Aine Donnellan - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I love travelling, experiencing the unknown, seeing new sights, and stepping outside of my own comfort zones to make new, lifelong memories. There is a whole world out there, just waiting for someone to go explore it - and the feeling of walking through an untouched rainforest, showering in a waterfall, chatting with some local kids on a street corner, learning centuries old traditional dancing, seeing houses that are older than your great grandma, or watching the sun set turn the world into a daze of red, pink, and purple, those are the sort of things that inspire me to go abroad.

View of Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
View of Table Mountain

Why did you choose Surf Volunteer Program?

Now, I chose the Surf Volunteer Program seeing that it combined my ambition of learning to surf with helping out in the local community! I chose Cape Town since I'd been following a Youtuber's vlogs for the past two years and his travels through South Africa, and specifically Cape Town, had made me really keen on visiting, due to the stunning nature, the diverse cultures, and the relaxed vibes.

What was your favorite part about South Africa?

TOO MANY TO COUNT! The general vibe, the artsy neighbourhoods in the city center, the culture of dance and music, the stunning beaches and their freezing waves, the wine lands and their incredible landscape, the South African accent, the cool as animals, the temperature, the brains (bbq), Table Mountain and Lion's Head, Long Street, Savanna Loco...I could go on forever!

Girls relaxing on the lawn in South Africa
Relaxing outside of the volunteer house

What made your experience abroad unique?

The people who I spent my time with. I met so many like-minded people my own age in the volunteer house, since we were all there for somewhat similar reasons; you'll always be a special bunch of people in these situations I recon. The kids at the school, too. It was horrible leaving my class, even after just knowing them for two weeks. They were the most heartwarming creatures, who open up to you and are willing to love you unconditionally from the first day that you step into their classroom.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Amazingly! They were always around, in a perfect way! Super friendly and helpful, made everyone feel involved and helped out whenever there were issued/questions!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Stayed for longer!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

  • 7:00 a.m. - Wake up and have yummy brekkie (always a lot of fresh fruit available, YUM).
  • 8:00 a.m. - Leave for project - spend four hours in class with two to six year olds singing, dancing, drawing, playing, doing simple eng/maths exercises etc.
  • 1:00 p.m. - Back for lunch
  • 2:00 p.m. - Surf, swim, and skate project with the older kids (12-14 years old), when we'd do the activities while just hanging out and having fun with the kids
  • 4:00 p.m. - Free to do whatever you please; hang by the beach, go to the local shopping mall, watch cinema, go hiking, explore Cape Town, head out for some drinks, skate around, etc.
Girls walking in Bo Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa
Exploring Bo Kaap, in Cape Town

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Hiking, beach time, surfing, skating, partying, eating, taking photos, and visiting the botanical gardens.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I loved the house we stayed in, because it made all of us volunteers feel like a little family. When you sleep together, eat together, and just chill in the living room sofas, you really do get to know one another - both the goods and the bads, which is something I actually enjoy! The houses were kept pretty neat, and the showers all worked pretty well.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Be ready to get REALLY attached to the kids you'll be spending your time with; they're all amazing and it's hard not to fall in love with them.

Girls dressed to skateboard in South Africa
Skater crew for the afternoon sessions

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

It has made me into a more positive and motivated human. When you realise how blessed you are in a lot of aspects of life, you don't want to be wasting all the opportunities you've been handed just by being born in a certain country. Also, it has broadened my mind in terms of cultural differences, and I've also caught the travel bug even worse than I had before. After seeing some of the most incredible nature scenery in South Africa, I want to explore more of the world and discover new gems!

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

I would! This program will not only serve you as an amazing memory, a fantastic experience, and a "good thing" to put on your CV, I believe that it serves an actual purpose in a lot of the kids lives, so by being a part of it, you're also partaking in what could be saving someone’s life.