At the end of February we introduced you to Ben Dorsey. Ben is an engineering volunteer from Canada who took up the adventure in November last year of investing 12 months of this time and skill into Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.
Already three quarters of the way through his adventure, the past few months have stretched our intrepid volunteer even more than before. But as you will learn, being a volunteer in Bulembu may also hold some unexpected and life-changing surprises! Let’s get the low-down on how things have been going since we last touched base with Ben.
It is really hard to believe that you are already three quarters into your time here! Since we last caught up with you, a lot has happened. Tell us about some of the challenges you have faced.
The last few months were again very busy, but as per usual, very rewarding as well. Two large projects were underway during this time – one being the construction of the High School addition, and the other being the replacement of the water pipeline. The High School presented many challenges, such as re-routing one of our water main lines and keeping up with the builders’ material requirements. It has been amazing though to watch the team of Swazi guys build this High School addition. They are going at an incredible pace, and are putting up a truly quality structure.
The main water pipeline from our pumps to the reservoir has also finally reached completion! Our plumbing team completed the job, so it is nice to be able to say that we are finished with a rather large task which had been looming since shortly after my arrival here in Bulembu.
In addition to my engineering/project/proposal role here, the maintenance department has begun to rely on me for help with basic maintenance and construction around Bulembu. The manager of this department, James Loubser, took the month of August off to visit with family in Cape Town. This meant that I had to manage the maintenance department alone, as well as stay on top of my original roles here. There are about 40 people in the maintenance department that I was helping to organize, so there wasn’t much time for my ‘regular’ engineering duties. Not to mention that it was the end of the winter here, which meant we were going on about 3 months with little to no rain. This lack of rain means we are currently experiencing a very serious water shortage. The spring water we use is not flowing fast enough to keep up with our pumps meaning we had to change and figure out a new pumping schedule.
In addition, James’ wife – Michelle, who runs the Children’s Church program on Sunday mornings – was also on leave of course. So, with my involvement at Children’s Church I was also filling in for her and running Sunday School lessons for the month of August. Needless to say, August was a 24/7/31 shift, and I’m sure I have lost hair and years of my life due to it! Thankfully, I made it through. When James and Michelle returned, I was able to take a week off to recuperate a little bit and even got a bit of time away to do some game drives in Kruger National Park.
Now, despite the intense few months you’ve had, there has also been an interesting development over the past few months. Can you share some of that?
In my second full month here, I began to spend a fair amount of time with a young lady who is also volunteering here in Bulembu. Her name is Kristen Toda and she is a music/math teacher in the Primary School. Kristen has been volunteering in Bulembu for 4 and a half years and actually discovered it through the Tenors. She is from California, has an amazing musical background and she is unfortunately a big supporter of the Anaheim Ducks.
With the consent of the leadership here in Bulembu we began ‘officially’ dating in February and it was very clear from the start that we were not coming into this light-hearted or for a few giggles. After many “subtle” hints by Kristen, my parents, her parents, and basically everyone else in the know, I was able to get my hands on a nice engagement ring. I popped the question in July, and she said yes! We have a strong relational foundation built on our common faith, and we are beyond excited to see what we can accomplish together from here on out.
What does this mean for the both of you, in terms of being volunteers here in Bulembu?
The Bulembu Management had asked me to extend my stay in Bulembu by at least another year, and we had a very tough decision ahead of us. After much thought, discussion, and prayer, Kristen and I have decided that we will be returning to the U.S. in November, be married there in December, and then move to Canada shortly following the wedding. This has been a huge decision for us, and we had even already purchased return tickets to fly back to Swaziland in January. But in the end, we feel an overwhelming call to return to North America and begin a new chapter in both of our lives.
How have the children responded to the news of your engagement to ‘their’ Ms Toda?
Very good actually, and they were excited for us. One funny incident was when a young kid asked me what my surname was. I told him that it was Dorsey, and could see him thinking away for a few seconds. He then asked with a puzzled look, “So, should I be calling Ms. Toda, Ms. Dorsey now?”
How do you feel about your time here in Bulembu coming to an end soon?
Although this means our time in Bulembu is nearly up, we are extremely excited for the new challenges and opportunities we will face. I have almost a month here remaining, which will total to almost exactly 1 year that I will have been here! However, I am not viewing this as a time to wind down, but as a situation where I still have time left to get as much as possible finished before I leave, and finish strong.
As you can see, being a volunteer is as much fun as it can be challenging, and the journey looks different for everyone. The realities of living in and serving a place like Bulembu have been evident as Ben shared his journey with us so far. However, a great attitude and a lot of flexibility – as Ben has shown so far – goes a really long way.
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. We look forward to share the conclusion of Ben’s journey here in Bulembu in November. Be sure to keep an eye out for it then!