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Field Notes

Comments from volunteers to Nigeria

“The programme has really opened my eyes to the difficulties facing NGOS with regards to development... I will cherish every memory, as not one day has passed that I didn't gain insight into another culture...the people are the most welcoming, friendly and fun that I have met in a long time.”

Sarah from Ireland

    May - Sept, 2006

“Best memories of Nigeria are the people who I have met, the peacefulness of their lives and their culture”.

Rosa from Spain

3 rd August –3 rd Sept 2006

"The best aspect of the programme, to learn to know the hospitality and friendliness of Nigerian people.… To see the eyes of the children in the Motherless (home), to make them smile, to be part of a Nigerian family and live the daily life and share problems and many good moments. "

Melaine from Germany

March-Sept 2006

"My host family could not have done more to make me feel at home. I had my own room and bathroom. I ate with the children in the home daily and they made such an effort to accommodate my dietary requirements. I had an incredible time and learned so much during my time at Erobodo Home. The work was tough but very rewarding.

… I really enjoyed the markets both in Abeokuta and Ado Ekiti. I love to shop at home so loved seeing all of the clothes. "

Memories of Nigeria.

  • Learning to roast corn on an open fire.
  • Watching the kids dance and sing when there is no light, they always provide their own entertainment.
  • Being part of one of children's court appearance granting him permission to be fostered to Holland.

"Volunteering for 2 months in Nigeria has taught me more than I learned in year at home … you learn so much about your own strengths and capability but more importantly your weakness.. it is an incredible experience and one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. "

Noelle from Ireland

June-July 2006

"I learned a lot about myself and about the children it was a big challenge for me but I could succeed so in the end, I am very happy having participated (in) the program.… I learned not to give up. I become more matured I have learned that you have to accept culture differences if you want to work in another country. I learned a lot about Nigeria and the life in adeveloping country that will help me in professional future life...The programme is very, very good and I was happy to have SYTO in my background. "

Linda from Germany

Dec 2005 –May 2006


Notes from South Africa

Katie's background in non profit management and organizational development was a perfect match for the research project that was needed at the Guga S'Thebe Arts Center in South Africa, as they worked to develop their identity in the community and their long term goals for the future. In her two months there, she worked with the people at the center, developed some unorthodox research strategies, and successfully created a working model for their strategic planning process.  Her essay about her experiences at Guga S'Thebe follows.

South Africa is like no other place I have ever been to. The landscape is absolutely beautiful, the people are amazing, and they have such great spirits and sense of hope for the future. Cape Town is a very diverse and exciting place. It is nestled between the enormous Table Mountain and the sea. I quickly learned that racial segregation is still evident, and the stark contrast between the rich and the poor is visible and I was living it during my volunteer project. I worked in Langa Township, lived in a “coloured” community and spent time with a friend's family who live in a very wealthy part of Cape Town. It was an intense intercultural experience and at times very hard for me to get my head around it .

As soon as I started my volunteer project, I knew that the work would be interesting but spending time in a township would be a life transforming experience. My project took place at Guga S'Thebe Arts and Culture Center in the oldest township in Cape Town, Langa. On my first day I was introduced to all of the staff. A few people were a bit reserved at first but once we struck up conversation we talked for hours. We shared stories, discussed the center , the projects they were working on, apartheid, the history of Langa, our families, HIV/AIDS, Cape Town, tourists, their concerns for the future and the list goes on and on. I heard more fascinating and compelling stories in my two months working at Guga S'Thebe than ever before in my life.

The Cape Town Department of Arts and Culture opened Guga S'Thebe five years ago. In the beginning it was a vibrant community center for Langa residents to go to learn a new skill, play music, dance and hold meetings . Recently, Guga S'Thebe has become a tourist attraction as well. When I spoke with Langa residents and asked them how they viewed Guga S'Thebe most of them said that is a place for tourists. When people go on township tours they stop at Guga S'Thebe for a tour and to purchase local art, jewellery, pottery and music. My project was to research how staff members view the Guga S'Thebe now, where they see it in the future and to strategize ways to educate the community about the center . This brought me to several different places around Langa and the Western Cape, including the Cape Town Department of Arts and Culture, Khayelitsa Township, SASTS office, Mamma Nomsa's house and Stellenbosch.

The project was exciting and I knew it was perfect for me because of my background in organizational development and non-profit management. At first I decided to create a questionnaire or survey and conduct informational interviews with all Guga S'Thebe staff. After speaking with a few community members and Alfred the leader at the center , I realized that if I sat down with a piece of paper and a pen writing down every word people say they would not open up to me, especially since I had only been there a short time. So I scraped the questionnaire, threw out any sort of model or research framework I learned about in graduate school and just talked to people in the same way I did when I first arrived. The information that was gathered was overwhelming and innovative ideas emerged. It was incredible and I experienced a paradigm shift. All of the staff members signed off on the report and we shared it with the Cape Town Department of Arts and Culture. My project was coming to an end and the next volunteer was arriving soon.

My last few days at Guga S'Thebe were very quiet and sad. I returned home, started work again and got back to my routine. After being home for about a month I received an email from the Cape Town Department of Arts and Culture and learned that the report we created is going to be used as a basis for Guga S'Thebe's strategic planning process. I also heard that several of my fellow volunteers received similar news such as funding was secured, HIV/AIDS conferences produced and school supplies purchased. Community members always expressed the ways volunteers make a lasting impression but it is the communities that make a life long impact on volunteers.
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