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General Care Projects in South Africa by Shelley Smith

Out with other volunteers

My name is Shelley and I embarked upon the greatest journey of my life to Cape Town through Projects Abroad in May 2010.

As my heartstrings were relentlessly pulled in more than just one direction, thank goodness Projects Abroad was there to allow me the unique possibility to fulfill each equally strong desire. Therefore I joined the Teaching, Care and Journalism projects.

My placements

I began with Teaching and Care. I taught Grade 1 learners in the morning at Hillwood Elementary School and in the afternoon participated in an after school program servicing women and children subject to domestic abuse with Philisa Abafazi Bethu.

I was the only in-room teaching volunteer at the time and did my best to support the teachers. At times when I felt overwhelmed I was encouraged by Projects Abroad staff and reminded that the time and work taken part in is prolific beyond your own immediate understanding.

During my Care placement I was able to participate in a plethora of engaging and motivating activities, whether it be lessons through art, music, or first aid education and safety education from police. All of these taught irreplaceable life skills to these girls that I knew first hand were not being taught in their schools.

My third project was Journalism, this was something I couldn’t get away from doing if I tried. A journalism major myself, it has always been in me to tell stories. Because I had been living in the townships for all this time, you can imagine just how many incredible stories I had heard so I had opted to join Projects Abroad’s magazine publication, The Cape Chameleon, for my last month.

The African culture

The children I worked with

Culture shock is an absolute real thing, and a real experience that I went through. You are actively working in your projects and thrown into daily life immediately. What I so loved about this new culture I was brought into was the family atmosphere that reverberates through everyone and everything.

My host family

My host family are the most incredible, loving, selfless, encouraging, and supportive group of people I know. My host family took me in as their daughter, and to this day we still talk on Skype several times a week.

Eating with the family was a very different experience. Coming from a culture where we’re very work driven, we often grab a yogurt to-go, eat lunch at our desk, and grab dinner on the fly, it always made me laugh when my host family would comment on my rushed eating habits and small intake quantities.

Projects Abroad gave me every tool I needed to live out my passion and my purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of my trip and having the ability to grow real and lasting relationships with community members and volunteers from across the world.

Shelley Smith

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