I’ve written a little about Better SA before, but it was always only happening in Jozi, so I was hugely excited to be asked to attend the inaugural event last week in Cape Town, when MySchool and Better SA launched their Cape Town volunteer bus.
A quick recap on what Better SA is doing! Known as the ‘Uber of volunteering’, this initiative aims to help more people volunteer, by making it easy, fun and convenient to give of your time. Most of us have big hearts and a willingness to help those less fortunate than ourselves, but we can’t always commit to a regular time slot, and we often don’t know where to start. Better SA aims to change all of that with their innovative hop-on/hop-off mini-bus service and their organising of meaningful volunteer experiences.
Weekly excursions set off from designated bus hubs – the first bus in Cape Town leaves from two spots in the Pinelands area every Wednesday (1pm to 4pm) and Saturday (9am to noon). The volunteer opportunities are with organisations that are also MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet beneficiaries including Soil for Life, The Anna Foundation, SOS Children’s Village and many more. So you can scan through the upcoming calendar and then choose an event that means something to you, whether this is working with animals, teaching literacy to kids or visiting the elderly.
All you have to do is book your spot by completing a quick online form and then arrive at the bus hub on the day where you can safely park your car! You’ll be provided with a full briefing, plus all the materials you’ll need. The service is free and co-ordinated from start to finish, so that you’re not wasting any time and are making the most impact.
I certainly found this last Wednesday when we set off to help refurbish a library at Siyazingisa Primary School in Gugulethu. Spirits were high as our bus turned into the school gates to sounds of drumming and singing, and some pre-prep had been done on the room that was to be the kids’ library (I believe that every child needs access to books so it was wonderful to be involved in this process).
We started out by sorting books into categories and painting! Luckily a mural artist had drawn the outlines of some Dr Seuss characters on the walls, so we set to work colouring them in and trying to stay in the lines – much harder than I thought! At once stage I was on my tippy-toes holding my arm at a very strange angle (cramp!) but it was worth it in the end, as I wanted those pictures to be perfect, because I knew they would be there for years to come.
We also painted boxes, wrote signs, hung curtains, rearranged furniture, swept and cleaned, and generally got our hands dirty, making a space beautiful for the beautiful children who deserve no less. It was such a fun morning of teamwork and laughs, and there was a huge sense of achievement when we could see our handiwork at the end, and the transformation we had been part of.
I was chatting to Fiona from Inspired Living about this and we were saying that helping others also makes YOU happy, and often this benefit is downplayed when we speak about all the reasons to volunteer, but it shouldn’t be! Once we had packed away the paints and swept up the last piece of masking tape, the new library was shining with colours and possibility. And there was a little sense of pride as I looked at the pink trees I’d painted on the walls, knowing that I’d played a small part in creating this gorgeous space, and that for years my trees would be there, hopefully providing a little happiness to others.
Better SA has kicked off with events in Cape Town from this past weekend, so now both Capetonians and Joburgers can get involved! Book your spot, take your (older) kids, and show them more of the world, and their place in it, plus how privileged they are (if you’re unsure what ages are suitable for which events, Better SA will happily answer those questions for you). And what about the rest of the country? Better SA is also a beneficiary of the MySchool programme so if you support them with your MySchool card, then hopefully they can expand their Hop on/Hop off service to other parts of the country too.
Did you know that most of the volunteer work in SA is done by foreign visitors and underprivileged people themselves? This needs to change and I think Better SA can help us do it – sign up for your first event and let’s make SA better people!