So I lost you for 3 months this year to a place called Africa. Why was that?
As part of the International Citizen Service I went to Botswana as a volunteer for three months with Skillshare International. I had been looking into volunteering and just stumbled across this programme and it sounded perfect. I wanted to work with children and all the Africa ICS programmes are based around working with children.
Wow, you must have been really nervous?
Yeah, I was nervous but I knew I was going with other people which was good. I think I would have felt way worse if I was going alone. I’d already met the people at training so was more excited to see them again than nervous and excited for an adventure.
I had a week in Gaborone the capital doing cultural activities like learning the language and learning to cook, which was an epic fail! We went to a village called Thamaga and the people performed traditional welcome dances for us which was amazing. Then me and three other girls went off to Kang where our placement was based, four people stayed in Gabs and four went to Maun.
Traditional dances hey, did you join in?
You bet your bottom dollar I did! I was so good they asked me to join!
So was this your most memorable point in the trip?
No actually, it was amazing to give them credit but there was one day that will always stick in my mind. At Matsha which is one of the schools I worked at we had to teach guidance lessons (like PSE) and we were compiling list of subjects the students wanted to learn about and in the three classes I taught the first subject was suicide. A girl in the last class told me that suicide was a very important issue at the school and she knew that a few members of her form wanted to commit suicide. After the lesson I went to talk to the Peace Corp volunteer about it who told me that in one week just before I came to Kang three students committed suicide in a week, and she did a class on dealing with situations as the kids lack knowledge of how to reason out situations etc. She said “if your friends fell out with you how would you solve the issue?” the only answer the class could come up with was to commit suicide!
It seems like they don’t understand how to deal with their emotions.
Yeah completely, they aren't really taught how to deal with situations and seem know a lot about certain things like HIV/AIDs but don’t really seem to understand what the consequences are. We did lots on HIV/AIDs as 1/3 of the population of Kang is HIV+. The kids would answer our questions about it and seemed to know everything but didn't appear to understand, like they knew what ARV’s did and what the CD4 count was, but didn't understand the relationship between the two of them.
We're really lucky here aren't we?
Yes. I got told that around 80% of the students I taught were orphans, but everyday they came to school with big happy smiley faces and were so keen to learn and so excited to hear about my life back home and everything. They pretty much have nothing and even told me that they didn't expect to go to university or do well in school. When I first got there I felt sorry for them and the opportunities I had handed to me on a plate they would never get. But by the end I realised that they are happy with what they have and don’t want anything else, other than a good education. They are so inspirational how they can deal with situations which I think would just ruin my own life. They have changed my complete outlook on life.
It’s hard to even imagine such a way of life. You must have met some really inspirational people then?
Yeah there was so many amazing people I met. Too many to mention them all but one guy holds a special place in my heart. I helped him write his application for University in England. He lived on the streets until he was 14 after both his parents died in the space of a week at the age of 7, at 14 he got taken to a place called Hope Mission where some other volunteers worked and went to school for the first ever time. He got adopted by the most amazing woman ever; my Africa Mummy, and finished school (which takes 7 years) in just 3! While I was in Botswana we met the Education Secretary and told him about this boy, he was so amazed he offered him a scholarship to any university in the world. He has been offered a place at Leeds Met to study Law in September with funding for a masters anywhere he wants! Not only is he such a lovely person, he is proof of how much you can achieve if you are given second chances.
I’ve seen the adorable pictures of you with the little kids!
Yes, the little ones were so cute! They loved having their pictures taken and posing! I literally have hundred’s of pictures of them being lions and elephants! I worked at a Pre-School and had to teach English... which was really hard as they literally had no idea! We also painted the school and sorted out building a fence and flush toilets so it can get registered and taken over by the government.
Yeah, we did an English children’s party for them with games like pass the parcel and musical bumps. They loved musical bumps so much and got so competitive! We had to encourage the local people to send their kids to school so thought it would be a good way to encourage them into education. We made up games with simple English to get them learning a little bit, and taught them nursery rhymes and stuff. They loved the hokey kokey!
What are you doing now you're back?
I am going back to uni in September to do my masters but am working with the Botswana Skillshare on some ongoing projects. I’m also working with some other volunteers to raise funds to climb Kilimanjaro to raise money for our placements then go back to Botswana next summer to do some more volunteering.
How can other people find out about Skillshare?
Well Skillshare is part of ICS and has loads of different volunteering opportunities.If you look at my blog it will give you an in depth account of my experience and what you can expect if you did volunteering. You don’t necessarily have to go abroad though, there are loads of amazing opportunities at home.
So would you recommend volunteering?
Yes definitely, it was such an amazing experience!
You can find out more about Skillshare via their website, and ICS via their website. Don't forget to read Faye's blog about her experience in Africa. It's really funny and insightful.
Hope you enjoyed this post! I know it's different for my blog, but I really wanted to share Faye's story, especially to promote Skillshare and their amazing work!