African Impact – A talk by G. Dessain

22nd September 2010


To inspire is to tell those of your experiences – to encourage – to enthuse and to excite. To be inspired is to appreciate – to understand and to eventually explore.
To explore is to learn – to notice and to discover. To impact is to influence – to inspire and to make a difference.



These are the words of African Impact. African Impact started in 2005 and runs volunteer projects in many countries in southern and eastern Africa. For this continent and its sustainable development they will go out of their way to ensure measurable results for projects through meaningful volunteer experiences – In September 2007- they started working in St Lucia, South Africa.

African Impact

On arrival in St. Lucia the poverty I was faced with immediately shocked me, even though I had prepared myself to go out; one can never quite prepare one selves from a lifestyle so far different from our own – it was an utterly different world; where one wakes up in the morning and hopes to survive, where one feels the constant yearning for basic human needs – such as shelter, nutrition, clean water and healthcare, where opportunities are for us endless – yet for them, practically non-existent and most devastating of all, where 80% of the population is infected by the deadly disease, AIDS. Here, is a community of 700 girls. In St Lucia, 560 of us would be tainted with AIDS. Even though unquestionably the poverty was overpowering it stimulated an emotion inside of me, which made me eager to work and help even more, to take full advantage of this mind blowing, life changing and considerable opportunity I’d dreamt of for so long.

Every little giving impacts enormously to develop into something immense.
Being in South Africa for only four weeks – meant that the help I was giving was small, yet these small contributions were building into helping the community significantly.
At the beginning it was hard to get my head around, I constantly felt that what I was doing wasn’t enough and that I wanted to help out in a bigger way – but I eventually got to grips, that these little deeds were in the long term, tremendous.

In the mornings, I worked at a crèche called Ndabenhle. The children ranged from newborn to about 6 years of age. We taught English to the 2-4 year olds in a fun and engaging way in order for them to learn to their full potential – for this to happen we would discuss and plan for the lessons – so it could be as structured as possible.
With the babies, the youngest was 2months so we’d principally be looking after, changing nappies, feeding, playing, reading and singing to them. Towards the end of the morning all the kids would go and play outside – we’d bring boxes of toys and colouring sheets for them to play with. We would also compose a big circle where we would sing both English and Zulu songs.
Being at the crèche every morning meant that I got extremely attached to the kids – being at the crèche was almost certainly the best part of the project.

Giving the children the chance to actually have a childhood meant so much, as these kids would be going home to laborious work – whether it be fetching water or helping to construct their homes. These kids live in extreme poverty and a little attention goes along way – and making these children laugh and even smile back at you, was priceless – it meant the world to me. Highlights for me of the crèche was on my last Friday – where we played musical chairs and I made play dough for them to play with – the expressions on the kids faces is unforgettable- the thrill on their faces, the enthusiasm created and the immense gratitude for something so small that we take so much for granted, yet meaning everything to them. This without a doubt taught me the value of things. Which led me to wonder, why does something so insignificant to us – mean the world to them? How can they have nothing, yet seem that they have everything?

African Impact

The afternoons consisted of more hands on, laborious community work – where two projects were predominately focused on. HIV/AIDS awareness and a project called ’10 Families’ – 10 families was where ‘African Impact’ would liaise with the Indoona, or the head of the village – who would inform us of the most deprived families in that particular village who needed our help the most.

I worked with 2 families during my time there – for one, we made a vegetable patch with carrots, beetroot, spinach and lettuce etc – in order for the family to be able to spend their money, if any on healthcare – as the mother of the family had a skin disease and desperately needed treatment. A truly touching moment when working with this family was when the ‘gogo’ or grandmother said to us -‘Thank you all for loving us as well as white people’- I can’t describe to you, the way such a simple yet powerful statement moved me so dramatically – this was really the point when I starting believing that the work I was doing was making a difference.

With another family – we built a fence around their house, in this family, the grandmother was looking after 5 children, as their parents had both died of AIDS, and she was getting very old and unable to build the fence herself.

The other important aspect of our afternoon project was HIV/AIDS awareness – this to me meant the most – I taught roughly 7 adults for a week about what HIV/AIDS is. How it can be transmitted. How one can avoid or lower the risk of getting it.
What to do when infected, and to also encourage people who have not yet been tested to find out their status. This is an extremely serious issue, as you may know in Africa, and especially in this area where the rate of HIV/AIDS is 80%, so even though working with a small number of adults, these adults will by word of mouth be spreading the awareness –informing people of HIV/AIDS, getting rid of the stigma attached to the virus and the rumours made up about it – and help, slowly but surely reduce the rate pf the deadly virus. At the end of the week, the women were examined on all the work we’d taught them and they all passed which again overjoyed me.
In addition to all this, we painted crèches, gardened for the HIV support group we held, cemented a family’s house and also within 4 days built a crèche – for 2 years this crèche had a back wall and four posts – and so, we came planned for the construction, sawed numerous amounts of wood and finished the crèche – which was an amazing project to be involved in – within a week the crèche was up and running and other volunteers were teaching there.

This experience taught me so much about how privileged I am compared to other societies and cultures, it also taught me to inspire, to explore and to impact on those living in these third world countries – as we ourselves have so, even too much while they have nothing. Yet, my stay was only 4 weeks – that 4 weeks made such an impact on their lives; and mine!

One always prepares oneself to go – yet one doesn’t prepare oneself to come home – the worst part of this experience was leaving. Everyday I look forward to going back – and continuing to impact on those lives less fortunate than us.

I recommend everyone to take part in an experience similar to this – it not only changes the lives of others but it will change your too!

You can open up all the windows and you can see forever, African Impact did this for me – “Potential is nice, Talent is wonderful. But so few of us use what we have.

You can make an impact that’s better than nice and bigger than wonderful. You can be incredible”

So… Be INSPIRED, go EXPLORE, and make an IMPACT. African Impact