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Volunteers' Stories




Teaching English and Coaching Sport to Children on a voluntary placement in Knysna, South Africa

I have just completed a 3-month volunteer teaching program in Knysna, South Africa and would like to give some feedback to maybe inspire others to do the same.

I graduated from university in England with no clear direction of what I wanted to do for a career and wanted to see the world before I became stuck with a family or in a job. I had no previous teacher training, only limited exposure to children and had not travelled anywhere more exotic than Falaraki or Magaluf. But after it all I can honestly say it has been the trip of a lifetime and I would recommend it to anyone.

I mainly taught English and sport, but also did maths, geography, history and technology. I was the only volunteer at my school but that only resulted in more attention and pampering from the staff and a much closer relationship with the pupils.

We would wake at around 7am and be picked up by the legend James our driver, who dropped each of the volunteers off at their respective schools that were scattered throughout the Knysna townships. The journey involved a humbling drive with the strange backdrop of James’s dodgy CD’s along with the sight of him trying to avoid the many animals that ran riot in the townships. Personally the morning trip through the townships put what we were doing into perspective as it forced home the huge responsibility we had volunteered to undertake.

Of course the townships were home to most of our pupils but to see their smiling faces in the face of such adversity was a memory that will stay with me for life. Once at school I mostly stuck to a timetable which was uniquely drafted for me and my wishes and involved most subjects, breaks and free periods. In English for example the English teacher and I would mainly stick to the syllabus but I was also free to create my own lesson plans and worksheets in what I thought would help the pupils learn more effectively. The children had their own stationary and workbooks, spoke good English, and we would do most of our work from the blackboard.

If I took a sport lesson I would alternate the classes and grades to ensure that most children got to go outside, which they all loved to do. Apart from a few essential baseball lessons I simply asked the kids what sport they wanted to do which usually resulted in a lot of soccer, cricket and rugby. We would then march to the sports field and organise teams in some fun way that ensured every child got involved. If I can offer any advise for sport teachers it would be to organise the lesson before hand in your head and get the kids doing something instantly. This is because they get rather excited, ok chaotic on a biblical scale, if they are left outside with no local teacher present.

In other lessons I would mostly assist the local teacher by walking around the class and giving individual help or simple assistance with spoken English. 

Coaching Sport:
During my stay I took over the football team where I hosted training sessions, picked the team and more importantly organised friendly matches against other volunteer schools. Needless to say we won which ensured a close volunteer relationship and a good time had by all.

Having returned home from Africa I have since acquired a donated full football kit that I will be shipping out shortly. Also during my stay I organised a fund raising fun day for the school where we all basically had a big party on the local playing field. The non-school aspects of your trip will provide as many memories as your time at school.

 Knysna is a lovely little town which gets very busy with tourists from time to time and has a good night life to let your hair down at the weekends. My biggest surprise was just how developed Knysna was, and my decision to bring everything with me in a rucksack was instantly regretted as soon as I drove onto main street and past KFC and shops just like Boots and WHSmiths.

During the week we would hire many DVD’s, visit the cinema, go to the beach or visit the town. There is enough on offer to keep anyone with an ounce of personality going and if you get to Knysna I am confident you will fully enjoy it.

Your trip to South Africa will be as good as you want it to be. If you are enthusiastic, motivated and can use your initiative you will have the time of your life, but if you want a vacation with a permanent base this is not the place, as the first priority is the children and not yourself

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Mark Horridge, teaching and sports in Knysna
Mark and kids!



Knysna Lagoon