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Charlie’s Dreams to Reality Volunteer Experience

Dreams to Reality

Dreams to Reality had the pleasure of hosting one of our recent volunteers, here is Charlie’s experience:

One of my fondest (and most fun) memories included teaching the alphabet to a year five, 13 year old student. If you really apply yourself to your volunteering experience in Africa you will no doubt leave knowing you have made a positive impact. You will also make lifelong friends, unforgettable memories, fall in love with South Africa and accomplish more than you ever imagined.

Along with my fellow volunteers I-

  • Assisted many children in a range of age groups to reach educational milestones, such as reading and recognising words, learning the alphabet, learning numbers and understanding mathematics.I have never been prouder than in those moments when ‘my kids’ understood something that I was teaching.

  • Created a standard literacy tutoring curriculum for Steenberg and Christian David, which can be used across all primary grades. We created folders and paired lesson idea with the curriculum for each grade.

  • Recognised children with learning disabilities and organised with their teachers to allow them extra tutoring sessions. I made sure the children were paired with new volunteers when it was my turn to leave and I have stayed in contact to learn about their progress.

  • Became a supportive listener and assisted children living in extreme financial hardship and often within abusive circumstances.

  • Introduced a First Aid Kit to the school and Mary’s Daylight Educare Centre, including instructions for medically assisting children with HIV.

  • Taught the year one classes about ocean life and the Great Barrier Reef. We constructed a reef in the tutoring centre.

  • Helped Tim and the other volunteers to plant a vegetable garden at Christian David on Mandela Day.

  • Organised a fundraising initiative to provide children with school tracksuits (We raised enough for 33 uniforms and Carine can tell you all about our trip to Lavender Hill…eek!).

  • Supplied the tutoring centre with stationary, books, learning materials, classroom posters and charts.

  • Supplied the childcare centre with educational toys, baby change materials, books and decorations.

This experience was simultaneously surprising, fulfilling and confronting, and I can say with confidence that when my time came to leave, I did not want to go. On my last day the year six class dragged me inside their classroom over and over to conduct speeches and adorn me with cards and jewellery. Beautiful hand plaited necklaces and bracelets were tied onto me as I reluctantly boarded Carl’s taxi. These gifts just mean so much coming from children who have so very little. It took me a few days to build up the emotional courage to read the beautiful hand drawn cards, which I will cherish for ever. I will never forget these gorgeous, special people and I have never cried and laughed so much in one day!

I am now ‘back to reality’ but a very different reality. I am now working as a Teacher Aide in a local Special School where I assist students with a range of special needs. I am also hoping to start some Youth Work with children in the foster care system in the next couple of weeks. Finally, after a tiny amount of coaxing from the Irish and American fellow volunteers (who are school teachers,) I have applied to study primary education in 2014.

Before my DTR experience I would never have imagined the effect it would have on every aspect of my life; my job, career change, health, values, right down to a fresh and renewed appreciation for my loving support network,and for comforts like food, fresh/hot water, and clean clothing.

I truly had the time of my life. I have made memories I will never forget. South Africa has changed me and I am looking into the future with hope, respect and excitement.

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