Elodie Anderson - 2013 Program Participant

Nelson Mandela celebration in South Africa

Celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela

Your academic background is in international business, what prompted you to apply for an international program in child care?

Corporate governance is now becoming a more prominent factor that businesses need to employ to become successful. People support companies that give back to the community, whether that be their own or one in need. Rather than just learning about corporate governance from a classroom, I wanted to experience an aspect of it by actually volunteering, because I think more companies should advocate this option.

What made you select South Africa as a destination?

When I was 12-years-old, I had the opportunity to attend a children’s conference for WorldVision. The conference was focused on the poverty in Africa. From that day on I had always dreamed of helping children in poverty stricken villages in Africa. The continent is so beautiful and the people are so friendly; I wanted to help make a difference.

What made GVI’s volunteer program stand out when comparing the many options out there?

As I was completing the experience as a subject for my university degree, I needed to choose a company that had a substantial program that could allow the ability to build assessment criteria. They offered structure and support, but they also ensured you would be able to take your own lead, which I loved the idea of. It was also a very reasonable price for all that was included, transport, food, accommodation, security and guidance, whilst also having a real experience, not going to a private school or a place with access to benefits.

You taught basic numeracy and literacy skills to the children based on their previous knowledge. Describe a typical day volunteering. What kinds of activities did you do?

We started the morning with singing nursery rhymes and telling stories, this was also when we could sit down and cuddle the children, like families would. After, we’d have morning tea and then spend time in small groups of similar learning levels and do basic numeracy and literacy activities.

During lunch we’d play games and get everyone to brush their teeth. Afterward we’d have one-on-one learning with the child to work on areas they needed more focus. We’d finish the day with an outdoor group game before heading back to base for the evening. You can’t really make a day any more fun in my opinion!

What was your favorite activity outside of the day-to-day structure of your program?

The activities that all the volunteers came up with to do in the afternoons. One day we went for a long mountain walk which had stunning views of the town we were staying in. Nothing beat those kind of spur of the moment memories.

What was the highlight of your experience with GVI in South Africa?

I have kept in contact with most of the people I have met, including the staff who have always made sure that I feel welcome to come back. South Africa is also now my favorite country, from the nature to the people, it was more amazing than I ever thought it would be.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while volunteering abroad?

Arriving alone. I had never been completely alone overseas and had a couple of days before I went to camp to fill in time. I had to adjust to the culture, which was a bit daunting at first, but GVI made me feel comfortable once I arrived, so I overcame this quite quickly.

How did the GVI staff support you throughout your program?

They were always accessible and friendly, so you had no hesitation asking for help. The GVI staff all had so much experience as well, which made you feel comfortable that you could seek guidance and get an experience backed response. GVI must have a great recruitment process and training program because I can only speak positively of these people.

Hiking in South Africa

Elodie on a hike

What advice would you give to others interested in GVI’s South Africa Childcare program?

It is worth your whole while. Everyone stereotypically say it changes your life, but they say it for a reason. Don’t think, just do!

What makes Cape Town such an incredible place to volunteer abroad?

There is so much culture in this town and exceptional scenery, you could never get bored. Spending your days working in a township where your work is respected, then spending your evenings by the beach, what better way to work!?

You now work as a field coordinator for GVI, how did your experience volunteering abroad impact your career? Your life overall?

I am helping GVI by being an ambassador alongside full-time work. I find it difficult sometimes to commit to the role well with so many other things going on in my life, but I recently realized that it is mainly about creating awareness to as many people as possible. I am lucky in the sense that I have the opportunity to share my experience regularly as I work in the travel industry. People are interested in how I did it, and then want to pursue the same adventure because it sounds like so much fun, which it was!

It has also impacted my life by influencing the companies I am interested to work for; for example, the company I work for now has a great corporate governance program, which I am glad to support.

What skills from your experience in South Africa do you use in your role today?

I believed I learned a great deal of patience and compassion in South Africa. These children have grown up without parents being present in their day-to-day lives, so there are a few more challenges than a babysitting role. I also believe I am more worldly. I have a lot more to learn, but I have a better understanding about some areas.