Long Term Volunteering
Friends Of Africa have had one Long Term Volunteer in South Africa. Bernie Connolly, a primary school teacher, spent two years in 2008-09 teaching English and working as an in-service teacher trainer in Holy Family Primary School, Mogwase, an SMA parish in the diocese of Rustenburg. During her time there and with the help of Friends of Africa, Bernie opened the first school library in the local area. This has proved to be extremely beneficial in furthering the academic achievements of the children.
Short Term Volunteering
Friends of Africa have had a group of Short Term Volunteers in South Africa for six weeks each summer since 2007. The volunteers have been involved in some of the following projects:
Building and Renovation Projects
Our volunteers have been involved in a number of building and renovation projects over the years, including the building of a pastoral centre in Zeerust, the renovation of a creche in Zeerust and the building of a chapel on the outskirts of Rustenburg.
The pastoral centre is a place where the local community can come for classes, much needed medication, and training in new skills. The centre has also been extended to include accommodation for new members of staff, who provide training in language and culture.
Our volunteers working on the creche renovation were involved in laying new carpets, painting walls and improving the outdoor playground and our volunteers involved in the building of the new church worked with the local community, painting, designing murals and preparing the church.
Tlokweng Summer Camp
In 2011, Friends of Africa began a new camp in the parish of Tlokweng. At the camp, the local children were taught in summer schools during their holidays about the sacraments. They also took part in games and sports. The camps were fun, enjoyable and of great benefit to the local people.
The South Africa group of 2017 were based in Lesadi parish in the North-West province. ‘Lesadi’ means ‘light’ in Setswana. There were a total of seven villages in the parish and the group were lucky enough to be involved in many different projects. During their first weekend in South Africa they spent time at a YES retreat (Youth Encounter Spirit). During the two days, many young people from Lesadi parish as well as two neighbouring parishes came together with the FOA Volunteers to celebrate and reflect on our faith through song, dance, drama and prayer. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to meet people our own age and to learn about their experiences of growing up in South Africa. While they were in SA, a new chapel was being built in the parish. The group spent several days working on the new build and at the end of our time in South Africa, they were invited to a blessing of the new church by the Bishop. They felt it was a very special occasion and it was amazing to see how happy and thankful the local people were for their modest new chapel. They spent one week running a summer camp for the children of Lesadi. This involved lots of singing, dancing and games and both the kids and the volunteers thoroughly enjoyed it! They rounded off the week with a sports day and a concert and all the children were given the opportunity to showcase their talents. Our FOA volunteers will cherish the memories we made during this week spent with the children forever. Fr Noel, the SMA Father that the volunteers were staying with, was organising a pilgrimage for the final weekend of our trip. The pilgrimage was to be held in the beautiful ‘Vleeschfontein’, the place from which Catholicism began with modest beginnings in South Africa. Vleeschfontein is set in the middle of Madikwe game reserve and it is quite simply unbelievable for our volunteers to see giraffes, elephants and zebras just mere metres from a watering hole while the volunteers were working! The group spent several weekends in Vleesch, working alongside the youth of the parish to prepare the place for the pilgrimage. This mostly involved cleaning and painting. They cooked and ate with the local people and spent every night singing and laughing around the camp fire. In preparation for both the summer camp and the pilgrimage, they visited many Catholic families in their homes to get to know the people better. The people welcomed the volunteers all warmly into their homes and shared tea, stories and prayers with them. The pilgrimage itself was a fantastic occasion for our volunteers. Thousands of people of all ages came to pay their respects at the shrines and to receive the blessed sacrament. It was a hot, dry day and many of the animals came to see what all the fuss was about! The budding medics in our group spent several days working in the clinic of the ‘Siza’ squatter camp. Thousands of people live in rundown conditions in the hope of finding work in the nearby mines. They survive with little water and the majority of the children do not attend school. Later, the whole group visited the camp and spent time with the children in the crèche
Check out 2014 Short Term Volunteer Beth Bradley’s account of her six weeks volunteering for further insight into the experience of volunteering in South Africa!