Timothy Kraemer - 2014 Program Participant

Youth band Outcry in South Africa

On stage with the energetic youth band, “Outcry”. Photo credit to Greg English

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad?

I decided that it was time to spend an extended time abroad, not a holiday as I get easily bored, but a combination of two of my passions; volunteering and music making.

What made you select South Africa?

I wanted to go to a place where I’d never been before, but a country where English is the main language. South Africa was the answer; I already had a close association with the Buskaid Soweto String Project, writing and arranging music for them, but I had never actually visited them to see the music school that my friend Rosemary Nalden set up about fifteen years ago.

What were your housing arrangements like in South Africa? What was your favorite part about your accommodation?

As I had several projects lined up, the accommodation changed each time. During the Route 40 Festival I was in a luxury hotel! I then lived in a farmhouse for four days, then for the last three days I stayed on a nature reserve! Although the hotel was the most comfortable, I think the farmhouse would be my favorite as I was living with a family and learned a lot about the problems facing South Africa.

What was a typical day like for you in South Africa?

Every day was different. During the R40 festival there was quite a lot of hanging around. It was up to me to get involved. So, I offered my input as a cellist and joined in with some of the youth bands. After the festival, when I was billeted to the farmhouse, I gave cello lessons to the daughter of Jan Neethling, and to some local young violin and viola players.

Leopard in South Africa

One of Timothy’s prize photos, the leopard that nobody else saw!

What was the most memorable experience you had abroad?

One of the moments that I cherish is the day Vusi Mahlasela came with his incredible band. I joined them with my cello on stage during the informal rehearsal and sound check, jamming along with his lovely rhythmic songs. I was so proud and honoured when Vusi approached me and asked me if I’d like to share the platform for a number in the evening performance. I’ll never forget that.

Another very memorable day was with Alex Matthews and her friend Nic who drove us to Kruger National Park where we saw the big five in one day! Our special moment was when Alex spotted a leopard. No one else was around and we had it all to ourselves!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in South Africa?

Organizing myself, as it was up to me to get involved, particularly during the R40 Festival. Moments of feeling a bit lost and, particularly in the farmhouse, feeling isolated, as I had a lot of free time.

What advice would you give to others interested in volunteering in South Africa?

My advice would be to keep an open mind, to be clear about why you are volunteering, and to be committed. If you have skills to offer, people are generally ready and very willing to receive your input. If you come up against resistance, see it as a challenge and learn something about yourself from that experience. See it as a positive.

Visa Mahlasela on stage in South Africa

Timothy’s proudest moment, on stage with Vusi Mahlasela. Photo credit to Greg English

Why would you travel abroad again if you had the chance?

  • To experience a different culture
  • To break habitual patterns at home
  • To share my life skills with others, particularly young people who are willing to learn
  • To feel refreshed when I get home!

How has interning in South Africa impacted your life?

My whole experience in South Africa has definitely had a positive impact on my life. One of the things that I’ve learned is that I can survive being out of my comfort zone. Also that I’m hungry for more volunteer work, although I would like to try somewhere else and see what challenges arise for me in a different environment. Overall, it was a very positive experience. Having the opportunity to pass on my skills to younger musicians was extremely satisfying. I hope I was able to help them and I wish them all the very best and hope that they can fulfil their own dreams.