At the end of February we introduced you to Ben Dorsey. Ben is an engineering volunteer from Canada who has taken up the adventure of investing 12 months of his 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.
Ben already halfway through his year-long adventure as a volunteer in Bulembu, and this is the second of four updates that we will be posting about Ben’s experience as a volunteer.
You’re halfway through your adventure! How have you been experiencing your time here?
I can’t believe that it’s already been 6 months since I arrived in Bulembu! Things have been going really well, and I have certainly learnt a lot about how things get done here. I also have a much better understanding of the challenges that are overcome in getting everything done here. Work has been going really great, despite getting dizzy because of the circles I’ve been running in. I’m also still having lots of fun working with the kids and the young adults here at church. I’m also getting better with everyone’s names!!
What have been some of the lowlights and highlights of the past three months?
A perpetual adjustment – which I am getting better at! – is having more patience with the way things get done or the pace that things get done at in Africa. In addition to improving water pump timing, we set out to work on upgrades to the water transmission lines and reservoirs, which will allow us to streamline the entire system. Part of this required us to order new water pipes, which we initially ordered from South Africa. Due to some export/import and tax problems, the frustration was mounting, and we were preparing ourselves to pay double tax on our order just to get the order into our country and begin work. However, I was contacting a steel supplier in Swaziland one day to inquire about steel building frames, and just so happened to ask if they also sell steel water pipes. The next thing I know, I have placed a full order for pipes from within Swaziland which is also being delivered to us, and at a competitive price to all of those in South Africa! Despite problems though, we have still been able to cut pumping times and electricity costs. This keeps me encouraged, and excited for the time we get to implement these improvements to make what we have even better!
With there being no central heating in the houses, it is starting to get to me. It’s hard to roll out of bed when you have concrete floors and a cold house! But before you start feeling sorry for me, it may be cold in the morning but the afternoons are still in the upper 20’s (Celsius). So I guess you could say I’m getting soft. I do have my stockpile of firewood ready for the winter though. I had a lot of chopping to do when it arrived…
Somewhat of an interesting event – not a lowlight but not a highlight either – was that I received my first double traffic fine. This was for stopping on the completely empty road to speak with a worker, and for not having my license on me. The total was E120.00 …or about $13.
I have been able to make a few fishing trips to Maguga dam with some guys from the town. We take all the fish we catch and give them to the Swazi guys around town when we get back.
An undeniable highlight was the indescribable feeling of having some family visiting me here for the first time since I came to Swaziland. This was the 7th year in a row that Mom and Dad have led a team from Canada to Bulembu, and it was the second time that my brother Sam has been able to visit. My parents invited my brother Nick and I with them on their very first trip to Bulembu, in 2009. I know for a fact that I would never be close to where I currently am if it wasn’t for them, and I am beyond thankful that they have so much passion and faith in the vision and people here.
I managed to hike up Mount Emlembe – the highest peak in Swaziland, and right on Bulembu’s doorstep – with the team and my family. My mom is always in her element here in Bulembu. Her face gets the ultimate workout every year in Bulembu – never ever wipes that smile from it!
It was also awesome to have my parents, brother and aunt – all on the same team! – over for a braai at my house. My aunt thinks there’s a lot of work to be done because I have no decorations – or anything really – in the house. But hey, for the first time in my life I bought and now own a mattress! So that’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?
Last time you mentioned that you became involved with the Young Adults at church. How are you enjoying that?
I’m really enjoying talking about life with the group and what kinds of challenges we all face in our day to day lives. We will be doing a Winter Drive outreach this Saturday, to minister and help out some people who live in the village here. I’ve been asked to lead a group that will be visiting one of the houses, and I’m excited for the young adults to step up and out in this way.
I’m now also on board with helping in Sunday School for the 7-11 year olds, which has been a blast (I’m pretty sure the kids are having fun too).
How have you experienced the people in Swaziland / Bulembu?
The people here are great, I feel like they’re the Canadians of Africa – always talkative and polite, and everyone is relaxed and take things as they come.
How would you summarize your first 6 months here as a volunteer?
As frustrating as it can be to get things done here in the business world, I am really enjoying Swaziland though. I’m excited to see what the second half holds because the first 6 months have been more than I ever could have imagined.
We hope that you enjoy sharing in Ben’s journey here in Bulembu, and that it will perhaps inspire you and others in their search for the perfect volunteer opportunity. And remember to keep an eye out for the next installment of Ben’s adventure at the end of August!