Volunteer StoriesHappy Africa Foundation Internships Blog

How an Internship in Cape Town Changed my Life

By March 24, 2016 No Comments

Charley Hasim from the UK has spent the last 8 months on an internship with The Happy Africa Foundation, African Impact's sister charity in our Head Office in Cape Town. Working Monday - Friday, she has got involved in a wide variety of work and if you'd be interested in joining us as one of our Interns, check out more information by searching in the top right corner!

Charley Simons Town

So Charley, we’ve really loved having you as part of the team here in Cape Town – it’s been an amazing eight months and I know that I speak for everyone when I say that we’re going to miss you.

 First of all, can you tell us what your role involves?

The role is really vast, and for that reason I have been able to shape it and make it my own. I generally spend 4 days a week in the Head Office in Cape Town working with the rest of The Happy Africa Foundation team, really getting stuck in to what it takes to effectively run an NGO. I have been able to assist in getting new projects approved by the board, write grant proposals, host fundraising events and working as a go-to for other interns throughout Africa.

On the other day of the week I go out and volunteer in the community with African Impact. Over the past 8 months I have been to all of the Cape Town Projects and I love my time working in the communities with them. It is really important to keep a grounding to the work going on in Head Office and helps with the sustainable approach we take!

I get every weekend off, and after 8 months I still haven’t done everything there is to do in Cape Town! I don’t think I’ve had one weekend where I haven’t done something new and exciting! From the obvious tourist attractions like climbing Table Mountain and taking the Cable Car down and visiting Robben Island, to Sea Kayaking within 100metres of a breaching whale in Hermanus and paragliding from Signal Hill, there is no end to what you can do here in Cape Town. I committed a few weekends to learning to surf in Muizenberg, but my lack of skill means I unfortunately have nothing to show for this! On the other hand I have become a natural hiker and run a lot, spurred on by the sheer beauty of what is around me! Who wouldn’t want to run along the beach or climb to the top of the mountain to see the breath taking views?

Charley Helping Students

We often talk about the ‘impact’ our volunteers make on the ground – what is the biggest impact you’ve personally made?

I have been lucky enough to be able to be involved in a lot of different areas of the charity, as well as with our partners African Impact, and this makes it hard to pick one big impact. I have been involved in work leading up to the launch of a new program, The Girl Impact, and have been able to put input in to that, which I am proud of as I am really passionate about empowering girls.

Africa can be a challenging place to work – have you experienced any major challenges?

Having never been to Africa before embarking on this experience, I was worried I would feel overwhelmed by what I saw working in the communities, but instead it has left me feeling hopeful. I think my biggest challenge by far is going to be when I eventually return to the UK. Trying to share what I have learnt and figuring out how I can continue to make my impact.

Would you say you’ve grown from this experience?

I can honestly say this has been a life changing experience for me and I am finally doing something I am passionate about and this has allowed me to really figure out where I want to go, so the next step is just working out how to get there!

Volunteers Group Photo

My time in the communities has taught me resilience, how to be more resourceful and what it means to make the most of every opportunity.

My colleagues in Head Office have made me feel part of the family, and with every African Impact volunteer I have met (of which there have been over 100 from 15 different countries) I have been able to learn something new and feel inspired by their passion and their stories about what brought them here.

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is that there is no such thing as caring too much. I often found myself overwhelmed with the scale of problems, sometimes so big that it seems impossible to make a dent in them. Since being here I have come to accept that all it takes is for every person to do what they can, in any moment, and change will happen.

What are your plans moving forward (Even though we don’t want you to leave!)?

For the next 2 months I am going to be going on another big adventure! My first stop is St Lucia, in KwaZulu-Natal to have a look at our projects there, and then I am heading to Soweto in Johannesburg to spend a few days learning more about Apartheid. From there I am flying to Rwanda for a week toexplore before arriving in Kenya, where I am taking a 6 week overland tour through Kenya, Tanzania,
Malawi, Zambia, Botwana, Namibia and finishing back in Cape Town.

I will then be returning back to the UK and to my job as a civil servant in the Home Office! I have been on an unpaid career break whilst here in Africa, which sadly must come to an end!

Charley Working

I hope to eventually move to a career in development, and the experience I have gained here is just another step toward getting me there!

Lastly, what would you say to someone thinking of interning or volunteering abroad?

Just go for it! There are always going to be reasons and barriers to find to not come. My biggest barrier was money! But I made a plan and set a date and started saving! I have not met one person who has regretted taking the leap, and almost everyone leaves hoping to come back again!