Marine: volunteer with children – Volunteer in June 2018
I had to do a civic internship for my school, I decided to take this opportunity to realise something special and go abroad. I was already really involved in the children cause around the world with the NGO UNICEF and also in the environmental cause in my all-day life. Then I found DAKTARI, which works at the same time for both. I didn’t hesitate long and decided to go to South Africa to discover the culture by helping the children and save the environment.
Every morning, I woke up at 6.30 am with the sunlight and the animal’s barks. Then I joined all the children and the volunteers to do the dog walk around the camp. It was a good way to wake up properly and talk with the children. After that, we were split into small groups in order to clean up the animal’s enclosures and to feed them. It’s called the Stabling. Then, morning lessons are done by two or three volunteers. Every week, I used to do the environment one because I found it really interesting, even if it was a little bit complicated to teach. When we had a little break, I used to love playing with the kids at some games I invented. Some volunteers enjoyed joining us and we had a wonderful time, laughing and playing. There were also lot of lessons during the afternoon. It was about animal tracks, anti-poaching, making South Africa a better place etc.… Then, every child went to the shower duty. In the evening, we had social talks. It was about respect, alcohol and drugs addiction, sex and HIV. It was a calm time, when children could ask questions and discuss with the volunteers in small groups.
My favorite part at DAKTARI was the bonfire. Every Thursday evening, we used to light up a fire outside of the camp and dancing around singing traditional songs and playing games. I loved to dance with the children because they taught me the steps and it was a really joyful moment. My favorite lesson to teach was Make South Africa a better place. I liked it because I could see what children learned during the week and how they could imagine their world after that. For some of them, DAKTARI made a real change and opened lot of future perspectives. The Dassies were my favorite animal without any hesitation. When I had some break time, I spend some time in their enclosure to cuddle them and ply with them.
At DAKTARI, I have learned a lot thanks to the lessons and the activities I had to teach. All the environments problems appeared clearer to myself while I taught to the kids. I also learned of the South African culture and that’s the best memory I have. I learned some Sepedi words, some dance steps and how people there lived.
My very best memory happened on the last day of my stay. It was a Friday, and with some of the volunteers we went to a village to clean the school. All the children who were in DAKTARI during the week came to help us. Other children and people from the village came and we accomplished a huge work! They were happy to do it with us and I enjoyed doing it. It was a beautiful day and all the children wanted to play, dance and took pictures with us. I felt like I was a real part of this world. I met Pretty’s daughter, which was the cutest little girl I ever met, and I played with her for ages. At the end of the day, two boys of the village danced for us, it was incredible! I couldn’t stop smiling.
I have also been on few excursions to the Kruger Park, which I really enjoyed. But the best one I have been to is the Homestay. I went to the Oaks Village during 1 day and a half to live like the inhabitants. I learned how to cook pap, a traditional meal. I sold some fish on the market place at 5 o’clock in the morning, I walked in the village to meet people, I dressed with traditional clothes, I played with the kids and I have been blessed by a priest in a church. It was intense and at the end I was really tired. But it was a such different way of life than what I used to know, that I realized how lucky I was, and that I wanted to work for humanity. I came back to DAKTARI with stars in the eyes because I met wonderful people and I lived strong experiences.
In the end, this is an experience I will never forget. These people I met and these days I lived were amazing and I dreamt so many times that I was still there. The Bush is full of nature and animals, I felt really good in this atmosphere. Waking up with the sunlight and working with a pure air made me feel calm and unstressed. But if I could, I would have stayed at least six months. One month is too short, you don’t have the time to see the impact of what you have accomplished.
At DAKTARI, we all are like a big family. And we work together either for the children, either for the animals and the environment. I think that the impact of what DAKTARI does in South Africa will appear on the long run. The children will remember the rules and the advices we gave them. The day before I left, a girl told me that, since she has been in DAKTARI, she told everyone to put the rubbish in the dustbin. I felt really proud of her and I realized that I made a real impact I could also be proud of.”