The best way to be a volunteer is to embrace every opportunity and I certainly did that…………… I had the wonderful experience of being a volunteer at Emmanuel Advice and Care Centre, PE. Nothing can prepare you for all the emotions that you will go through during your stay. Equally, nothing could prepare me for all the emotions I felt when I returned.
Usually after a holiday I am ready to return – to get back to my bed and my comfort food. I didn’t feel this when leaving PE after a month. Of course I was pleased to be seeing my family and friends but I felt different!
It’s all too easy to say it was ‘life changing’ because that’s what it’s meant to be – but it is more than that. To fit into life in a township in PE seemed easy and within days everything from wandering dogs to children playing with tyres is normal. Coming back to the UK and returning to my comfortable life was not so easy. Why not? I guess there is the comparison of my lifestyle to that of someone in the township and everything seeming so inane. Why are people moaning about the weather and why do children say they don’t like peas? It all felt a bit like – so what? I really wanted to get on my ‘high horse’ and say ‘you have no idea do you?’ I think I may quickly lose friends using that method.
Instead it was easier to name my feeling – grief. I felt numb and was looking for the friendly faces of the children and carers but really knowing that they were not there. Remembering all the lovely memories is a good process but the yearning of wanting to have them again is painful. I know that grief is a process – I know that I am grieving for the loss of leaving Emmanuel – their spirit, the children. I can’t look at photos easily or watch videos without becoming a bit emotional. I can’t listen to the CD of local songs without a huge smile coming on my face.
It is getting easier and my energies are channelled into raising money for Emmanuel. I have spoken to other volunteers who are ready to face the experience and I get very passionate about what they will experience.
Writing this short piece is therapeutic.