In January 2016 65 year-old, Shelagh Harris embarked on a unique experience to South Africa to help at child victim abuse charity, a once in a lifetime chance to give something back to the needy, this is her story…
I had recently retired when my daughter asked if I would like to go to South Africa with her and volunteer. We had enjoyed a number of weekend breaks together; time for informal chats, pampering and re-charging of our batteries. I had no idea what this South African experience was going to be all about but readily agreed to go along.
By the time I returned to England, I had truly had a life changing experience. Here are just a few of my thoughts. Life can throw up a number of challenging events and happenings. My life had not been without its own fair share of difficulties. My daughter and I are close and have always worked through our crises believing in breakthroughs not breakdowns!
I was at the end of my forty year teaching career and my daughter was at the start of a new chapter in her own life. I knew surprisingly little about South Africa considering my mother had been born in Simonstown and was keen to see a part of the country for myself. My thoughts about going away were very much like a tourist in holiday mode. I had little concept that my trip would turn out to be not a holiday in the conventional sense, but rather a time for reflection and personal growth.
Arriving at Bobbi Bears was nothing like I had imagined. The house was large, bright and buzzing with activity. The “Aunties” were welcoming, friendly, chatty and above all ALIVE! It had been some time since I had been greeted with such, warmth, generosity of spirit and genuine delight in the fact that we had travelled from England to see them.
The “Aunties” were keen to share with us their work with women and young children, whose lives had been so damaged by the effects of poverty, abuse, and neglect. As I sat and listened to so many stories of cruelty and unkindness, I wondered how these ladies found the strength and motivation to work tirelessly, day in, day out surrounded by such overwhelming need.
As the week progressed, I was to learn that the “Aunties” too, had their own stories to tell. Their own lives were far from straightforward and had often been marred and blighted by their own experiences of cruelty, injustice and sadness. Maybe the empathy that these extraordinary women had with these damaged children was somehow part of their desire and mission to bring change for the better to these youngsters growing up in South Africa. I couldn’t help but feel that such a small group of women were responsible for a huge amount of care. Their work was impacting on the lives of so many women, children and their families.
South Africa is such a beautiful country; extraordinary scenery, a beautiful climate and much to see and enjoy. This is the holiday brochure S A. What I experienced was the darker side of the country, the side hidden from the tourist, the side that fills you with a longing to see things change. A long term vision is all well and good but I wanted to see the changes coming to fruition now!
A brave group of woman are tackling one small aspect of corruption and negativity in a small part of South Africa. This country seems riddled with immorality, corruption, poverty, abuse; the list could go on and on! What could I offer to these “Aunties” and to the Bobbi Bear Programme? If you’re reading this, what could you offer?
Join the Volunteer Investment Programme. Go to Bobbi Bear and see first hand what you could offer as a volunteer. Your time, your money, your care and kindness are all needed. Go together with your daughter and help by supporting the women in their daily tasks as they work to bring hope and support to a troubled group of youngsters.
You will receive inspiration from an extraordinary group of women who will humble you with their appreciation that you care enough to go and volunteer with them!
Enjoy the beautiful country and the wonderful optimism shining from the faces of the children who truly live despite the difficulties in their troubled young lives. If you can’t go yourself, consider sponsoring a young person who could and who would benefit the Bobbi Bear community.
To find out more about how to sign up for the volunteer investment programme, and take your daughter along click here.