Ellie Doubleday took a gap year after finishing secondary school in Manchester, England, and journeyed to Livingstone to complete a two-month internship in Africa. Here’s our Q&A with the volunteer teacher, who spent eight weeks working in rural Zambian schools conducting lessons and facilitating youth clubs.
Why did you decide to intern in Africa?
My sister and my brother both took a gap year and they both came to Zambia. My sister was on the healthcare project in Livingstone, so from her I already knew about the area and I knew about African Impact.
I had a look on the website knowing I wanted to go to Livingstone and that I wanted to do something with education. I found the internship and thought it was a good fit because it incorporated the lion projects a bit as well.
Why did you choose to intern instead of volunteer in Africa?
I kind of just saw what I wanted and went for it!
I knew I wanted to come for at least two months and if you’re a volunteer sometimes you don’t want to come for that long. The internships are always a solid block of time, which allows you to really get the hang of it. I know the kid’s names, I know who needs extra help in the classroom, and these are things you don’t always get from a few weeks of volunteering.
I also like how, as an intern, I can work with the lions here and despite not being interested in spending the whole time with them, having the option for such diversity is nice.
What is your favourite part about being a volunteer teacher in Africa?
I like how I get the opportunity to work at different schools with the afterschool clubs I facilitate – I’ve got three different clubs, all with different kids and different subjects, like Conservation Club. It’s probably my favourite thing, and especially because I get to work with the volunteers during these projects. Although I love the teaching with my regular class, it’s nice to have something different and a bit more exciting.
I’ve also got some days off where I get to work with the lions and experience Livingstone. Everything is right on my doorstep so I get a good balance.
How have you grown as an individual through taking a gap year to volunteer?
I think it’s probably done a lot for my independence and made me grow as a person. I definitely feel like I’ve learned a lot already, which will help me in the future, especially with things like communication. I think I’ve grown a lot more confident in participating in things, I’m not someone who likes to do much on my own but I feel my internship has given me more opportunity to be independent and just go for it!
Why would you suggest a gap year to potential volunteers or interns?
There are a few different benefits to gap years. Firstly, it’s a nice break between educations. I knew if I was going to do anything like this now would be the time. It also gives you opportunities to travel, which is exactly what I wanted to do. Taking a gap year to do good and volunteer abroad is also valuable for work and school – because it will definitely make me stand out more. Not to mention, there are great personal benefits. Before this I had never been outside of Europe and Africa is very different, so I’m glad I’ve seen it and done it on my own – that’s something I’m really proud of.
What would your advice be for someone considering a volunteer gap year?
You don’t always know what you want to do, or maybe you don’t get into university – so take a year out, find yourself, find out what you do want to do – then you’re not going to waste the money on university doing something you don’t really like.
I definitely want to come back because interning and volunteering makes you feel good – it makes you feel like you’re doing something.