Celeste Helm, WorldTeach South Africa
Why did I choose to volunteer in South Africa with WorldTeach?
After retirement I was unable to find a satisfying niche. When I came across the WorldTeach web site, I was drawn to the program offered in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa. At the time, the short length of the volunteer program also appealed to me. I wanted to try out the overseas experience before making a longer commitment, such as the two-year requirement for the Peace Corps.
What has been your most memorable experience with WorldTeach?
My most memorable experience with WorldTeach is two-fold: the bond forged with the young volunteers in my group and the pleasure of working with them in the township of Masiphumelele. The volunteers became very close during the first week of orientation, which was capably led by the South Africa program coordinator, Peter Fenton. It was an exciting new pathway for learning, serving others in a meaningful way, and the sense of being needed and appreciated. Our work together, particularly with the children at the Pink House community center was deeply rewarding as we shared this wonderful and sometimes emotional experience. When it was time to say goodbye, there were many hugs and tears shed. Our warm camaraderie was brief, but the memory tinged with poignancy remains.
What do you feel is your most memorable impact?
When I began working at the Pink House, I spent time getting to know the small staff and listening to their opinions and concerns. I empowered them as a team to work along with me to prioritize critical needs. We identified the soup kitchen’s location in a metal container outside of the Pink House as both inadequate and a potential health issue and made a plan to move the kitchen into the Pink House. It took a lot of work to clean out the space inside the Pink House and successfully establish the kitchen indoors. Watching the project come together and recognizing the appreciation of the food recipients in the clean upgraded kitchen was my most memorable impact.
What would you say to someone who is on the fence about serving with WorldTeach?
GO FOR IT!!! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s a short-term commitment; yet you will have a profound experience immersed in a new culture, meeting new people, and the deep fulfilment that comes with helping those in need.
How has WorldTeach changed your life?
During my time with World Teach in 2014, I fell in love with everything; the little town of Kommetjie where I lived, the township of Masiphumelele, the warmth of the residents, the children, the mountains, the ocean and the baboons! I flew back to the U.S. and applied for a long-term volunteer visa to return to South Africa. In the past 5 years, I have spent over two years in S.A. continuing my volunteer work. I have forged strong connections now of both “family” and friends. It’s my second home and as long as possible, I will return again and again. It’s safe to say that WorldTeach led me to a vibrant, exciting world that I never dreamed I would discover. How has it changed my life? In every wonderful way imaginable!
For a glimpse into Celeste’s daily life in South Africa, read her most recent blog post, “Small Victories in South Africa.”
Volunteer Teaching Abroad
Each year, the WorldTeach volunteers teach over 60,000 students across the globe. We have programs in over 17 countries and we are committed to give our volunteers the personal and professional support they need to educate and inspire. You will have everything from a dedicated program director to country-specific literature at your disposal. We also sponsor all required visa and work permits for you and help you navigate the bureaucratic red tape. You will likely have to provide certain documentation in order to apply for the visa or work permit, but we will let you know those specifics.
Some of the personal and professional support WorldTeach volunteers receive includes the following:
Through the support of our in-country partners, we provide either housing or a housing-stipend. The housing ranges from host families to apartments to teacher housing on the school campus.
Whether as a yearlong or a semester volunteer, you will receive a modest monthly stipend. The amount varies by country and placement but it is sufficient to cover your basic needs.
To safeguard our volunteers, we implemented a variety of measures. During orientation, we provide health & safety training. We’ve also developed an Emergency Response Protocol, Emergency Action Plan and phone tree for each country in order to prepare for and know how to react to a variety of situations.
Weekly Check-ins and 24/7 field staff
You will check in with your field staff by phone, email, HAM radio or an in-person meet up to discuss any issues you may be having and your Field Director will work with you to resolve them. In addition to weekly check-ins, Field Staff are available at all times for emergency support: 24/7.
Each WorldTeach volunteer is enrolled in the organization’s International Travel Medical Insurance policy. Older volunteers are required to pay an additional insurance premium that is passed on directly from the insurance company. For volunteers age 50-64 on the day of departure, this charge is $120 per month abroad. For volunteers age 65-74 on the day of departure, this charge is $360 per month abroad. We regret that our insurance carrier will not cover volunteers over the age of 74, so we are unable to accept any applicant who will turn 75 or older before the program start date.
Each volunteer will receive the WorldTeach teaching English as a Foreign Language manual to assist with classroom activities around the English language.
Your Field Director will visit you at your school at least one time during your service – excluding extreme and remote locations. They will sit in, observe your classes and give you feedback.
You will be eligible to enroll in our Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certification.
Teacher Quality Program and Coordinator
WorldTeach has developed our own professional development program called the “Teacher Quality Program” to provide a space for on-going professional development to reflect and improve your practice and resources to invigorate your classes.
“So… Do it. Do it now. If you don’t, you will regret it. If you do, it will be one of the most satisfying things you will ever do; it may change the direction of your life. At a minimum, it will give you a better world perspective and a better sense of your place, and your culture and civilization’s place, in it. It will make you a better human being. Do it, have fun, and enjoy it.”
– Gary Aitken, Namibia Summer Volunteer
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