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GAP YEAR | VOLUNTEER ABROAD | WORK EXPERIENCE OVERSEAS

 

Volunteers' Stories

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HELEN ENGLISH
British

Teaching Underprivileged Children in Knysna, plus Internship in Dolphins and Marine Conservation in South Africa
         

After three months in Africa, I made it home alive, brown and very hardcore! It was the most amazing thing I've ever done, living, working and experiencing the African way of life.

Teaching in Knysna:
My first challenge was teaching some of South Africa's poorest children in Knysna.  It was a huge shock to see the children so happy and willing to learn in such poverty stricken situations. All they had were the smiles on their cute little faces. I was teaching them English, geography, technology, music and all the netball I could remember. To see my classes learn and fill in the worksheets I made for them was very rewarding and it made me proud. 

The hardest part was gaining their trust and respect as a teacher, as well as a friend. Once I had accomplished that, teaching a class of forty five got a lot easier. I will always treasure the cards and letters the children made for me. They are extremely special to me as it feels as I really did make a difference to their lives. Some of my school children's home lives were extremely poor and very upsetting for me to learn that some lived in the orphanage we helped in, and others in the Soup Kitchen. 

These places, and the children in them, became my life for seven weeks, and it was very hard to say goodbye. I felt like some of the children, especially Shandre [the most gorgeous baby] and Meriloo [a beautiful thirteen year old] were mine and I should be taking them home.

Marine Research:
My second project was working for the Center for Dolphin Studies in Plettenberg Bay. This is a well known organisation that research, rescue and study the marine life around South Africa. It taught me a lot about whales and dolphins, and also what seals eat! I was given the opportunity to carry out some amazing work, such as spotting for whales and dolphins from the beach, helping out on the research boats and tourist boats, and also collecting seal faeces for dissection, washing bones and reconstructing skeletons!

I was extremely lucky on a few of the trips I went on, and once experienced a large feeding pod of over five thousand dolphins and twelve whales all together. Another time our boat took the interest of a Brydes whale, and it was fascinating to see it come right under our boat in the clear water.

Along with all the work, there was plenty of time for fun and seeing the rest of South Africa. I did some incredible things, like jumping out of a plane, doing the worlds highest bridge bungee, riding an ostrich, seeing the most incredible animals on safari and breathtaking views. 

The people that I met there are absolutely amazing and they really made my experience extra special. We had some fantastic nights out experiencing the 'nightlife', along with some fun road trips and eventful weekends away. I'll never forget them, and I know we will keep in contact for years to come.

Other Experiences:
My last two weeks were spent with my parents and my brother, who flew out to meet me. It was so good to see them after so long, and we spent an amazing week in Cape Town, and then travelled up the coast to where I was living. I introduced my family to the children and the people I met whilst I worked there, and was able to show them around, and take them to my favourite places. We then spent a few days in a private game reserve having sundowners and picnics in the bush and our own tailor made days.

When it was finally time to fly home, it was a very sad day for me. South Africa had been my home for three months and I had experienced and achieved so much there, I didn't want to leave. Once back in England, it was fantastic to see all my friends and the rest of my family, and they all know how much I missed them. The memories are still very much alive as I'm constantly being asked about the trip, and showing photos. I carry pictures of the children with me so I can remember them when I need reminding of where I have been, and their daily struggles. 

Some of my friends have said that I'm a different person, and I have matured a lot, developing a deeper, more caring personality since being away. I agree, taking a gap year helped me decide what to do in my future, as well as seeing another part of the world. I'm now looking forward to university in September, and the new experiences that it will bring. I definitely know that I will be going back to South Africa, and I'm going to be thinking about the children that are still there, and my adventures, everyday.

 I would like to thank Travellers Worldwide with all the help in organising and their advice. For me, there was no better way for me to spend my year out. The people were extremely helpful with everything, and always so friendly, in both England and South Africa.

More Information about your Trip with Travellers

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Helen English with Kids

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Aerial View of Plattenberg Bay

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