Mélissa Luna Poutot - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I was inspired by my neighbors, who are originally from Cape Town, and they had told me about the amazing views and sweet children.

Why did you choose GoEco?

I chose this program because I really wanted to work with children. GoEco was my number one choice as an organization because of their fast response and attention to every question I had.

Jamestown, Cape Town, South Africa
Jamestown, Cape Town

What was your favorite part about South Africa?

South Africa in general was a country that I wanted to discover. More specifically, Cape Town, for its beauty, wonderful people, amazing culture, cool activities and so on. My favorite part was climbing Lion's head mountain for sunset. The view was spectacular.

What made your experience abroad unique?

My experience was unique because of all the lovely people I got to meet. Most were European, but they were from all over the world. From Taiwan to Scotland, my co-volunteers were incredible.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

The local staff gave us tips on how to be safe, what to visit, how to get to areas of town, and they told us a lot about the children and how to make the children behave, which was very helpful.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 20.0px; font: 15.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000}
span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

View of Cape Town, South Africa, from Lions Head
Lion's Head at sunset

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

Absolutely nothing. Maybe I would have liked to stay for another month or so, but other than that, nothing. It was amazing.

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Our days started at 8 a.m. We left the volunteer house to go to our project/assigned schools. We got to our respective schools at around 8:30 a.m. From 8:30 a.m to 9:30-10 a.m., we sang songs and fed the children breakfast. From 10-11 a.m. we had our daily lesson which included either the ABC's or numbers. From 11 a.m. to noon, we played legos and dress-up. Then we had lunch at around 12:30 p.m. After lunch, the kids had outside playtime and nap time. We would usually get picked up at around 1:30 p.m. And once we got back to the volunteer house, we had our free time.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I absolutely loved walking to the mall during my free time during the weekday. Since there wasn't much time left until sunset, we couldn't plan any major activities. So my roommates and I would go to the mall and have cheesecake and tea at Peacock, the local coffee shop in the mall. Then we would head down to the beach for the rest of the afternoon to watch the sunset. During weekends, we would do tours like the Cape Point tour or the wine tour. There were also activities like shark cage diving and skydiving.

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

Our volunteer house was great. We had a kitchen, a living room, a dining room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms. The best part of the house was the terrace, where we would sit, have deep chats, and enjoy ourselves. The two bedrooms were shared; one had two beds and the other had four. My roommates/house mates were very friendly.

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 20.0px; font: 15.0px Arial; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000}
span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

A child at Foot Steps Educare in DuNoon, Cape Town, South Africa
Lusethani, from Foot Steps Educare in DuNoon

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

Do this adventure without planning any activities ahead, because you will end up meeting people there and you will book activities there.

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?

The hardest part about volunteering abroad was the home sickness the first couple of days upon arrival. It did go away since I was so busy with volunteering and doing other activities.

What surprised you most about Cape Town?

Three things surprised me: Cape Town has two extremes: either very rich communities or very poor. Cape Town has strange weather, from raining to sunny in a matter of minutes, and Cape Town has many, many wineries.

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in South Africa?

I wish I had known how old the children were, so I could bring them clothes, books, supplies, posters from home.

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

I would definitely go back to Cape Town, but since I love to discover new places, I'd want to go to Argentina, teach English and help out in an orphanage. I love South America and I'd also want to make a difference in the lives of children, just like I did in Cape Town.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

The biggest benefit from volunteering abroad would be the way I see society. Meaning, since this experience, I got to learn so much about a culture, a country and a society which are very different from Canada. It made me realize a lot of things about North American culture and I do not take things for granted, like many, who have not volunteered abroad.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Cape Town?

If you plan on going for the summertime (Cape Town's winter) make sure to bring WARM clothes (for example windbreakers, rain jacket, jeans, hoodies) because contrary to popular belief that "Africa is hot," it gets very cold. Cape Town's weather is very strange: one day it could be 7°C, windy and raining, and the next day it could be 25°C and sunny.

Children play at the beach in South Africa
Holiday Club at the beach

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

Now that I’m home, I see society in a whole different way and I appreciate all the people and materialistic items I have in my life.

Would you recommend GoEco to others? Why?

I would definitely recommend this program and provider to others, because it is simply life changing and so much fun.