By Leah Klemm – about her year of voluntary service in South Africa
It feels like yesterday since I said goodbye to all my friends and family in Germany to take the huge step of coming to volunteer in Cape Town at the National SSA Office. But one year later here I am going back already! Over the last 12 months I have had many experiences, highlights but also some difficult times which have made me become who I am now.
One of my best memories was when I went to my first Scout competition called Gordon’s Shield. It was two weeks after I arrived. I got an insight on how Scouting in South Africa works, which is so different to the German way of Scouting. Making new friends at the competitions and courses helped me a lot to cope with the Capetonian way of life. I also loved going to Hawequas, spending time in the nature, chasing baboons and driving on the back of Kuba’s bakkie! It made me feel like a real South African! Almost certainly I will never forget sailing on the Rotary Scout Yacht not knowing I would get seasick and holding on to the boat for 6 hours leaving my eyes closed and concentrating on deep breathes. Even months later people came to me laughing about how I was just lying on the jetty after arriving in the harbor, glad to be back on land. Another highlight was going to Kontiki, helping 1st Muizenberg to build their raft and watching all the Scouts using their skills to make these amazing rafts that even had toilets…
I think the thing I love most about Scouting in South Africa are the campfires. Standing around the fire, laughing and singing together is such a great feeling and in the end I even led my own campfire! I must admit that my campfire skills are not as good the ones of South African Scouts so I will definitely work on improving my skills back in Germany when I teach them the “Big banana” song! What I will definitely miss is the beauty of this country. Waking up every morning and cycling to work seeing Table Mountain right in front of me was such a privilege! Also hiking up the mountain with my host dad’s Cub Pack, exploring the nature, sleeping in the Scout hut in the cold and having this amazing view over False Bay was just breath-taking.
During this year I also learnt a lot about becoming an adult. It was the first time in my life that I was working. Even though I struggled in the beginning, I know now how to make websites, how to interview people and how to work with customers in a shop, which will help me a lot in the future. It would be interesting to know how many badges I have counted over the whole year! Besides gaining new work experiences, I learnt a lot about myself, saw myself growing, dealing with difficult situations, doing things I actually didn’t feel comfortable with and got to know my limits. I learnt that making mistakes is the beauty of being human and taking responsibility for them and learning from them just made me stronger than I was before. By living in South Africa I also learnt to appreciate the things I have and not to complain about the things I don’t have. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and look at the positive things in life. Through this year I also met amazing people who taught me a lot about life and I am very glad that I had the chance to meet each and every one of them.
For a whole year I lived in a host family that became like a second family to me. Playing monopoly in the evening in front of the fire with my four siblings, listening to Bear Gryll’s stories that my host dad loved to read to us after supper, and being able to talk to my host mum whenever I felt bad made me feel at home.
I can never imagine what I would have done without the friends that I made here. In my second week they not only showed me how to use the train but also took me to all the amazing places here in Cape Town. I knew I could always count on them and I am very blessed that they let me be part of their lives. Even when I am back in Germany, I am sure that the friendships that I made here over the past year will extend to a lifetime. Not forgetting my amazing colleagues who always had a solution no matter if it was a spider bite or when I was struggling to get my white shoes clean, they always knew what to do and what to say when I needed a mummy. In return I surprised them with sentences in Afrikaans and we always had a blast!
All in all I spent a wonderful year in Cape Town. I really loved being part of SCOUTS South Africa! By being part of the Scouting movement I had this amazing chance to live and work one year abroad, make new experiences, get to know another country and culture and meet new people. Being a Scout not only gave me the courage to make this huge step and leave my usual environment, but it also inspired me to be open for new things and being willing to learn.
At this point I want to say thank you to my amazing boss Milly and my colleagues who took me in for a year, to the German Scout organisation DPSG who made this dream come true, to my host family that gave me a new home, to my friends who made me laugh tears and last but not least to my parents who supported me from the beginning to the end! I also want to say thank you to every person that I met. You were so open and interested in me and what I did, you made me feel very welcome!
I am going back to Germany to study International Social Work which I am really looking forward to. An amazing chapter of my book is over now which I will always remember with a smile on my face. And now I will start saving money to come back because: Once Cape Town – always Cape Town!