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Paul was – a gladiator – a huge force for good

It has taken me some time to put pen to paper – well digit to keyboard –  to write about the horrible loss of my friend and our partner, Paul Miedema.

My first reaction was to write about the loss – huge loss – for his family and friends and colleagues at Calabash; the communities they work with; volunteers; and indeed to me as a friend and people and places as a partner – but I wasn’t comfortable with writing that way –  it took me a while to work out why.

 

Paul was – a gladiator – a huge force for good – a passionate advocate for the people he worked with – confrontational – an inspiration.

For me he was a loyal friend – a teacher – a partner – a mentor.

That’s what I want to remember – what I gained by knowing him – not what I have lost.

When Harold, Kate and I decided we wanted to develop a responsible volunteering programme Harold told me that all his experience in responsible travel led him to believe that Paul Miedema at Calabash had to be one of our first partners. I was quickly convinced……Paul wasn’t….. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul was always my role model….

by Dianne

The partnership between people and places and Calabash was already well established by the time I

Dianne with Joe Slovo principal Mr. Gqunta -on her most recent visit

came onto the people and places team and one of the first visits I made in my role as education advisor was to Port Elizabeth.  Paul and I worked well together from the very start and it was immediately apparent how much Paul cared about our partnership work at the different township schools and at Emmanuel, and how committed he was to using volunteering and tourism as a force for good.

 
Paul was always my role model for what a local partner should be.  Whenever I have visited other countries to help set up new partnerships I have found myself using descriptions of the way Paul worked as examples of good practice.  Even when I was asking him to do potentially boring administrative work for us, such as updating our support plans for the projects or chasing questionnaires from the schools, he totally understood the reasons for doing such tasks.  With Paul, I feel we had a genuine partnership, all of us on the same wave-length, with each of us contributing our knowledge and ideas to the work we were doing together.

Every volunteer I have met who has volunteered in Port Elizabeth, at Emmanuel or on the Schools Support programme, has spoken very highly of the support they received from Paul and the Calabash team.  They certainly set high standards for others to live up to!  I hope Paul realised how very much he was loved and respected.

It is so hard to believe that Paul is no longer here, but I look forward to continuing to work with our partners at Calabash as we continue his work.

The way Paul conducted weekly meetings so impressed me

 

Paul defined the word “authentic”

a weekly meeting at A V Bukani School

Paul Miedema changed our lives. It is through Paul that we connected with the A.V. Bukani Primary School community, a wonderful place we now consider our second home.

But Paul did more than connect us – he was our support, our mentor, our ally, and our friend. Just a few weeks ago, we had a long conversation with Paul about a possible sixth volunteer trip to Nomathomsanqa.

 

Paul defined the word “authentic.” He had no tolerance for BS and never sugar-coated anything. And that is why we absolutely trusted him. We knew he would tell us the truth. How often do you have someone in your life that you can trust like that?

Paul was devoted to two things – his daughters and his country. And they were closely tied together. He worked tireless to build a strong South Africa that he could leave for his children, and one that would support everyone’s children because he knew you could not separate the two. A strong South Africa had to promote respect for every person of every background or it would not be a strong country.

Paul is one of those people who truly made a difference in his daily life. Our hearts are breaking that he cannot continue this work. And yet his legacy is the many colleagues he supported within and beyond Calabash, as well as the many volunteers whose eyes he opened and whose hearts he inspired.

You will be missed Paul. Thank you for all you gave to us and everyone around you.

Eileen and Larry

(frequent volunteers with A.V.Bukani School since 2009)

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how I became a volunteer with Paul at Calabash

(the following is a story from volunteer, Anke)

Paul and I met more than three years ago, when he left a short message on a people and places Facebook post about my volunteer placement in The Gambia. His comment turned out to be the beginning of an exciting chapter of the lives Paul and I shared for a while as colleagues, passionate advocates for responsible tourism and social justice, co-authors, and friends. It seems appropriate telling our story through the medium that brought us together, and adding some bits that sum up a man who truly inspired me and will have a special place in my heart forever.
September 2013-

