacancies were limited, we had to expedite to get a room.
The best feeling in life is you look at the plane landing and say to yourself: "I'm in another country!"
I worked for a month at the Cape Town Children's Hospital. I had schedules for entry and exit as well as breaks, which were the same for children to eat or to do school lessons. We wore colourful aprons to get attention and we went from hallway to hallway asking who wanted to play. It was amazing to be in a hallway and see a child running toward me to play. Speechless! :)
Most of the children did not speak English, but African dialects, which at first made it difficult to communicate, but everything went smoothly: mime, dances and even bowling we played without knowing each other's language. It was very good to train English with those who knew how to speak. I was corrected several times and many of them ended up being motive.
This also made me very close to families who often came from far away to try medical care and ended up joking and talking to us. The Children's Hospital is a hospital in Cape Town and focuses on child treatment. There were many families that were not from South Africa, but from countries like Angola and Zimbabwe.
Any description I try to give you about this experience is immeasurable. I've heard a lot of stories, I've learned from children things that are so small and even high. Not to mention the coordination team of the project that treated us with great affection! I returned home full of little letters and with so much nostalgia!
Besides work, I made friends! The people you know really make it happen on your trip. Cape Town is a wonderful blend of mountains, beaches and city and I could meet a plethora of places with them. Most were volunteers, like me, and lived in the same house. It was a great tuning and a pleasure to have lived everything I lived there!
And Africa is history. Besides all this, I was able to experience the history of apartheid. I visited Mandela prison, went to bars for blacks, and I was able to draw conclusions from a movement so important that it was not so long ago. It is incredible the reception that African people have, not to mention the energy and joy that they infect. It was a great tuning and a pleasure to have lived there!
In short, it was a drastic change between Marília before and after Africa. People said, "choose another place"; "There is a lot of disease there," but following my intuition and having the necessary help to put everything into practice was the best decision of my life! Of course I was afraid! It was my first international trip and I decided to do it myself, working in a hospital, with children. My first day at the hospital was shocking! I never imagined working in a place with reality so naked and raw. But it was from my dream that I was talking and, in the end, you stop seeing sick children in a bed and start seeing people to play!"
Clémentine from France ()
"I volunteered at the Wildlife Conservation project in Namibia for 2 months, it was an incredible experience. I got to work with Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, Caracals, Cheetahs, Jackals, Wild Dogs and other animals such as Meerkats, Pole Cat, Genets, Mangooses, Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, Rock Dassies and Turtoises. In addition to see these animals very close every day, I learned a lot about the different species because some of the employees at the project are scientists and they teach you everything they know about these animals.
The Namibian project is quite a big organization compared to other places that welcome volunteers. The sanctuary welcomes many volunteers: we were around 70 in June, and more than a 100 in July. But the structure is well organized and there is work for everyone: all the volunteers are spread into teams and each team has a coordinator to work with.
The accommodation is located directly at the sanctuary.
Note that the amount of activities can vary depending on the number of volunteers. Also, some activities can vary depending on the time of the year and the animals they rescue. For example, one of the activities proposed at the end of my stay was the baby Hyena walk, because they just rescued a baby hyena."
Renata from Brazil ()
"The purpose of the exchange was to participate as a volunteer in a social project, where, in addition to unlocking English, I would also have the opportunity to care for needy children. But in Cape Town do they speak English? Yes, speak up! It is not the only official language, it is one of many. In South Africa, there are 11 official languages, so you can feel the drama right! What's more, you do not need a visa to stay (3 months), the passage is not expensive, the cost of living and food are also favorable. What is expensive? Accommodation. Now I understand that besides being similar to Rio de Janeiro in terms of beauty (mountains, beaches, wineries), it is also as expensive as when it comes to rent but worth it! Cape Town, as well as being a tourist town, is also a student city with universities and exchange students. It is among the most sought after in summer by Africans and Europeans. You will find people from Germany, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy and even Japan studying English, and, of course, many Brazilians. Brazilians are everywhere in the world, get used to it! The plans changed, and I decided to stay for 6 months studying English!
What happens when you join your passion for traveling with your willingness to help? A social and personal project is born. Ready, combo formed! Being in Cape, you will find many types of projects, with values that fit in every pocket!
The institution is called the Children's Hospital, recognized worldwide, built in 1956, public and dedicated entirely to child care in South Africa. It manages more than 260,000 patient visits per year from exceptionally poor and marginalized communities. One-third of the small patients are younger than one year.
But what was I doing there, since I'm not a nurse or a doctor?
I gave Love. Affection. Attention. Smile. Hugs. Kisses. Moments. I prepared the toy bag and climbed the stairs to reduce the weight of consciousness and burn the bacons. I played with the newborns, and with the age group from 1 to 7 years. I saw many parents who were staying with their children, and some were able to go to the hospital only at night because of the workday. And who took care of the kids while they were gone? We did! The hospital does not have a specific visitation time, as parents are encouraged to be part of their children's healing journey. Little star to the hospital! With our presence, mothers and fathers took advantage of coffee, water and well needed rest. I played, hugged, kissed kids with cancer, AIDS, burns, pneumonia. It was easy? No it wasn’t. It was sad? Yes, it was. Child, somehow passes through that moment with joy even with the withered eye. I got attachment. Yes I did. I was so attached to my little babies: Panasche and Sissi. Panasche had an admirable and affectionate intelligence. I spent two weeks with her and on a Monday, when I arrived, she was no longer there. She had been discharged. It hurt my heart. But hospital is like this. We celebrate when they go home, healthy! Sissi! I related so much to her and we would play hide and seek. She would always find me and the toys I had for the day. Sometimes she would take my toy bag and run along the corridor. Gorgeous. I said goodbye with a drawing, or rather a scribble. Forever in my heart!
The organisation that assists volunteers at this project is Good Hopes Volunteers. Any exchange agency in Brazil has contact with them. I believe that for this hospital, only go through an organization like this, for safety reasons. They offer the complete package (accommodation and project) and you can talk directly with Good Hope Volunteers for support. There are other volunteer jobs with animals, which is pretty cool.
Regarding English, do not come with that focus in the hospital. As I said at the outset, the hospital serves the community of South Africa and there are so many languages spoken there. It has volunteers from all over the world. Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Italy ...
When we help someone we do not know, we do it more purely and sincerely because we do not create expectations. And do not worry. The only contamination you run the risk of catching is LOVE. This spreads and multiplies!"