I spent three weeks at Bobbi Bear in Summer 2016 and it was a very valuable experience.

The aim of Bobbi Bear is to assist young victims of sexual assault and mistreatment, although they offer their helping hand to all those in need no matter their age. As a volunteer, I spent the entirety of my time staying at the Bobbi Bear headquarters which is a safe and comfortable house just outside the city of Durban. As a volunteer, your duties vary each day; with some days being completely quiet and others being quite active.

I think the primary purpose of volunteers at Bobbi Bear is to be at the house and ready to look after any child or young adult who may need care overnight. For example, fairly early on in my time at Bobbi Bear a two-month-old abandoned baby was brought in and I, with the help of another volunteer, was responsible for looking after her overnight and during some of the day. This is obviously very rewarding and often very fun but I would advice volunteers thinking of coming to Bobbi Bear to ensure that they are comfortable with fairly heavy-duty child care as we were also looking after Mekayla, a very sweet and intelligent eight-year-old with a physical disability.

As the workers at Bobbi Bear are dealing with emergency situations, it is near impossible to construct a reliable and consistent daily routine. Each day was fairly uncertain. Some days we were taken to hospitals and were able to speak to those working in the rape victim centres which was fascinating and often very moving. Some days we were able to visit police stations where we could speak to the police officers about their work. Some days we were able to sit in during court proceedings which was a very intense and immersible experience.

The activity I found the most engaging was when we were taken to the more rural areas around Durban and allowed to visit families living sometimes in very difficult conditions. For example, we paid a visit to a lovely family who lived in a self-built home and were struggling financially due to the fact that an adult daughter in the small family had a mental and physical disability. It was incredible to speak to the aunt and siblings of her to learn how they dealt with such difficulty and very moving to see how Bobbi Bear support them. Overall it was a very valuable experience and I urge anyone thinking of volunteering at or fund-raising for Bobbi Bear to do so.Brad LG CA

To find out more about the Volunteer Investment Programme with Operation Bobbi Bear email us at volunteer@armsaroundthechild.org or read more here: http://www.volunteerinvest.org/operation-bobbi-bear/