Kimberley van den Berg is from Holland and volunteered with Bobbi Bear for six months following her friend who had already volunteered and enjoyed the experience.
She studied Mental Health and Child Development.
I was with Bobbi Bear for almost six months and my experience was so wonderful. I even tried to extend my stay but the Dutch embassy wouldn’t allow it. What made my experience so great were the people I worked with.
Every employee at Bobbi Bear has an open personality and is really interested in who you are and what your strengths are and what you can contribute to their work. When they find your ‘talents’ they provide a platform so you can develop them.
The staff felt like family and they are there for each other in times of need and happiness. The people in the community are wonderful as well. Because of my background I had the opportunity to work with a lot of different people from the D.A. to GP’s and the wonderful people in the communities.
I found another family at the Isipingo police station where I worked almost every week at the crisis centre. Being proactive in a crisis is associated with my previous work experience. In Holland I worked at an organisation that investigates if somebody has been, or there is reason to believe someone has been molested, abused or in any other way a child has been harmed. We also investigated domestic violence and supported families in great need. It’s similar to the child protective services and I still do the same work but I now also support the D.A. on cases.
When Bobbi Bear gave me the chance to do the same work but with their organisation, I was delighted. I really love how pure their work is. In Holland we have a lot of rules, which gives me the feeling the work does not always directly affect the people we are trying to help. In South Africa I got the change to step over boundaries and really connect with the needs of the victims and be there for them.
The Tree is amazing as well. You see the happiness you can bring with so little and the love people give each other even when they themselves have so many worries. I’m not that good at small talk; I’m more hands on. Even when you are like me you can do so much, and everybody is ok with the way you are.
I chose Bobbi Bear because it connected really well with my former education and work in Holland. I thought I could learn and hoped I could bring something. For me the hope came true. I got the chance to develop the people I met and myself.
My most personal and delightful memory was my birthday. When I woke up and dressed one of the children, I went downstairs and everybody started singing. They really made me feel loved and blessed. No birthday is going to top that.
The most memorable incident would be the time a crisis happened at one of the trailer parks. The neighbours had concerns about a very little girl. She had a development issue so she couldn’t speak. We found her grandparents and they were willing to take her in. The grand mother had to travel more than three hours to pick her up but she did. I don’t get emotional that easily because of all the years I have done this job but seeing this girl so happy when her grand mother arrived made me tear up. I saw a picture a few weeks later and she looked amazing.
These are the little somebodies you do it for. The small success stories you carry with you forever.
I am still impacted by my experience and would love to go back to Bobbi Bear. I wish I could work for them and stay really connected in order to make a long lasting difference. At Bobbi Bear it doesn’t matter if you are a volunteer, staff member or a friend, they will make you feel at home and a part of something good.
A lot of things are really hard over there and the things you might end up seeing are horrible, so you need to know if you can handle it but if you know you can, the experience is great. I still long for the pure work there.
In many ways, South Africa has a long way to go with regards to children and women’s rights. The beauty is however, is that South Africa can grow and develop and Bobbi Bear can give that opportunity.
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