Meet Caroline Poell, Volunteer in South Africa

Caroline Poell is from Germany, she graduated from the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University in Karlsruhe with a Bachelor of Arts Honors Degree in Business Administration (Banking and Finance). Following her graduation, she worked as a Volunteer in Cape Town, South Africa, for 2 months with Volunteering Solutions.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Volunteering Solutions in South Africa?

After graduation I realized early on that I would like to get a greater understanding of our world. I needed some time off and convinced my employer to give me that. By chance, I discovered a German organization which helped me contact Volunteering Solutions. Volunteering Solutions is one of the least expensive organizations and offers great help and support. You will get an answer to all of your questions within 24 hours.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer?

During my time in Cape Town, I volunteered for an outreach program of the Anglican Church of Cape Town at Zonnebloem Cottage. The Cottage offers their home to destitute, abused, rejected and disadvantaged children from South Africa. My project was to give voluntary assistance to six children who are living with a foster family at the Zonnebloem Cottage. I helped them with their homework and other areas in their schooling that needed attention. My day to day activities included spending time with the children, playing with with them, and teaching them worldly wisdom. I also spent some time on excursions and outings, as I tried to giving them opportunities to visit places and explore their own city.

What advice do you have for future volunteers?

I can say that in the beginning everything is new and interesting but after a while one may experience a period of time when one starts to feel somehow depressed and frustrated about things. As time passes however, things get familiar as one discovers how to adapt to the new environment and adjust to local conditions. I needed some time to cope with the circumstances and this is an experience I will never forget. Volunteer in South Africa was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The most interesting thing about South Africa was the clash of cultures. I am sure that, if you as a volunteer stay as social as possible, you will have an unforgettable time! Stay positive and try and make the best use out of your time!

How has this experience impacted your future?

I regard international experience of extreme importance which is why I decided to go abroad for the first time in 2005. I underwent a fundamental personal change. I became an open minded and self-confident person and developed good inter-personal skills which helped me to easily get to know new people and network across both linguistic and geographical barriers. I was convinced that volunteering will have a similar effect on me and indeed, working with people didn’t just give me the feeling of being needed, but also helped me to get to know more about myself through identifying my strengths and developing my weaknesses positively. In Cape Town I was able to experience one particular personal as well as emotional challenge. This is the reason why I am going to work as a volunteer in a micro finance Institution in Cambodia during the summer. Hopefully this will be a high instructive experience as well.
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