Volunteer – holiday with difference

The most fantastic aspect of volunteering is that it allows visitors, albeit for a brief period, to live a relatively similar life to those in whose community theyre visiting. One is able to stay away from the selected tourist areas and glance behind the projected fa￧ade; visit the communi

tys local school, interact with the school children and see how the workers, behind the scenes, make a living. A holiday such as this allows Western tourists the opportunity to gain some perspective on their own lives, particularly when faced with the socio-economic disparities between their own community and rural communities in Africa. All wildlife sanctuaries and a growing number of game reserves are realising the importance of educating the children on the importance of sustainable wildlife management. The goal is to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated in the future. A good example is Enkosini, a fledgling sanctuary in South Africa, which interacts regularly with children from the local school, Kopi. I recently had the privilege of being part of one of the events involving the school during my time as a volunteer at Enkosini. It is a marvellous feeling watching the bakkie come into view, loaded with 30 children singing songs and sending hilarious laughter across the land, a sound which is too easily forgotten whilst alone in the bush. Children of all ages tumble, jump or are pushed off the back, bringing more cheering and laughter. Every child, regardless of gender or age, is dressed immaculately, clothes washed and ironed as though heading to church, shoes clean and polished and all with gleaming smiles. No time for shyness, as there are so many things to complete by the end of this special day – ball games, competitions and lunch, ensuring no child is left out. Volunteers and children integrate and compete as one group; sack races, skipping, netball, soccer and the three-legged races, (which no sporting occasion can do without). Just the thought of the spontaneous hilarity the races brought to the day, even now, brings a huge smile to my face, (whilst my fellow British underground commuters give me odd looks, trying to get some distance between themselves and the smiling moron!) After lunch It’s time for the finale of the day. A pile of clothing has been donated for the children. Sifting through the clothing, modelling, discarding are all part of the choosing process. Even in Lydenburg these choices take time! As the sun is approaching the horizon with a speed that is only possible in Africa, the cold night air slowly introduces itself to the remnants of a winters day. Time for everyone to go home. Clutching their spoils, their heads full of wonderful sights and scents of the wild, the kids jostle for their prime spot in the bakkie.

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