Reflections of a professional joining a non-profit in Cape Town for a volunteer work placement

I’m Susanne, nickname Susy, 31 years young from Germany and joined Greenpop in October 2015 for a volunteer work placement. Half a year earlier I quit my well-paid job in a big corporation, looking for an organization with a spirit that has a positive impact on the world. When I applied in September last year, I was so excited. I knew that Greenpop is the place where I wanted to be. Although I was overqualified for the ‘standard’ internships, Greenpop was very keen to work with me on several other projects, so six weeks later I was in Cape Town.

Assisting with Recruitment and Data Management

Till the end of the year, I supported the HR department in the recruiting process and after that, I got involved with the planting department. I am specialized in project management and handled big amounts of data in my previous jobs, so it made sense they asked me to have a look at their planting and monitoring spreadsheets. That’s when really exciting times began. I have a passion for detail and data integrity but at the same time understand the bigger picture. So I cleaned up old spreadsheets, set up a new database and optimized the reporting system according to Greenpop’s needs.

Six reasons why an experienced professional can benefit from a volunteer work placement

That was my official work, but between all that I found a new family far away from home. I heard of words like startup spirit and being close with colleagues, but I never experienced that before. Working in a huge company with thousands of employees, I loved working in project management and my small teams. However, the bigger picture was difficult to understand. I had the feeling (and not only me) that the employees and their needs don’t count. It’s all about profit. And that’s what brought this world into the state we currently live in. Mother earth will survive without the human species. But we won’t survive without fresh water, regulated climate, food, forests & oxygen.

If you want to go far, go together

In Cape Town, I found so many people that care and take action. Not only during working hours but as well generally in their lives. In one of the Monday morning meetings, we talked about the shift in consciousness happening all over the world. My own awakening is still going on, but Greenpop and the amazing people involved with them had a positive impact on my journey. Without them, I would nevertheless work on myself and my surroundings, but engaging with them definitely gave me a huge push. There is this African proverb that reflects what Greenpop stands for from my perspective “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. I felt so in the right place that I extended my visa and stayed for an extra three months.

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At the Platbos Reforest Fest in March I was part of the production team and managing the Food Court. My visa expired at the end of April, so as my next destination I choose Zambia. That way I could still work on my project with Greenpop Cape Town online, get involved in the planting activities in Livingstone and join the Festival of Action in Livingstone, Zambia. During that festival, I was in charge of all finances, activity bookings and the merchandise shop.

Respect and tolerance

And that’s what I also love about the Greenpop management: They see potential in people, encourage them and give them the freedom and space to develop and make a change within the company. That’s why during an internship or volunteer work placement you feel part of a family and they really are, from the first day in the office. Respect and tolerance are not only words in this organization. Not only in Cape Town but as well in Livingstone, Zambia. I had the chance to be part of the team there, too. I could write thousands of words alone about the Festival of Action and still wouldn’t be able to describe the extraordinary experience I had with the team, the volunteers from all over the world and with the communities. But for now, I am back in Cape Town and still part of the family.

If you are an experienced professional keen to volunteer, please contact us to learn more about available opportunities for you.