Thinking about volunteering abroad but still having cold feet? You’re not alone. Volunteering abroad is a major commitment, and with the work that needs to be done, it can seem a bit intimidating. These are completely normal feelings and thoughts to have. However, we know that volunteering abroad is well worth it! Several of our volunteers who had incredible experiences were in the same place you were, and now they see how much their trip has impacted their lives.
Meet Eilidh, a university student who volunteered at Operation Bobbi Bear for two weeks through Volunteer Invest. Initially, Eilidh was a bit apprehensive about working with Bobbi Bear due to the intense nature of the work. However, during her time in South Africa, Eilidh enjoyed the work so much that she decided to shift her career focus and pursue social work.
We had a chat with Eilidh after she returned from South Africa to hear about her time at Bobbi Bear. She told us why she was initially a bit nervous and how it ultimately differed from her expectations.
I think it was completely different from what I expected, but in a good way. I was expecting it to be a bit depressing, just because of the nature of the work. But everyone there was so friendly and kind, and everyone worked well together, so it didn’t feel like that at all. I felt like I was actually helping people and I felt supported. It was a nice environment at the Bobbi Bear house as well. I think it definitely exceeded expectations there. I’d love to go back, probably for longer.
I only spent two weeks there originally because of the nature of the work. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it, but then I found that once I got there and kind of got into things, I really enjoyed it. And then I was a bit sad when the two weeks were up.
I enjoyed things with the school talks with the local schools raising awareness for drug misuse. I also really enjoyed going to court one day, which I found really interesting because I’m wanting to work with victims of abuse. I’m doing my dissertation on eyewitness testimony, so I got to see how they use that in court cases over there, which I found really useful and beneficial. The victim’s testimony at the police station was really interesting as well. They asked me what particular interests I had and they took that on board and I got to go to the court and the police station. It was really good that way, they took me to things I wanted to do.
In the schools, we would go and do talks about drug misuse, raising awareness of it, raising awareness of the risks that could lead on from drug usage and giving them contact information for a local support group, and the police, and obviously Bobbi Bear as well.
I like working with kids, hence the Bobbi Bear placement. I feel like I worked quite well with the person that was doing it for Bobbi Bear. We both had different experiences with drug use, so we worked quite well with each other and were able to give different takes on it. I think the kids really appreciated that as well, a lot of the kids would come up afterwards and ask questions or ask for numbers if they had family members who needed help. I think it worked well.
She also told us about how this ultimately had an impact on her future career.
I was originally wanting to go into forensic psychology, but coming back from Bobbi Bear and looking at different Master’s programmes, I’m hoping to go into social work instead. I want to work with victims of abuse that way and work with them afterwards for continued support. I’m about to go into the final year of my undergrad in psychology, and then it’ll probably be another couple of years of training for social work.
In addition to impacting her studies and her work, Eilidh also felt that the experience impacted her personally.
I think it has made me quite strong. I thought I was going to be in tears all the time with the cases, but it made me realise I’m actually a bit stronger than I thought and I’m actually quite good at dealing with kids and teenagers. I’m actually, hopefully, quite good at helping get certain messages across to them and making people feel like they can come to myself or Bobbi Bear for support.
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