A Day in the Life of a Voluntourist

Over the summer, many LAHS students participated in service trips organized by local churches or school clubs such as Haiti Solidarity and One Dollar for Life (ODFL). Though these trips visited various countries such as Haiti, Nicaragua and South Africa, the common goal of students on these trips was to aid those in need. Below, the Talon walks through a day in the life of students on the 2014 ODFL South Africa trip to show some of students’ experiences with the local culture and people.

8:00 a.m.

Students on the trip wake up at around 7 or 8 a.m. and trickle into the dining room of the main house for breakfast, which usually consists of bread, oatmeal and scrambled eggs. Above, the cabins in which students stayed were located in the backyard of their hosts, Lucas and Leona Schleeper, who often welcome students on service trips with a place to stay.

9:00 a.m.

After breakfast, ODFL students pile into a bus and drive to Mvelaphanda Preschool to play games with schoolchildren called “brain gyms.” According to junior Alicia Leong, these games are meant to strengthen the kids’ coordination as well as their mental skills. Students sing songs such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and played “Duck, Duck, Goose.”

12:00 p.m.

Students take a break for lunch. To the right, the plate contains typical American fare such as chicken and coleslaw as well as traditional South African staples such as pap, a creamy white porridge-like substance made from ground maize. On other days, students usually eat chicken or tuna sandwiches with chips or fast food from Steers, a South African fast food chain.

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

When not sightseeing, students spend about three to four hours in the afternoon renovating kindergartens, also known as creches. This is part of ODFL’s belief that change starts with helping young kids build a brighter future. At these renovations, which are called upgrades, students paint cheery pictures, fix swing sets, put in windows and build relationships with the children at the creches.

3:30 p.m.

All of the students on the ODFL trip travel to visit the six meter tall statue of Nelson Mandela, which was placed into the Nelson Mandela Square as a way of commemorating Mandela’s contributions to South Africa.

5:00 p.m.

A few days ago, the group bought scarves, gloves, socks, backpacks, beanies and blankets from a South African shopping mall to assemble winter packs for the kids at the community center of Tswelopele. They now distribute these packs at the community center. Above, children delight in rummaging through their backpacks to see what they received.

7:30 p.m.

ODFL students from Burlingame and Mountain View High School huddle around a campfire in front of their cabins after dinner to sing, play games and bond with the ODFL group. At night, temperatures dropped below freezing. This, combined with the lack of heat during the power outage, forced students to put on up to five layers of clothing before climbing into their sleeping bags.

“But then again, heat and electricity are all luxuries in the townships [towns consisting of government-issued housing], so knowing this made us all realize how lucky we are,” junior Alicia Leong said. “No one complained at all. Instead, we embraced the whole no-power thing and it honestly was a great experience.”

9:00 p.m.

Students turn in early around 9 or 10 p.m. Above, junior Analisa Milkey brushes her teeth in the communal bathroom shared by all nine students who were part of the ODFL trip to South Africa. Because their hosts are considered middle class in South Africa, the bathroom has a shower with hot water, a sink and a flushing toilet.