Paul leaves a comment on Facebook, inviting me to come to PE for my next volunteering trip:

please come to Port Elizabeth

The video of Paul passionately speaking about responsible volunteering at WTM 2012 was the only thing I knew about Paul at that point. He addressed the issues in community volunteering in a way that left no doubt about what irresponsible volunteering looks like – ‘inspirational if a little bit scary’ as Sallie rightly said above.
Watch here, Paul starts around min 26:30:  I should soon experience myself how inspirational and a little bit scary Paul could be…

Paul’s messages, both, from his talk and comment on Facebook stayed in my mind and the idea of working with Calabash started brewing in my head for a couple of month.
January 2014- contacted Kate to see how my skills & knowledge could support Paul and his team. Spoke to Paul a couple of times via Skype to find out what we’d expect from each other during a potential placement. Quickly, we all got excited about the opportunity to be working together for a while. The next thing we know:
9 February 14: 

25 February 2014 – excitement rising considerably, topped by the prospect of spending time with Sallie in PE as well:

 

 

 

Somebody else, the wonderful Sallie, shares my excitement being in SA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 March 2014- post from my initial impressions and picture of my first day at work with Paul and the team:

11 March – Meeting with the team at Emmanuel Project, a HIV care initiative Calabash supports:

Same day: Paul as one of the Panel speakers at one of Calabash’s partner schools, a note of the school’s appreciation of support below:

20 March 2014 – my reaction to one of the most productive and beautiful community workshops I ever experienced: 

 

 

 

Sep 14- Paul talks about why he chose to work with ‘people and places’ on his community programme here’s the link 
February 2015 – It us took almost a year until we proudly published an article ‘The Dilemma of Fair Shares in Township Tourism – A Case Study from Port Elizabeth’
(Click on the ‘Download’ link on the left of the page – the article is on Page 4)

The process of writing, providing feedback to each other and rewriting was quite a lengthy one. For Paul, every single word had to be scrutinised for its meaning, and he was really hesitant to adapt to a more academic writing style – typical Paul, he felt it had to be said the way it was. We had planned to write and publish more like this together for others to learn and be inspired by Calabash’s approach to responsible township tourism.
2015 until recent – delighted seeing Paul’s articles being published on Germany’s tourism-watch.de website, seeing him becoming a spokesperson for child protection, continuing supporting township schools and other initiatives by linking skilled volunteers to projects, supporting PhD researchers, and still being passionate about sharing a bit of his world with visitors during Calabash’s responsible township tours.

February 2017- this story of Paul and I ends here. Beyond the memory snippets above, he was great fun to be around, at least most of the time. I never met somebody like him who could drive one up the wall with his passion for a good debate and stubbornness, while at the same time being very generous explaining things and trying to find solutions. I’m sad beyond words having lost such an inspirational mentor, colleague and friend – travel well Paul.

recollections & respect from volunteers

We have been touched by all the messages we have received from volunteers.

“I have fond memories of Paul when he took us under his wing in Port Elizabeth back in 2010. I am sure he will be greatly missed and I hope Calabash finds the strength to continue his legacy.
And thanks should go to you, too, for providing me with the opportunity to meet such a great guy and to take part in such a worthwhile project.”
Sue (Henry Nginza School)

“I only had a brief acquaintance with Paul but, in that short time, I was impressed by his commitment to the township schools, his contribution to reducing inequality, his vision and his ability to tell things how they really are. He gave me amazing support at the time of a very difficult personal event and I will always remember him with great respect and affection. Paul was a very special person who is greatly missed. It seems unbelievable that he is no longer here.”
Carole (Charles Duna School)

“I had great respect for Paul when I was out there. Thoughts and prays to his family. Very sad news.”
Ellen (W B Tshume School)

a hug – Celia & Paul, Joe Slovo School

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memories of Paul … IN CAPS LOCK !

We’re proud to have worked with Calabash since the very beginning of ‘people and places’ … and as with any strong relationship, our working relationship was based on mutual trust and learning. Needless to say, our years together had occasional moments of misunderstanding or lack of understanding … but our mutual strength developed by our working through such moments TOGETHER.

