My volunteer experience in YLA exchange program 2012/2013

By Kate Reinhart

I am a 24 year old female from Canada, and grew up on a dairy farm. In the past six months of living in Bonnievale (South Africa) and Sooke (Canada). I don’t think that I have ever grown and learned so much as I did on this program. I feel so privileged to have had this opportunity, and can only hope that Volunteer Centre and Canada World Youth will continue to run programs such as these.



My first host community was in Athlone, and this is where my learning started. I was placed at a high school working with Active Social Assistance; students with substance abuse issues. I have never worked in such a setting before, and would never have gotten a chance if it weren’t for this program. Like the whole six month, it’s really hard to put into words everything that I learnt. I have grown to be more patience and compassionate towards others. Next we moved to Bonnievale, and I got to work in a senior’s home. Again, this was something new for me, and I was really great to hear stories from the past, such as the apartheid from the residents in the home. I lived with one of the kindest and more generous host families ever. Even though the language was a bit of a barrier, I learned so much from my host mom, such as values and attitudes of families. She was so inspiring.

Finally, we had our last move to Sooke, British Colombia, Canada and I got to work with adults with physical and developmental disabilities.

Once again, this was a very new, challenging and rewarding work experience for me. It was a work placement that required me to learn a great deal of patience, perseverance and leadership while providing day-to-day care to the clients.

I think from my work placements, the group, my host families, and the communities, I was able to start asking myself why I am judging someone when I have no reason too. It’s easy to look at someone or something and judge it, but I have realized that I need to question why I’m judging. I have been given the opportunity to challenge myself, think critically and reflect. I’ve changed. We’ve all changed. This has been a very powerful experience for all of us, and would benefit many youth in the future.