VESA Volunteer trip to Africa | Rochester Rutherford Hall

UC students from Rochester Rutherford Hall, Juliet Bryan, Roisin Blundell-Dorey, Ellen Wilson-Hill and Christian van der Gulik, gave an inspiring overview of their experiences on their recent trip to Africa.

“In the recent holidays we participated in a Volunteer Eco Student Abroad program in South Africa, St Lucia. We took part in in the sustainable community development project, volunteering at construction sites, conservation centres and work in education to help the less fortunate. This was an eye opening opportunity that we feel very privileged to have been able to experience.

The focus of our construction work was to build a home for a
man named Derek and his family of 8. They currently live in a
wooden shack, around 15 m by 3 m, not nearly enough room for
their large family. Their house is falling apart, and the roof had
several leaks. Due to financial difficulties and the size of their
house, only 4 of their 6 children can live in the house with them. Their new home built by VESA volunteers will have 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a septic tank and an incinerator. This meant the whole family could live together and live in a much healthier and
safer environment. Our contribution to the house was filling each room with soft sand, before flattening and raking it. We had to make concrete from scratch and poured it on top of the sand. It was physically hard work, having to manually shovel the concrete mix as
there was no machinery to help. However, we found this work incredibly rewarding as were able to personally talk to the family and see how much of an impact we were making to
their lives.

We then worked in conservation at The Saint Lucia Croc centre, which works towards capturing and rehabilitating problem crocodiles. The centre monitors crocodile behaviour and carries out research, as well as releasing offspring into the wild. They are home to all African crocodile species: the Nile, Dwarf and long-scouted crocodile; alongside American Alligators. We were split into three groups each tackling a different task. We cleaned numerous crocodile and alligator enclosures. A conservationist was required to supervise, not only to instruct us, but also to keep an eye on the crocodile as they remained in the enclosure with us as moving them is too stressful for the crocodile. We drained their pool and scrubbed it clean removing all the organics that had built up. We also helped to finish a two-year project, creating three new enclosures at the centre to house more adult crocodiles. We worked on concreting their pool and clearing overgrown bush. We also
helped to build a new set of enclosures for baby crocodiles in order to increase their survival rates before releasing them into the wild, clearing rubble from the building site. It was great to volunteer at this centre and see the impact it has on the crocodile population, as well as making the community a safer place from problem crocodiles.

We also worked in a Big Cat rehabilitation centre, that housed four wild cat species; the Cheetah, Serval, Caracal and the African Wildcat. The aim of the centre is to care for cats who are injured or neglected. They also breed where possible and release the offspring into their natural habitat into protected parks. We felt very privileged to be able to see the work they do first-hand, as well as contributing by helping with the enrichment of the Servals and
Cheetahs. Without VESA’s help, this centre lacks the funding to release these cats back into their natural habitat and support those who are unable to be released and must stay at the centre. Our work and financial contribution was significantly appreciated, and we felt
privileged to be a part of helping this centre.

Our final volunteer experience was at a school teaching students averagely aged between 5 and 13. We were split into small groups of 3 or 4 and would work in a classroom helping teach math and English as well as individual tutoring. In the school the ratio of teachers to student was extremely low so by volunteering we were able to teach students in smaller groups which meant they picked up the content
faster. It felt very rewarding teaching these students as many were very interested to learn and intelligent but struggled in a large classroom with only one teacher.

We also spent time at a kindergarten called Mama Doris’s. This was a free place where mothers could take their babies and under 5’s for the day. There are many teenage pregnancies in this area and Mama Doris provides for these young mothers by giving them a free place to take their children while they are still earning an education themselves or working. We would spend the day looking after the children and taking over from Mama Doris while she did admin, made meals, and rested as she works there all day every day. We mostly entertained the children by playing with them, colouring in and helping them say simple words in English. Working in education was very rewarding, however also made us feel very privileged for the education system and opportunities that New Zealand offers us.

Our experience in Africa was incredibly eye opening. We are very thankful for your contribution; you helped us gain an experience that will stay with us forever and mould our future endeavours.

Thank you, Juliet Bryan, Roisin Blundell-Dorey, Ellen Wilson-Hill and Christian van der Gulik.”

To learn more about activities for you to get involved in outside of academic study, check out the list of UC pre-approved activities on the Co-curricular Record (CCR). Find opportunities that suit you> 

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