The projects’ needs are and always will be our starting point. My role in ‘people and places’ involves working closely with each individual volunteer to ensure that their placement is a match to those needs … and that requires prompt exchanges between me and our local partner to provide the volunteer with plenty of information about their placement. I’m the one working ‘at the coal face’, so to speak …

Let me tell you a story …

not a fairy story !

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calling all returned volunteers !

Our friends and colleagues at Learning Service would love to hear from as many returned volunteers as possible … please would you consider spending a few minute to share your info with them ?

overseas volunteering survey

Our friends would love to hear from you if you have volunteered overseas … with us here at ‘people and places’, or with any other organisation!
Please would you spare a few minutes to share your views in this survey ?

Saint Lucia – volunteer Amanda fitting right in !

Amanda talks about her daily journeys to and from work … and how she’s “starting to feel like a local”.

“The trip to work on the bus and wandering through Castries City has become the norm for me now. Yesterday I stopped to remind myself this is a temporary lifestyle. One that I will look back on with fond memories. A reminder to absorb the sights, sounds and feelings… and this is what happened…”

tranquil sunset over Rodney Bay

 

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new projects in Cambodia

New projects in Cambodia are on our website.  Take a look and see which project interests you in volunteering here.

Siem Reap, with its close proximity to the World Heritage temples at Angkor Wat, is a popular destination for volunteers.  The projects we currently support there are two community centres, both doing fantastic work at providing education, training and community support for some of the poorest villages around Siem Reap.  They provide worthwhile and enjoyable placements for volunteers who have the expertise to support teachers and childcare workers.  However not all volunteers want to work with children or have the required skills and experience to do so!  So we have now added projects focused on business and on health and social care to our portfolio in Cambodia. Read the rest of this entry »

school sixth forms or colleges – do you have links ?

I am hoping some of you can help me.  I have started going into schools to give talks to sixth form students about how to choose good volunteering projects for their gap year or student travels.  There are many calling-all-teachersgood and worthwhile projects to choose from (including those offered by people and places of course!) but there are also many pitfalls to avoid, and most students are unaware that volunteering opportunities that sound great may be very different in reality.  My talk involves getting students to think critically about different types of volunteering experiences, looking for possible pitfalls and working out what questions they should ask to avoid them.  I want to encourage them to volunteer, not put them off, so we also consider what good and worthwhile volunteering experiences might look like.  The aim is to give students questions to ask so that any volunteering they do is of value not only to themselves but also to the projects where they work.

The schools I have gone into so far have all been very appreciative of the talks I have given – some of their feedback comments are given below.  However I am finding that I can only easily get into schools where I have a personal connection . . . and I’ve now run out of schools to go to!  I believe these are important issues that all students should be aware of and I would like to get into more schools to spread the message.  So I am wondering whether any of you would be able to introduce me to schools or colleges where you have connections.  I am willing to travel to schools and colleges in the UK to give the talk for free – it lasts an hour and fits most easily into a school’s general studies or critical thinking programme.  If you are able to help please email me – dianne@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk.  Thank you for your help. Here’s a flyer for my presentation  schools-presentation-title-slide-people-and-places

‘Dianne’s talk was fascinating.  It offered a very complete picture of the highs (and lows!) of volunteering abroad, with a sting in the tale which was revelatory for the Sixth Form audience.  Dianne was very frank about the pitfalls that are all too easy to fall into – dodgy orphanages and unscrupulous charity packages that rob both volunteers and the communities – and she also outlined how to recognise good volunteering experiences that are beneficial to both sides.  The talk encouraged students to be critical and reflective.  Recommended.’  (Head of Sixth Form)

‘The talk was helpful.  The talk alerted me to things I didn’t know before.  I had no idea that some situations can be fabricated for the ‘benefit’ of volunteers.  It was shocking but incredibly useful.’  (Eliza, year 13 student)

‘The talk was very interesting.  It really helped me see how good gap year volunteering could be for me and for the country I went to IF I prepared and thought about what the country needed and what I could do best.’ (Simon, year 13 student)

‘Although I’m not interested in volunteering at this stage, I now realise how careful you have to be.  It’s too easy to be tricked into thinking that what you’re seeing is the real thing.  A gap year like this is expensive.  I’d want to make sure my money is going into something useful.’  (Bethan, year 13 student)