The day typically starts with a nice jog to the beach to watch the sunrise, or for the less sporty ones like me, with a big breakfast to set you up for the day. After the morning meeting and the packing of cars, we head off for morning project. Projects include; education, family empowerment, and medical. Although going out on project was sometimes overwhelming, since I had never seen such poverty or lack of basic needs such as food and hygiene, this inspired me to work harder in order to make projects more successful in providing the community with better conditions. It also made me realise how happy locals, especially kids, are with the simplest of things and this made me hope that I as well would be able to become as non-materialistic as they are and to appreciate what I have.
Going to crèche was one of the highlights of my stay in St Lucia. Being given the opportunity to help a kid reach grade R to actually have an education and knowing that eventually this might lead to an improvement in their life is amazing. One of the successes I had was introducing a water break at crèche, which helps promote the importance of drinking water as well as providing access to water and getting them used to drinking frequently. I also really enjoyed the support groups, and I was happy to see how they were trying to make small changes in their life that would improve their and their kids’ wellbeing and how much they appreciated our involvement.
After morning project follows a lengthy break around midday, which allows volunteers ample time for lunch, a quick nip to the shops for dessert or a nap. In the afternoon, if I’m not going out on project, I usually turn to what may seem the more boring stuff, office work, which surprisingly turned out to be very interesting and has taught me a lot. This involves the tracking of finances, merchandise and donations, a skill which will surely come useful in other jobs. It also involves more practical stuff, such as organising a merchandise sale, a presentation about THAF for volunteers or fundraising events. The monthly pub quiz night helps bring locals and volunteers together for a couple of hours of competitive guessing, while a volunteer scavenger hunt is a good team bonding exercise while raising money.
In the evening or on weekends we did tours or went on trips, such as the Zulu culture night, where we learned all about Zulu customs and traditions, and had once in a life time experiences, such as feeding an elephant and touching its slimy tongue, petting a cheetah and watching a turtle make its way up the beach to lay eggs. I also got to go to two traditional Zulu weddings and a funeral, where we got a first-hand experience of Zulu culture mixed with Western traditions and to interact with locals and show our appreciation to their culture.
One of the challenges that I was faced with was the fact that volunteers come from all over the world, each with their own language and habits, and although this sometimes created barriers, it usually just gave us the opportunity to have a good laugh at some misunderstanding or other. Another challenge that I had to face was ‘African time’, which meant that a task that should have taken a couple of minutes to carry out would sometimes take hours or could not be carried out at all. Although this was sometimes frustrating, I quickly adapted to it and learned to be satisfied by what I had succeeded in doing.
On the whole, interning at St Lucia was an experience that I shall never forget. The staff were a constant support, and having the opportunity to interact daily with the Zulu ladies was a unique experience. I loved being part of something bigger than myself and being able to make an impact, and this has helped me make some important life decisions.