When did you volunteer with Bobbi Bear and how long were you there for?
When I first started looking for a volunteering project as part of my studies in Psychology and Law, I was unsure of what to do but when I came across Operation Bobbi Bear, I immediately knew it was the right opportunity for me.
The plan was initially to go to Bobbi Bear for three to six months, but this fell through. As this was a project I wanted to do, I held onto the strong feeling that I needed to go to Bobbi Bear, so I finally got the chance and went for six weeks in 2013. I would happily have stayed longer, as the weeks flew by during my stay.
What did your volunteering work consist of?
The work I did at Bobbi Bear was quite varied and I also had a lot of influence on what I chose to do. If you like to be told what to do and get on with it, Bobbi Bear isn’t the right place for you because you are expected to act proactively, jumping on what’s happening and using your own strengths, knowledge and commitment to help where required. Any ideas or feedback you have will be very welcome by the staff.
My tasks at the Tree Clinic and support groups included helping with medical advice, information sessions, but also singing, playing and dancing with the children, as well as providing food and drink to the patients.
I spoke to women who had been abused, raped and neglected and put them in contact with a permanent employee of Bobbi Bear for follow-up meetings in order to encourage them to report the abuse. We took in children arriving at Bobbi Bear and helped to see if they could stay at the centre or if they could stay with a local family.
There was also the need to provide support to the children and women by either staying with the child during the interview or by attending a hearing where a possible suspect could be released on bail. After an alleged rape of a child or woman, we’d go to the hospital to assist with the medical research and interview process.
In addition to the volunteer work, I met a lot of people and got to know their families well. I went to a wedding, a funeral and a great religious service and had a chance to explore the beautiful landscapes of South Africa.
What were your expectations before starting? Did these match up to your experience when you finished?
I didn’t know what to expect before my volunteer programme. I felt it was something I had to do, and I now think of it as my second home. The project appealed to me because you not only have to care for children, with either medical or psychological support but also because no two days are the same and you have the freedom to contribute in a way that suits your strengths. I wanted a project where I could give both the social support as well as legal and psychological support. I have not regretted this decision and it has had a major impact on my life.
How do you feel the experience changed you?
My time at Bobbi Bear has definitely changed me for the better. It showed me how I should appreciate my life back home and not take what I have for granted – a roof over my head, affordable health care and a good legal framework. I’ve also found how potential employers value volunteering work so that was an unexpected career benefit. On the other hand, I learned a great deal from the people I met there and who conquered a place in my heart. I have a new appreciation for life and I’m more focused on just enjoying the time I spend with friends and family. Bobbi Bear and South Africa have certainly changed me and I am eternally grateful to them.
Why should someone choose to volunteer with Bobbi Bear?
I would recommend volunteering at Bobbi Bear to anyone who really wants to do something for someone else who has been through a very traumatic experience. It’s a unique opportunity to provide care, to understand and to learn from the hard work of the staff at the centre.
Can you name the most impactful moment of your volunteering experience?
There are so many moments that come to mind but the most impressive aspect of my stay at Bobbi Bear was the chance to experience the passion Jackie and Eureka have for helping other human beings in need who come knocking at the door. They literally dedicate their lives to helping these people and witnessing that has greatly inspired me to do more for the people around me. This is particularly impressive given how the odds are stacked against them by a very corrupt legal system, a deficient provision of healthcare and the general backdrop of misery which they work to eradicate, one small victory at a time.
Do you want to join Viola and volunteer with Operation Bobbi Bear?