My Visit to Lesotho 22nd July – 29th August
I am a primary school teacher in a Catholic school in Leeds. I have previously volunteered in Eastern Europe, with an orphanage and children’s charity, in four previous summer holidays. However I always had the burning ambition to volunteer in Africa and in the last few years as my faith has grown travelling to a missionary seemed the ideal solution. I found out about the work of the Salesians on the internet, with a belief in youth, education, fun and laughter, they seemed the perfect mission to travel to.
I applied to BOVA (Bosco Volunteer Action), the volunteer section of the Salesians. I was promptly invited to two training weekends at Savio Salesian House in Macclesfield. The weekends were both very educational, with a great amount of laughter and fun. I made many good friends. After the training weekends the volunteer co-ordinator arranged for me to be the first British BOVA volunteer to work in Lesotho. So then flights, injections and arrangements were hastily made and I was all set to go, with nerves a bundle! After two flights lasting 16 hours I touched down in Johannesburg in South Africa, where I was met by the lovely Fr. Jonathan. I stayed in Johannesburg for two nights, where I recovered from the long journey and had a chance to meet many more Salesian Priests, Sisters and Brothers. I don’t think I’ve ever been made to feel so welcome! After this Fr. Jonathan drove me the three hour journey south to the small country of Lesotho. I was feeling very excited!
When I arrived at the Mission I met so many people and was made to feel so welcome again. I didn’t think that people could be this nice! Everyone was very interested in finding out all about me. In the first week at the Mission I helped some local girls study and sew at a convent with the local Salesian Sisters and I helped with a weekend youth retreat, for fifty very musical and energetic local youths. From my second week onwards at the Mission I worked in all the different educational establishments, which I was very happy and excited to ‘get stuck in’. I taught art and craft lessons in St. Luke’s Primary School, English spelling and sentence lessons in St. Boniface High School and taught English lessons everyday in St. Mary Mazzarello Vocational College for young women. In the time between these lessons, I helped in St. Laura Vicuna Pre-School, where I played with the children in the outdoor areas and taught and learnt songs in the classroom sessions. I also helped out at the oratory, a youth centre, open daily from 2-5pm, where local children can come and play sports, watch films or simply play. I played many card games here!
My favourite days at the Mission looked like this:
6.15am English Mass with the Sisters at the convent, I didn’t go to this early morning Mass every day but liked to go few times because it was good to hear an English Mass once in a while.
7.15am Morning prayers with the Priests and Brothers
7.30am Breakfast, with homemade jam!
8.00am Teach English lesson to 30 third year students at Mary Mazzarello Vocational College. My favourite lessons here were lessons I taught on English idioms I use at home. It was great to hear the girls talk about ‘taking the Mickey’ and having ‘the gift of the gab’.
8.45am Teach lesson to 30 second year students at Mary Mazzarello Vocational College.
9.30am Mark the students' books 10.30am Assist teachers at the Laura Vicuna Pre-School, with playing games and singing. There were 160 boys and girls aged 3-5 year old. They here were so beautiful, confident and loving, a pleasure to spend time with.
12pm Lunch at the Mission with the Priests and Brothers.
1pm Teach art and craft lesson to 60-90 pupils of class 5 at St. Luke’s Primary School. My favourite lesson I taught here was weaving wool around sticks to create decorative wall hangings. The children’s faces when they finished were amazing!
2.00pm Time out to plan my lessons for tomorrow!
3.30pm Teach English spelling and writing lessons to 60 pupils at St. Boniface High School. The students’ hard work, concentration and dedication to improving their already fluent English really amazed me!
4.30pm Mass at the parish church if I didn’t go in the morning or time to help out with fun and games with the local youth at the oratory.
6.00pm Evening prayer with the Priests and Brothers.
6.30pm Supper, consisting of a fantastic evening meal and accompanied with a much enjoyed glass of wine and long chats into the evening.
8.00pm Time with the Priests and Brothers to chat and relax with some television.
9.00pm At this time I would often relax on my own in my room and fill in my bulging diary with events of the day and then have a greatly appreciated early night to bed!
At the Mission I learnt so much, many things I anticipated, about education and people in other countries and cultures. I also learnt things I was not expecting, that the Basotho people of Lesotho are among the friendliest I have ever met. I enjoyed finding out about the work of missionaries and that they are people to be deeply admired and respected, dedicating their whole lives to improving the lives of others. However it was a Salesian Sister that summed up my experience, as she stated that many volunteers often learn more about themselves than they do about others. Living within a religious community and meeting so many people to share my faith with, has made me grow stronger and more committed. I am very thankful to all the children, teachers and Salesians I have met on my journey.