Motivation can be a fickle b****. Motivation to learn, to explore, to even get off the couch each morning. My motivation to write this blog even came with a constant struggle of how to explain just what volunteering in Cape Town has done for me.
The motivation to begin my travels to Cape Town and join African Impact (AI) came with the constant struggle to understand what purpose I derive from my life. It was a trip that was only supposed to last two weeks, and although I sit here 3 months later, those first two weeks gave me one of the most heartwarming, mind-changing, purposeful, and surreal experiences of my life.
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Shane with local coaches teaching a Disney Health workshop with primary school children
When I left Canada to travel to Cape Town I did not realize how my new AI family would help me. Living at home; a beautiful, peaceful, almost bubbled society that is Calgary, Canada, had left me living in the shadows; the darkness of not remembering what it is to smile. But, why?
Why is it that Canada, a first world country, had left me miserable? How is it that a country still trying to rebuild itself from the Apartheid regime was able to help me realize that life isn’t all that bad? Why did this community help me grow, help me smile, help motivate me to no longer sit in the shadows of an unhappy materialistic grave?
My original plans only had given me the opportunity to spend two weeks with the Sports program in Cape Town, spending my mornings carrying out the plans we have developed for primary school students to engage in physical education. Before I arrived, I had no idea that South African schools were unable to employ full time physical education teachers. I thought this was the norm for all children of primary school age.
Shane working with local sports coaches at a primary school in Cape Town
At the end of my initial two weeks with AI, I was proposed an offer from the Cape Town staff team. An offer that I will forever be thankful for. An offer that I can’t believe I hesitated to say yes to. The offer granted me an extension that grounded me in Cape Town, South Africa for close to three months as an ‘Academy Volunteer’. It is a position offered to able and enthusiastic volunteers that gives you the opportunity to learn and use project management skills, leadership, and personal reaction skills as you manage the continued change of volunteers within the household.
Being able to grow into a more relied-on role was only an added bonus to the fortune of staying longer. While sports are my passion and was my main focus during the initial two weeks, staying longer in a more expanded role gave me the opportunity to diversify my knowledge of other locations within the community. It allowed me to visit the orphanage, Fikelala, allowed me to learn how to teach pre-primary school students at Kuyasa, as well as help the teens at a local foster care home.
The constant feel I got from each and every project was an environment of healthy, happy children just enjoying life. These children carry more pride, more culture, and more passion than I have ever seen back home. They love who they love, and they respect their elders. They love (like, love), having us, the volunteers, come in each and every day. They get to experience a different way of life and culture, something their political past has sheltered from them. A past that is filled with far more scars then I’ve faced in my twenty-one-year life. So, why is it that every day they wake up motivated with a smile on their face? Why can they be happy, yet my privileged life has left me curled in the corner?
Shane with young students at the pre-school, Kuyasa
Aside from the children I met, the volunteer house (Lion House) gave me a different perspective on life. There, you find a family built from people that come from everywhere around world. You have people that walk into your life that you feel you can never live without. You find a mom and dad in Shecky and Jane, the best housekeepers you could ever ask for, and you find passion through the upbeat, motivational and driven staff that sacrifice so much to help sustain the projects we get to go to every day.
The Lion House provided that sense of family you need when you travel; it gives you a home, it gives you friends. These friends will be your rock. They are the faces you see every day. You work hard with them, you laugh with them, and you will explore with them.
The weekends are for you. This is when you get to enjoy the beauty that Cape Town provides. This is where African Impact wins over other organizations. The experience they provide is not only to help you devote your time to helping the community, but it also allows you to see a new part of the world.
Shane at the top of Table Mountain, South Africa
But, when you spend your time and money to join the AI family, you don’t join for the friends (or for the fact you are going to Cape Town), you join for what your project will do to help better the community. Whether you get to spend your day on Sports, OVC (Orphaned and Vulnerable Child Support), Teaching, or the Girl Impact, you as a volunteer are helping to better a society that needs help. A society that has been shunned by the world because we once did not all believe in equality… an argument for another day.
So, what do I suggest? Take the opportunity. Take the chance. Give back to the world and it will return in greater ways for you. My time at Lion House and on the AI projects gave me more than I can ask for and it will do the same for you.
About the author and project:
As Shane discusses, he stayed on as an Academy Volunteer on our Cape Town volunteer projects. Throughout his time with African Impact, he made a huge impact on our Teaching, Sports, Orphan Care and Gender Equality projects and will be greatly missed as part of the team!
If you'd like to find out more about volunteering in Cape Town, visit the project pages:
- Teaching and Youth Development Project
- Sports Coaching Project
- Gender Empowerment Project
- Orphaned and Vulnerable Child Care Project