Volunteer Report on the Women's Development Project in Cape Town

The organisation in which I was volunteering is an institution that takes care of women and their children who suffered violence and domestic abuse. The main task of the volunteers is to take care of the after school program. When I’ve been to the place, there were only girls aged 7-16 who came to us after school from 2 - 5 p.m. After having lunch we played with the kids, helped them to practice Mathematics and English and talked about social issues.

A former task was to register all inhabitants of the township in order to analyse how many of them are unemployed as well as how many children go to school. After this study we established another group for young adults for giving them at least a perspective regarding to their working future. One day per week we met up with the group.

The organisation also includes a women refuge sheltering abused women and children who escaped from their homes. In the house we could shelter six women and six kids. The children went to school or kindergarten as possible. The women took care of themselves during the day, washing their clothes, cleaning the house and things like that. We supported them finding back to a normal, independent life, always getting help from the office. All the volunteers were always accompanied by a member of the organisation.

Furthermore we also had to offer emergency aid when we had fires in the township, lots of people got homeless. We supported them with different donations like blankets or clothes. Apart from that, we also served as contact persons for all men and women having suffered any sort of violence, abuse or so. Our task was to decide where to place the people after having listened to their whole story; finally we mediated them to either the police or a social worker.

The working day of a volunteer began at about 9 a.m. (notice that accuracy isn’t as important as in other countries). Everybody met up at the organisation and started to take care of the different tasks. Sometimes it has been really stressful but most of the time you also had enough time to talk to the other members of the institution, about different experiences or the daily life in South Africa. It was also really important to talk to the other members on all the issues that happened inside the organisation for being able to cope with it. After finishing the daily after school program all volunteers went home to their host families. I was really lucky: my host family so nice and friendly, so I felt really comfortable to live with them.

Concerning the organisation I can say that I enjoyed a warm and friendly atmosphere between the (mostly female) workers. That seems quiet important to me regarding the situation of the volunteers: immersing ourselves in a foreign culture was sometimes kind of hard. You are faced with problems you don’t know from your own country so it’s very important to have the possibility to talk to other members about problems, sorrows or fears. For me, my trip abroad was a crucial experience because I realized that I want to work in a profession where I can support men and women who are affected by violence or other socially deprived people.