GoAbroad Interview

Melissa Mitchell - Sales & Marketing Coordinator

Melissa Mitchell

Melissa was born in Swaziland. She earned her degree at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, and expanded her education through various internships. With plenty of marketing and media experience under her belt, Melissa became the sales and marketing coordinator for All Out Africa in 2014.

You were born in Swaziland but earned your degree in South Africa. How did your own experience earning your degree abroad attract you to the international education industry?

After completing my studies, I had the opportunity of working closely with both my alma mater and the Higher Education Association of South Africa and this led me to a whole new insight on the importance of cross border learning, cultural exchange, and skills sharing.

Swazi father with his sons in traditional dress

Cultural Village Tour - Photo Courtesy of Melissa Mitchell

How did you find out about All Out Africa?

This is quite a funny and serendipitous story. I had met the volunteer travel manager through a mutual friend some time before the position had been posted. At the time I was running my own small business and she had no idea that I had an extensive background in marketing. One fine day, I came across a post for a marketing related position that just spoke to me. Alas, she had shared this post via the company’s social media page. I applied and went through a rigorous selection process, comprised with many tests of my knowledge of my field and the industry. The rest is history, as they say.

How does your multicultural background and international experience help you in your current role?

I think the office has heard me refer to myself as the “resident chameleon” on one too many occasions. Having a multicultural background has allowed me to be open to and accepting of diversity, and to truly embrace it. I can easily adapt to situations and find it easy to understand our varying client's’ needs, concerns, and way of thinking.

Plates of traditional food in Swaziland

Traditional Meals - Photo Courtesy of Melissa Mitchell

Describe a typical day of work for you.

My day kicks off with me checking all of our online listings and social media pages as well as generating content and scheduling the daily posts. I also run our website and blog, so making sure that these are updated and functioning as per the norm and checking our back end system functionality is an important stop on my list. From there the day seems to disappear far too quickly as I liaise with all of our direct clients, a good number of our agents, and continue to work on ongoing marketing campaigns, designs, and projects which I have spearheaded. 

What makes All Out Africa different from other volunteer organizations in Africa?

We say this to all of our potential volunteers, independent researchers, and study abroad students: we become your family and you become ours while you are here. There is literally no issue to big or too small that our volunteers can’t approach us with. Whether it’s just needing to vent and have a good cry when they’re feeling homesick or it’s something as serious as having to be rushed to a clinic with a fever, we’re there by your side each step of the way.

All Out Africa offers a unique opportunity to partake in skill sharing experiences to people from all walks of life in our southern African programs.
All of our placements are monitored by All Out Africa staff members, so you’re always connected to us, and to home if you need to be. We offer around the clock care and support. I myself always have my phone on in case one of my potential vols needs to call me to clear something up or just to ask a few questions. This is not a Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job; this is an all day every day job. It’s people’s lives we have to take care of. 

Swazi Reed dance in Swaziland

Volunteers enjoy the Swazi Reed Dance - Photo Courtesy of Melissa Mitchell

As a native Swazi, what do you think the most unique aspect of Swazi culture is? 

Swazi culture is very unique in the sense that it embraces a bit of the west but still holds true to traditions of old. It is not uncommon for a Swazi to be Christian by faith, but still practice his/her Swazi traditions. We embody progress but respect our heritage. 

How are volunteers exposed to Swazi culture throughout volunteer programs?

First on the agenda is the volunteer’s orientation into the country. After a presentation by our social projects coordinator, volunteer manager, and our directors, the volunteers have a chance to experience Swaziland’s most iconic village as part of their orientation. This is known as the Lobamba Village Walking Tour, and it is our definitive cultural historical tour. All Out Africa also has a fully fledged tour operator company, amongst other factions, which run the adventure part of a volunteer’s placement with us.

In a volunteer’s daily life they are working with our local staff, project partners, and coordinators, so there is a real sense of being part of a Swazi team whilst out on our programs. The volunteers are also responsible for getting to and from their placement using public transport, which is safe and easy to use. From there, being immersed in our local way of life and social scene is part and parcel of it all, and if they really want an even more authentic Swazi experience, they can sign up to be part of a homestay with a Swazi family.

Mantenga Waterfall, Swaziland

Mantenga Waterfall is so beautiful - Photo Courtesy of Melissa Mitchell

What makes Swaziland an incredible place to volunteer abroad?

Swaziland is a peaceful country with a mild-mannered and friendly population. We are very welcoming to foreign travelers. This is not to say that it isn’t without its shortcomings, not everyone can be trusted, as with anywhere in the world; but in general, this is a wonderful place to volunteer abroad.

The scenery is green and mountainous. The activities are adrenaline packed and relatively affordable, in comparison to other volunteer locations around the world. The climate is moderate and the weather sunny with a cool breeze for most of the year. It’s simply breathtaking.

But, on the other side of that coin, there is actual real work that goes on here, and you can see the difference that volunteer work is making in local communities around the country. Swaziland has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, and as a result many children are left orphaned or vulnerable, the education system needs help, and the wildlife front is growing vastly, but conservation research of of extreme importance to continue to strive towards conservation excellence and awareness. 

Volunteer in Swaziland with a local reed dancer

Getting to experience Swazi culture first hand - Photo Courtesy of Melissa Mitchell

We’re not asking people to come here and change the world, we’re asking people to be open minded enough to come here and let it change you...for the better. In that way we can all be responsible global citizens, contributing to a sustainable and brighter tomorrow.

You are a rather new part of the All Out Africa team. What do you love most about your the team?

This month marks one year of me working at All Out Africa. Like I said, we are very much a family here, which means at times we have our rows like siblings do; with so much passion and so many ideas floating around, along with such big personalities in the office, it’s bound to happen. I love that we always come back together like a family does, and we never let anything take our sight away from the reason we work here, and the passion that we have for our volunteers and the work that they do.