The idea of volunteering came on my last year of studies in Brussels (Bachelor in special education). I was in the international class, and had the chance to hear from my colleagues about all sorts of stories from all around the world. By then I only had the chance to discover my profession in 3 European countries (Belgium/ Brussels; France/Paris and Luxembourg). That's when I started my research.
In Luxembourg, where I was born, I found this program proposed to young adults below the age of 30. The "National Service for Youth", SNJ is the organization that offers all types of projects and one of them is the support of longtime volunteers (three months to one year). This project is associated to the Ministry of foreign affairs / foreign office where you can find a list of NGO agreed by them. This is where I found the one that is creating some longtime projects in WC: Athénée- Action humanitaire NGO. They created a partnership with Bonnie People Project NPO who built and run an education centre in Bonnievale for the last ten years. Getting in touch with the project and having such a longtime volunteer (10 months) they came up to the idea of dividing this time on two different projects, Bonnie-People and CWBR. Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve. This second one with the idea of settling a totally different and new project: Nutritional, educational and scientific support for children and/ teenagers. In partnership preferably with a high school in order to get a 2 years project with a more scientific exchange between students, based on biodiversity and sustainable development, which could in turn be supported by the National Research Fund.
Getting slowly in touch with the ideas of both parts I believe that with the knowledge I came up to get during my studies and with Mark’s help I can end up developing and implementing a great project through the creation of this new partnership.
Now it’s clear that I’m not only here for the creation of this project. I believe this adventure is a once in a lifetime experience, so yes. I am going to find out a lot about my profession, about the social work in SA, and I believe that I will also learn a lot about me, such as my limitations and personality; and about life itself. This last one because Luxembourg is a small protected cocoon in which we end up not seeing the true beauty of real life in the middle of nature.
Being here in a sharing mood I hope I will also be able to give my outside and foreign view of the projects in order to participate in the development of these, as well as discussing some new ideas I might end up having.
My decision to volunteer in South Africa was triggered by the desire to feel and understand the South African culture and society while discovering the beauty of its land. I wanted to take a closer look at the economical contrast, the gap between wealth and poverty and see how the recent history of Apartheid had affected the South African people.
So far I’ve been travelling a lot. What amazing trips! Mark believes that as a volunteer we have to see by our own eyes not only the gaps but also the beauty of this country. At the same time I’ve also met many people from all deferent levels with lots of stories to tell. This allowed us to get as much information as possible in order to collect the needs and new ideas for the project.I can say, it opens up your mind…
Through these days we have been developing a nice and big project around education and sustainability for this Luxembourgish fund. Between nature and education I can say this volunteer program is an amazing opportunity for everyone.