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Volunteers' Stories




Teaching Disadvantaged Children on a voluntary placement in Knysna, South Africa

I am a primary school teacher based at Warmsworth Primary School, Doncaster. In the summer I took part in a placement in the townships of Knysna, South Africa as a volunteer teacher.

Many of the youngsters from the townships, live a life of hardship and are seldom, if ever, given the opportunities in life they deserve. The township school is situated in the Hornlee region of Knysna. The school has few if any educational resources, the standard of education is extremely poor and many teachers are untrained.

The local children live a life of hardship; many are hungry and lack even the basic of clothing. Despite many obstacles, the children of the townships are warmhearted, welcoming and surprisingly happy but above all keen to learn. Touched by my experiences and with a growing desire to make a difference, I set to work on establishing international links.

Children at Warmsworth Primary have since enjoyed learning about a different culture and as a school we have worked hard to raise funds for the school. Year 6 pupils from both schools made initial contact through a letter- writing project and it has been my aim since to maintain and further develop these links.

My main focus has been to develop awareness of global issues and appreciation of cultural diversity, and with the support of my school, Warmsworth Primary, I returned to Knysna, South Africa for a period of 3 months (on unpaid leave) to reestablish and further develop links with the school.

During my time in South Africa pupils have written letters to the UK, developed drama ideas and participated in a school film. It is hoped that Warmsworth will also be able to send film footage to South Africa, providing pupils with an opportunity to compare and contrast their own school environments. By the end of my placement we had completed 2 short films which the children had taken part in writing and performing. Short drama sketched with a moral or message. These were wonderful and each child was able to take one home to share. Joint work projects took place and opportunities were available to share cultures, traditions and opinions.

My key concern was to support teaching and learning and I worked hard to create a document outlining UK practice to share with the school. This document may go some way in helping to implement basic systems, support changes in planning routines, provide staff training on teaching strategies and support staff in the assessment process. I do hope this sharing of good practice is an ongoing process and an exchange project in the future would be a valuable extension of this work and a possible consideration.

Whilst working out in South Africa, I was involved in a range of other projects, including a soup kitchen, a township orphanage and a youth development program. A small collection was held back in the UK and approx £ 270 raised. We were able to purchase much needed resources such as nappy creams, underwear, bottles, play mats, and many other essential items. The children at the orphanage were most pleased with the bottles of bubbles, which we bought, with some of the spare money!

The Youth Development program takes place at a center for youths with social and emotional difficulties. Many live on the streets, have been excluded from education and have often turned to a life of crime. It is a wonderful support center, which aims to provide youngsters with opportunities to keep clean, have food and most importantly have some form of education. Many of the youths are keen to return to school and really do want to learn. The center is their key support in doing this. Unfortunately the center is in the early stages of development and at present lacks structure, funding and a clear education program.

During my time in Africa I joined a working party and worked closely with another volunteer, Paula Stokey, to create a basic English program for volunteers to follow. The aim was for each child to have an individual file and wherever possible one to one tuition from volunteers. The program was intended to provide structure, continuity and support providing all individuals with the opportunity to succeed.

By the time I left South Africa the system was up and running! The first day of the trial was amazing. Every child was sat with a teaching file (they decorated these to personalise them and were so proud). Volunteers were spread around the room and following a program we had created. The children loved it. We were so overwhelmed with the success and the hope it provided. Only a small step but it was so clear that every child wanted to learn and we had given them a structure and the tools to do it. I definitely shed some tears that day!

I really do hope Travellers continue to place volunteers here as so much help is needed. It was a wonderful extension of my placement and feel I achieved so much there in such a short time.

Whilst organising projects in the area, Jim Morel (Manager Traveller’s Worldwide, South Africa) has unearthed an abundance of pure, raw talent in the townships of Knysna. It has been his objective since, to develop a music and arts center in the town. Many of the youngsters from the townships live a life of hardship and Jim’s aim is to provide a musical skills project, run by volunteers and music pupils from local schools in an attempt to develop performing arts within the town. Some of the younger children from the townships are also invited to rehearsals and regularly participate in singing, dancing, rapping, gumboot dancing, etc. The project has progressed in leaps and bounds since its inception, and there is a great deal of scope for a very successful future.

During my stay I was fortunate enough to meet the group ‘Joint Effort’ and was instantly captured by their energy and enthusiasm. To achieve so much against such odds was truly inspiring and once again I left South Africa with ideas in the making of a fantastic project, which would enable the group to travel to UK.

My aim was to secure sufficient funding to enable the group to visit Doncaster to share their cultures, traditions and talents with the local community. I am extremely grateful to 'Awards for All' (Lottery) who have supported this venture and provided £ 5,000 funding for the necessary travel expenses. Very rarely have members of the group had opportunities to leave the town in which they live and this venture will be, for sure, the trip of their lives.

The group arrives in London on 31st December and travel to Doncaster on the 3rd January. They have a very full and varied itinerary as my key objective is to present the group to the widest audience possible in our local area. Performances will be provided to schools, colleges, arts groups and other suitable venues free of charge. A tour of local primary and secondary schools will form the core of the project including extra-curricular workshops and cultural evenings. Additional exposure will be provided by appearances at local arts venues and cultural events taking place during the allotted visit time.

During my recent visit to South Africa the group rehearsed hard, preparing for performances. Workshops are currently being developed for use in schools, which include African dance, traditional song, drumming and gumboot dancing.

Fundraising events are being planned in South Africa and sponsorship organized from local companies to support the group. Howard Butcher is a local producer involved in township music who has offered the group a recording contract and it is hoped a professional CD will be available by the time the group reach the UK. I am also working hard to organize publicity and suitable venues in the UK.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the town and local people. The group are a real taste of Africa and truly, wonderful people.

More Information about your Trip with Travellers

List of ALL PROJECTS in South Africa

Joint Effort performing in Knysna


Knysna at Sunset