About our VolunteersInspiration from our 2015 volunteers

Relebohile Pherane

Relebohile Pherane, 22 years old, Atlantis

Relebohile had just graduated from university and was looking for something to do. “I applied because I wanted to give back and be a responsible citizen for a change. My plan had been to take a break from studying but I wanted to do something other than just chilling at home.”

Relebohile says he was “both excited and nervous, but really looking forward to meeting everyone.” He says the volunteering was fun, he really enjoyed working with the learners and getting to know them better.

“Overall I enjoyed the journey of self discovery. I became more aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Through volunteering I have learned a lot and grown as well. I have learned to work with different people who possess different characteristics. I have also learned that I am a people’s person and I work well under pressure. I have learned to appreciate people for who they are and accommodate them.”

Relebohile plans to do his PGCE and maybe teach abroad for a couple of years and then come back to SA. He says he would also “like to give back more in the future, eg. time, donations etc. Through this programme I have learned the importance of giving back.”

His advice to prospective volunteers is:

“They should be ready and willing to learn and also have fun.”

Relebohile’s final comment about Year Beyond:

“This year has been a great learning experience and has been one of my best years. I met some incredible young leaders.”

Mqondisi Magcaba

Mqondisi Magcaba, 25 years old from Durban, staying in Delft

Mqondisi was studying towards a BSc in Maths and Stats at UWC. He decided to take a gap year for a number of reasons but mainly because “I wanted to help learners who are struggling, especially in maths.”

Mqondisi says “I didn’t know what to expect. I was excited and scared at the same time.” Mqondisi was lucky enough to experience tutoring in two schools. “I enjoyed working in both schools (I D Mkize in Gugulethu and Leiden High in Delft). Working in two schools with two teams helped me understand team dynamics and the different vibes in each school.”

The highlight of the self-development course “was learning how to meditate and find personal peace in the midst of trouble or a busy day. Also that you can, from time to time, evaluate how far you are from living up to your values. I also learned that it is possible to work with different people holding different values as long as you are one in purpose.”

Volunteering has taught Mqondisi that “if you want things to happen you need more hands working than more mouths talking.”

Mqondisi plans to finish his degree and go into maths education research. “Year Beyond has re-emphasised to me that maths education is dear to my heart. Since different people understand differently we have to look for ways of creating an inclusive learning environment.”

Mqondisi’s advice to those thinking of joining Year Beyond:

"It’s an awesome programme, join it. Take advantage of any self-development activities. Have fun with learners. There is so much adventure in store for you and a lot of new things to learn… This was a one year programme but the lessons learned are way Beyond.”

Melissa Jonas

Melissa Jonas, 23 years old, Platteklip Glen, Cape Town

Melissa was studying towards a B Com in Financial Management. Her mom encouraged her to take a gap year and she decided to go for it.

Initially Melissa “was very nervous about working with people I didn’t know, but very excited about working with the learners.” Melissa was placed at Leiden High in Delft. “It was really amazing being able to give a year of my life to make a difference in the lives of the learners.” Melissa said she couldn’t have chosen a better team to work with. “Everyone was just so dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the learners.” Melissa loved the art in the self-development programme. “It was really lovely being able to express myself through art. It also helped me de-stress from the pressures of work.”

Melissa says that being “at Year Beyond placed her in an environment with different kinds of people that I would never have encountered on a normal day in my life. I have learnt how other people with different life experiences and different cultures can add value to my life. So now when I am in a situation with people who are different to me I take the time to first see what I can learn and how I can use their life experiences to grow as a person. Volunteering has also taught me that giving someone a hand-out doesn’t work. Being a real volunteer helps you truly see how people live everyday so you can meet them where they are at and give them some of your time. This way they are truly uplifted.”

Melissa plans to complete her degree and work in financial services.

Her advice to a prospective Year Beyond volunteer:

“I would say that it is a brilliant opportunity to grow and become more aware of your role in society and how simple it is to uplift the community.”

Andrea George

Andrea George, 24 years old from Rondebosch East

Andrea joined Year Beyond because she wanted to take a break from her studies as she felt that she was not doing the right degree. At first she felt nervous and did not know what to expect. Andrea was placed at Phoenix Secondary in Manenberg. Initially she was really scared to be working at a high school, but as she says, “I met some of the most amazing children ever. I love the school, it was a great environment to work in. We received great support.”

The self-development work helped her get to learn new things about herself and get to know herself on another level. Despite being a shy person, Andrea discovered that she is stronger than she thought and that she has leadership qualities. She learnt a lot about team dynamics which “ really changed my view of working in a team.” She discovered the benefits of relying on team mates and says “I know this is a very useful tool that will definitely help me in the working world.”

Andrea feels that volunteering has taught her “how to be flexible, that there are so many different types of people and that we are all connected. It has shown me the injustice in our country and what I take for granted. It taught me to be understanding, patient and compassionate. Also that there is space in this world for me to make a difference in at least one person’s life.”

In future Andrea has “figured out that I want to be a teacher in a government school. Without going through this year it would probably have taken me longer to figure this out.”

Andrea’s advice to others thinking about joining Year Beyond:

“Do it. It’s probably the most enriching thing you could do in your early adult life.”

Her biggest lesson from this year:

“Life is really unfair but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.”