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I was bored and dissatisfied with the same old same old, going to work, coming home, going to work, coming home etc, you know the routine. I knew I wanted more out of life and the last thing I wanted was to look back over a life lived and have regrets. So, I joined Australian Volunteers International and decided to work in South Africa for 3yrs as a Senior Professional Nurse. I was employed by the Department of Health in Limpopo Province and seconded to an NGO in Tzaneen. A rural town with all the mod cons, usually, not withstanding power failures, thefts of power lines, monkeys getting fried on the wires and upsetting power supplies.
My job was to walk the streets with the volunteer caregivers, going house to house finding people who were sick and assisting the caregiver with moral support and nursing knowledge when access to clinics or medicine was extremely limited. We would start early in the morning before it was too hot and would walk all day till about 3pm when the sun would beat down both summer and winter. We would find a variety of cases from multi organ failure, cancer, AID’s, old age, disabled and lonely.
After 12months of this I participated in a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity & Threat analysis) of the work we were doing. The caregivers identified that their biggest heart ache was the children; nothing was being done particularly for the Orphan & Vulnerable Children of the area. There were no after school activities except the occasional soccer matches. Orphan headed households were not being supported, foster parents were being lumbered with orphans and no psychosocial or financial assistance for them or the children. The usual occupation was drinking, smoking and sex (Limpopo had a teenage pregnancy rate or 17% in 2003), HIV was very prevalent amongst the 17-24age group. I was asked to do something! So for the next few months I researched what was culturally appropriate, what was available, what worked in other nations, and I also asked the kids what they wanted.
A colleague and I, Elizabeth Mabuza, started a multi tiered project including Scouts (the old Boy Scouts now includes boys and girls), we started with 13 children in one village in 2003 and now we see over 2,000 children on weekly basis in 86 different villages with 126 adult Scout Leaders. We work with 7 Home Based Care Organizations and 12 Drop in Centers around the sub district of Greater Tzaneen. Keep The Dream 196 was officially born 1st August 2007 so we could focus on the work we were doing.
Advice to Students
I am often asked about the differences between Australia and South Africa and the only analogy I can think of which is suitable is living in Australia for me was like watching the test pattern on television in black and white with monotone audio from the 1960’s, South Africa is 3D digital 360 degree surround sound blue ray LIFE!! I have no regrets making the change, I am making a difference, we only have one life, live it to the max for others to benefit from the advantages we have had living in a safe country with all the opportunities we have been given. You will never regret it!
For more information, visit the Keep the Dream 196 website.