November 2005 – May 2006
Ok. What is there to say about Soft Power? Well if you’ve got this far then you probably won’t need anyone telling you about what the project as a whole is all about. You’ll already know the good and the great works that are done by this small and friendly organisation.
Err…. So why am I writing this?
I guess partly to say thanks for six fantastic months and partly to stop those vicious and evil harridans who run the project hassling me. And maybe to give a perspective from a long-termer who is slightly older and more male than the usual volunteer. A situation made more unusual by the fact that I had known most of the people involved for many years. In other words I knew what I was going to be getting into and thoroughly embraced the idea. I won’t pretend that there wasn’t the odd disagreement, but it didn’t stop either the work getting done or my enjoyment.
Because, really, that is what it is all about. Enjoyment. Meeting old friends. Meeting new friends: from Videsh at the hardware store, the boda-boda driver, the headmistress of the school, Paul, all the builders, Aeron, to the irrepressible Dr. Jessie, the indefatigable Dirk, Nic and Dave, Jackie and Georgie. And of course the boss, Hannah. As well as all the other long-termers; Mick, Susie, Jim, Yvette, Erin, Erica, Liv, Sarah. The list goes on. Soft Power attracts such good people because it’s such a good project.
As a by-product of the enjoyment, of course, you get to keep fit – lugging cement, bricks, planks, mixing concrete and plaster by hand, fitting water pumps, painting, plastering, crushing hardcore with a sledgehammer. And then there’s trying to keep all the kids away. Looking after day volunteer groups always brought something new and always good. It never fails to amaze me the enthusiasm a school visit generates, all the more when everyone is only going to be put to work. And I got to drive a big blue truck full of thirty odd kids and help put on a play, written, directed and cajoled, by the enthusiastic and committed Bethan.
Then there is the final product. You get to be part of a local, sustainable, genuinely voluntary program. There are other projects which are more glamorous and maybe more worthy, but there are very few which give such a wonderful combination of putting yourself and your money right where it is needed; making a real and ongoing improvement to the local educational environment.
And at the end of it all you are in one of the most beautiful countries on earth. You are surrounded some of the friendliest people in Africa. It is cheap to live and simple in the best possible way.
It will leave you with a smile for months afterwards. Just look at me. Stuck in the hot and dusty Dubai but still smiling. No, really. I am.
Go on. Do it. You know you want to.
I couldn’t think of a better way of spending 6 months or 2 weeks.
George…..(Madede) named after the local word for Grasshopper!