Wow.. where to begin…
I was studying Psychology in Vancouver and I was aware my experience was going to be over soon. My time in Vancouver had ignited the travel spark within me and I really wanted to go somewhere once I returned from Canada.
Doing volunteer work in Africa was always something I wanted to do to. I was studying psychology with many people, so I wanted to add something special on my CV. I started ‘Googling’ volunteer work in Africa and soon found an organisation with projects in Africa that stood out to me.
There was one project in particular that caught my eye and that was Operation Bobbi Bear. I wanted something different and something special. Going to an orphanage is nice, but it wasn’t for me. Bobbi Bear seemed to be just the project I was looking for; a very vulnerable group and combined with counselling and psychology. Impulsive as I am, I applied on the spot. I decided to postpone the start of my master’s degree and instead use that time to go South Africa.
The reason I don’t know where to begin to explain my experience is because South Africa and Bobbi Bear have a special place in my heart and I kept going back. So it’s more experiences really than just one experience.
Every member of staff, little Mekayla and the whole project are so precious to me. Besides an amazing experience I could put on my resume, I found a place I can call home.
It’s difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t know the feeling. The project itself offers a lot. No single day is the same and everyday you see and experience things that will amaze and surprise you. With Bobbi Bear you really get to see South Africa with all its beauty and political faults; going to court which only highlights the challenges in the judicial system, visiting hospitals, taking care of babies and children, jumping up in the middle of the night because there is a call out; so much excitement and thrill.
With every visit you get to see how South Africa works. I found that fascinating. For example at one court case the magistrate fell asleep. Another time we were waiting in court all day just to hear the case gets postponed. And while they call out a name of a suspect, the guy next to you stands up. So many little things that you will never experience anywhere else. This gave me a perspective that is unrivalled to anywhere else I’ve been.
I attended a drug raid, where we as Bobbi Bear joined the police on a secret undercover mission and had to remove the children out of a drug home.
Sometimes you see terrible things. And sometimes this falls outside of the mandate of Bobbi Bear. Flexibility is essential as things happen spontaneously. A girl with AIDS who is terribly thin and eventually passes away in the hospital, a 50 year old lady who is suffering from cancer and doesn’t make it, scared and sad children because something terrible happened to them…
“It can be rough and sad and so extremely unfair”
You’re never alone and you will always get support and love from the Bobbi Bear team. Together we have been through so many ups and downs, maybe that’s why I consider them my family.There is so much more to tell about my ‘South Africa adventure’, but the depth and width of it is so difficult to capture in just one story.
I do have one advice though; don’t go to Bobbi Bear for the thrills and the hardships; go to Bobbi Bear because you care, you have love to share and you want to get to know Bobbi Bear and the story of the people they support.
Yes, having or attending cases is important, but that’s not what makes your experience unforgettable. And go of course because you want to experience a bit of the world!
“South Africa is soooo beautiful!!!!”
Don’t be scared to choose South Africa as opposed to any other country; yes there are safer countries, but the staff will take such good care of you and they won’t put you at risk. Not once have I felt unsafe, but use your own sensible mind of course. The reality is, where the greatest need is, can sometimes be the hardest places to visit.
Hopefully I managed to give you just a small impression of Bobbi Bear and what is has meant to me.
One last note; I am currently working as a psychologist in the Netherlands and I have to say that my whole South Africa experience has made that happen.
To follow in the footsteps of Tanja to Bobbi Bear