I returned from South Africa last week, and I wanted to say another massive
THANK YOU for those who donated many months ago, and to update whoever is interested on what I actually did there.
For the last three months I volunteered with Restless Development on the International Citizen Service. I lived in the rural depths of South Africa’s Eastern Cape, near a small town called Libode. A history of apartheid, economic inequality and the HIV epidemic in this area has left a predominantly young population to struggle with unemployment, high HIV prevalence and gender-based violence, along with a general lack of confidence or opportunity to stand up against these problems and attempt to change their communities for the better.e many months ago, and to update whoever is interested on what I actually did there.
Alongside Nwabisa, a South African team leader and a friend who I will never forget, I supported 14 young volunteers from the UK and South Africa to change the lives of young people in the rural communities surrounding Libode. As a team, we learned how to live together in a developing rural community, where we delivered sessions on career guidance, life skills, and entrepreneurship to students in two schools and to a group of 30 out-of-school youth. We also helped individuals to develop business plans, registered two co-operatives, taught computer literacy and organised two community events.
The highlight of my placement was a ‘Dragon’s Den’ inspired Young Entrepreneurs Competition. Teams of four from the schools and the youth centre developed business plans and presented these plans to a judging panel. Those that made it through the first round also presented to 150 students at the big finale. It was truly overwhelming to see the extent of their plans, and their drive to be entrepreneurs, even though they had never been given that kind of support before.
The winning business plan was based on starting a pharmacy in the local area, and each team member won a week’s work experience with a local business as well as vouchers and a medal. Other ideas included an internet cafe, a gym and personal fitness programme, and an educational cinema with dvd rentals. As part of the event we informed young people of the grants and microfinance available to them, and there were several motivational speakers (including myself!) The teachers had never seen this entrepreneur potential in their students before and were astounded! As you can see (in the pictures) the hall was fully packed and it took some confidence for the teams to present. A dj booming house tunes between presentations kept the students happy, and everyone was treated to food at the end.
The last three months have certainly been an unforgettable experience.
During my placement I was always so busy with the work itself that it was difficult to find the time to reflect. Looking back, I realise I have developed so much more confidence in myself through supporting and leading a team of young people in the context of a developing country.
In terms of what I have seen, the issues I’ve come across and the people that I met, it has only given me that extra drive to continue tackling key issues, including poverty, HIV and access to healthcare – even if it feels like a difficult uphill journey sometimes! I understand, more than ever, how the actions we take in the UK and the policies we support can have a profound impact on the lives of regular people in developing countries.
Thank you everybody for making this possible!
If you’d like to be a Team Leader or General Participant on ICS in 2014, find out more here.