Volunteer blues: The end of the road

This always happens at the end of any placement or intervention. No matter how much monitoring and evaluation you have during your stay, when the end of the road draws near you begin to doubt the impact of your work. Anyone who has volunteered often has experienced this once and for those who intend to volunteer be ready for this moment. In my previous post, about beginner volunteers, I had a tip that is relevant to this very moment: “Remember… Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Last Sunday I was lying in my bed and realized that I only had four more days at placement and all of a sudden I remembered the hundreds of things I was planning to do with and for the school. Though I knew what I had done over the past few weeks was highly appreciated, I wanted to tick off a dew more boxes on my to do list so I re-planned my last week of volunteering to prioritize two tasks:

1) Cultural exchange

When I first taught the grade 5’s music I asked them to sing a song for me and to my surprise they sang Mungu ibariki Afrika (God Bless Africa); This is the Tanzanian national anthem and also the first part of South Africa’s national anthem. A few days later I saw some of the girls playing a hand clapping game that I grew up playing and that is when I came up with the idea to teach them more games from my childhood so we spent Tuesday and Thursday afternoon exchanging games. I did a similar thing in India earlier this year and both times the knowledge that was exchanged was so rich. I look forward to teaching these games when I get back home to South Africa. Bringing a part of my travels home after leaving a part of my home at each of my stops. This may seem like a small connection but the thought of having a connection of play and joy between children that may never even meet opens up so many possibilities in my mind (watch this space).

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Playing "Marabaraba cofi"
Playing “Marabaraba cofi”
Playing "I went to the market"
Playing “I went to the market”

2)Posters

The second task was to get posters up in most of the class rooms. This was a project that all the volunteers at Charity School were a part of but I specifically wanted to get posters of the traditional instruments that I had taught the grade 5’s in Vocational Skills. Initially I thought I would download the pictures and create a layout to print on an A3 poster that they can use but I quickly realized that printing and/or laminating anything outside of an A4 paper is more complicated to get done around our area. As a result I decided to set myself up for drawing and calligraphy, two things I know (or knew) I am not good at. I managed to complete all 17 posters, by hand, and get them laminated; what I learnt from this is that you really are able to do whatever you set your mind on if the conditions give you no other option. Over and above this I managed to get a colourful numbers set done for the pre-primary classroom. When I put those posters up and saw the reaction of the learners I was close to tears. The appreciation they showed was worth the hard work.

Setting up the numbers
Setting up the numbers
Getting them up
Getting them up

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The final product
The final product
Setting up the grade 5 posters
Setting up the grade 5 posters
Putting them up
Putting them up
The final product
The final product

It has been an amazing 6 weeks in Tanzania and I have learnt so much. The combination of this experience and my experience in India has given me a greater perspective on global volunteering and education. There may be much more that the school needs but looking back I am happy with the mark I managed to leave.

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