How my decision to do a Work Experience abroad after High School impacted my Life
My name is Paula Lindenberg and I am a 19-year-old girl from Germany. This Summer, I finished high school and decided to come to South Africa. I’ve done a four-month internship at Projekt Ubuntu. Here, I stayed at the Yoga Shala accommodation, where many volunteers from all over the world are located.
Accepting People as They Are
My time in Cape Town taught me a lot about different cultures, values, and character traits. However, by far the most important thing to me was how to deal with myself. I learned about my fears, my personal boundaries, and my own values. One of the strengths I developed was taking responsibility and learning to accept things, situations, and people just as they are.
I also learned a lot about my personal development! It was a hard process with some breakdowns, but in the end, it was worth the fight. Personally, the time spent in Africa was quite challenging. The conditions and circumstances in South Africa are entirely different from Germany. The way of life is completely different down here and you have to be open-minded for those expressions.
My Daily Work at Ubuntu
The Ubuntu Center welcomes about 80 to 90 kids every day. The volunteers and Mama Phat have a lot of different responsibilities. To take some of these off her, we as the interns try to help her at the project as much as possible. During my time here, I worked with all those children in different morning projects and with the children at the Ubuntu Center in the afternoon. I planned the activities for the younger and the older children at the Ubuntu Center to bring in more structure.
I also did Monday evening meetings with all the volunteers to let them bring in their own ideas for the afternoon program. That worked very well and we did many different activities and games with the kids! Besides, I was a contact person if they needed someone to talk to. I stayed in contact with Mama Phat during the whole time to think about what we can change or what we could do better in the future.
Sometimes the interns also took over some responsibilities in the house to help out Ubuntu co-founder Candi. I joined the Ubuntu center every day and got a good overview of the 5 different projects. I saw how the Mamas support the kids and how the volunteers could make their daily work easier.
It was a great chance to see all the differences in the development and structure of each project. My work was always different and there was always something new for me to explore. It became a great challenge for me to experience all those parts of working in and for the township.
It’s not easy to say what my responsibilities were but I had quite a lot. A few examples are: taking care of the volunteers, planning the week, helping around the house, helping and supporting Mama Phat and the other Mamas at the project. But the most important responsibility was to take care of yourself and to take over responsibilities for others. Try to leave a place more beautiful than before!
Responsibilities and Challenges
Taking responsibility for both yourself and others sometimes means to put back your own interests to get more benefits out of a situation. That value was very impactful to me! I am an only child, so I’ve never had to deal with something like that before. I learned to take care of myself and my community; the group of volunteers and interns at the house. The group cohesion has changed for the better over time, which has an impact on daily life at Yoga Shala.
I started to see ‘normal’ resources and values from a new perspective. Water, electricity, or the area’s security are valued highly around here. I can’t compare this to Germany at all, the differences are too large.
During my stay, I got used to new problems and challenges that weren’t always easy to handle. I haven’t started studying at university, so some things will be difficult to take with me. However, I will work hard to make a change for people in need when time allows me to. My stay here was only the beginning for me, the first step to something bigger.
Social Issues in South Africa
I believe rich countries like Germany or Sweden should inform their citizens more about important topics like wasting water and electricity. Millions of people from all over the world waste a huge amount of water every day and aren’t even aware of it! Others are aware of it but have never experienced the consequences as they live in well-developed countries.
For my personal development, my time in South Africa was really important. I got an understanding of what challenges other people are facing every day. For me, making a change means to leave your own comfort zone and to stay open-minded for new expressions. The time was not always easy and I was struggling a lot with new situations. But all in all, it was definitely worth it!
A Huge Impact on My Values
I got used to a lot of new things during my stay, and I learned a lot about life. It changed my thinking towards things and I am very thankful for the overall experience.
Ubuntu had a big influence on my life. Especially on my personal values and knowledge about people. It changed my mind. The biggest transformation is the one in my head. It doesn’t really matter how big the influence or impact of your work is. More important is how you think about it. The intention you have when you come here is to help people. Your presence and enthusiasm can make them so happy!
All in all, I can say that the four months I spent at Ubuntu had a huge impact on many different parts of my life. This time helped me to find out what I really want and need in life. I am grateful for every single moment and day I spent with the kids of the project!
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