21 and having never left my parents home for any length of time, I knew something wasn’t right.  The buzz of turning 18 and being able to go out drinking all weekend had flittered away, the girlfriend who I had stayed at home for had left me, and my uni experience hadn’t been all that i was expecting.  I sometimes even now regret not moving away for university, but i soon come around and realise that if i had moved got a massive loan and dug myself into thousands of pounds of debt, i may never has discovered travel or volunteering.

How I became a volunteer

Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth

Summer 2005 and I’m bored out of my skull.   University finished and with no real idea of what I want to do with my life i scoured the internet for ideas to keep me busy for the next few months at least. I remember my friends from Uni who would coach football/soccer in the USA each summer whilst i stayed home and worked in a sport shop, it was an idea at least, but the USA didn’t really appeal to me, I wanted somewhere just that little bit more different than what I’m used to.  I settle on 5 weeks in South Africa.

Not wanting (too scared) to be too adventurous, I sign up to a volunteer program.  I’d have a stable base, a solid group of travellers around me and a routine, hopefully I wouldn’t be too far out of my comfort zone but still experiencing something new.  5 weeks away at that point sounded like a lifetime.

Arriving in South Africa

Upon arrival at the Wet Hippo hostel in Port Elizabeth I was pleasantly surprised.  The place had a pool, sky TV and loads of room.  I wasn’t the biggest personality in the house and for a day or two I wondered if I’d make any good friends, but everyone probably felt like that and soon it was as if people had know each other forever.

Wet Hippo, Port Elizabeth

Wet Hippo, Port Elizabeth

Teaching would take place on Monday to Friday , and obviously the weekends were ours.  The Monday to Friday was also quite relaxed, so you wanted an extended weekend away to do some travelling it wasn’t a problem.  The kids in the schools were mega cute and never stopped smiling. At break time, they loved nothing more than to convert us all into human climbing frames, but we had no complaints.  To start with we would often just assist in classes, but before the end of our placements we were each taking leading roles in teaching.  Large classes and limited resources left us to use our imaginations and think outside the box when trying to thinking of ways to keep the whole class active and interested.  Relay races were popular and proved a good plan B if our other ideas weren’t quite going to plan.

Coffee Bay

Coffee Bay

On one weekend a large group of us hired cars and drove down to Coffee Bay for the weekend.  Staying at the http://www.coffeeshack.co.za/ we had the most amazing weekend.  The beach was beautiful and deserted, our own private paradise.  We had the chance to rent surfboards and learn traditional drumming.  One night a local choir came and sang to us.  The next day we were taken of a 5km walk to the ‘hole in the wall’, a stunning rock formation.

Being involved with GAP sports gave me the opportunity to get involved with all sorts of opportunities.  Below are a list of just some …

  • Night in the township bars
  • Three legged bar crawl
  • Xmas party
  • Sandboarding
  • Bungee Jumping

The xmas party (august 25th) was the last time that the whole group were together.  Some people had to get back for uni, others were jetting off to other countries, but me, I was going to make my way to Cape Town with a few others, going home was not yet an option.

Proceed to my Garden Route travels

Some more pictures

Wet Hippo, Port Elizabeth

The morning after the xmas party

Wet Hippo, Port Elizabeth

Haircut in a local township

Haircut in a local township

School placement, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

School placement, Port Elizabeth, South

Twister in the volunteer house

Twister in the volunteer house

Sandboarding

Sandboarding

Some of our pupils

Some of our pupils

Proceed to my Garden Route travels