Volunteering in Bulembu is certainly an adventure worth experiencing! However, it is always hard to describe to others what it will be like or exactly what to expect. Adventures are filled with exciting things, but also its share of challenges. And when you embark on such an adventure to volunteer in a different country (let alone continent!), it certainly helps to hear some first-hand experiences from someone who has been there before.
Meet Ben Dorsey. Ben is an engineering volunteer from Canada who has taken up the adventure of investing 12 months of this time and skill into Bulembu Ministries Swaziland. Ben’s parents – James & Sherry Dorsey – have been leading mission teams to Bulembu for a number of years now, and this is also how Ben was introduced to Bulembu. When James & Sherry visited with another team during 2014, Ben came along again. This time though, he felt that he would really like to contribute more towards the vision which Bulembu has of sustainability and transformation within the town, as well as the nation of Swaziland.
Ben has already been in Bulembu for 3 months, and this is the first of 4 updates that we will be posting over the next 9 months about Ben’s experience as a volunteer. We hope that you will enjoy sharing in his journey, and that it will perhaps inspire you and others in their search for the perfect volunteer opportunity!
What are you doing in Bulembu?
I took a one year leave of absence from the company I work for in Canada – Golder Associates – to come and volunteer in Bulembu. During my time here I am going to offer some engineering support with regards to Bulembu’s infrastructure systems, as well as any other things they need a hand with – of which I’m sure there will be many! The water distribution system is something that requires attention, and this is something I am currently very involved with.
I also have the opportunity to help out at young adult events through church, as well as the young adult meeting nights. It’s nice to have the opportunity for some other involvement outside of ‘work’.
How was the first 3 months, what were the lowlights and highlights?
One of the adjustments that I had to make was having more patience, as time in Africa is slightly different from time back home. I also had to adjust to the shock to my system physically, emotionally, and spiritually – through the different time zones, the travelling it took to get here and adjusting to a new country & living environment. After close to 40 hours of travel, it was nice to finally arrive in Bulembu to a warm home and fresh pizza!
Christmas did not feel like Christmas here – I think it has something to do with the weather constantly being in the 20’s (Celsius), the constant sweating due to the humidity, and the huge thunderstorms every day. I really did miss the snow!
There have been way more highlights though! One of the highlights of my time so far has been that I was able to reconnect with quite a few people from my past visits to Bulembu, including some of the children that I’ve been able to build some relationships with over the years. Initially my biggest challenge in this regard was remembering their names – I felt like every name had 5 consonants and a click before a vowel showed up! I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone though – the older kids in particular through the young adults meetings. I’m even getting better at learning their names which is a miracle in itself! It seems like they all know my name, whenever I am driving around town I always hear kids yelling “HI BEN!” and I usually do not recognize them in the slightest. I have been able to develop some good friendships with many of them, and every time I meet and talk to the kids I am amazed at how humble and amazing they are as people.
I had a birthday soon after my arrival in November 2014, and a family here was nice enough to get some people together and host a birthday dinner for me! It was a very nice gesture of everyone on that day.
As Christmas approached, the talk of the town was about the big braai that takes place for the kids on Christmas day. (it’s a BBQ, but way way WAAAAY better!) I volunteered to help with that, and there were hundreds of chickens, a few pigs, and a few cows that also graciously decided to help out that day… One of the guys that I worked with that day described that you start to braai, and go until you never want to see meat again and nearly faint from the heat. And then you keep going because it’s only half way done! It was fun though, and the kids had a blast.
Another bright spot has been that I’ve been able to purchase a vehicle here in Swaziland. There aren’t any grocery stores or things of that sort in Bulembu, and the easiest option is to cross the border to South Africa for supplies, or to drive to Piggs Peak on a 18km dirt road. Not having a vehicle made this really tricky, but I was able to sell my vehicle back home and use the money towards this vehicle.
What do you hope to achieve this year whilst in Bulembu from a volunteer / work prospective?
I hope to finish this year with Bulembu’s infrastructure in a more efficient and optimal state. I want this year to end with money being saved in this regard where it had not been possible before, which in turn will benefit other areas of the ministry. I am pleased to say this is already happening in quite a substantial way. I hope to have an impact on the community, kids, and workers – to be a volunteer they come to love and respect.
What do you hope to achieve this year whilst in Bulembu from a personal prospective?
Personally, I would like to develop character and an understanding of how this continent functions both in terms of living and faith. I want my own faith to grow and to be inspired by those around me, as well as to hopefully also inspire in return.
We are really blessed with volunteers like Ben, who grasp the fullness of the vision and mission of what Bulembu stands for, and who give of their time and skill so selflessly. We value every moment that they invest, as there is no doubt a lasting impact being left, and a significant contribution being made towards the transformational work that God is doing in and through Bulembu.
We look forward to to update you about Ben’s experience as a volunteer! Should you be interested to know more about volunteer opportunities in Bulembu, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.