Volunteers at Georgetown share their experiences with the student-ran publication, The Corp. The original article can be viewed on their website Here.
Finding something you truly believe in doesn’t come around every day.
Photo by Gaby Weigel
For a group of us at Georgetown, we find this sense of purpose through working with a grassroots, non-profit organization called One Heart Source (OHS).
One Heart Source aims to empower the lives of children and their communities through education and community development. We believe in a “child first” society, where every child, no matter where they are born, is given the tools they need to become leaders in their communities.
Photo by Gaby Weigel
One Heart Source offers 1-4 week volunteer programs in South Africa designed for young people to be a part of creating this social change. We are looking for volunteers who embody our motto of “Intellect, Leadership & Service” and have a genuine desire to be a part of a movement toward a more equal, conscious, and compassionate world.
The opportunities that OHS offers is best told by former volunteers. These are their stories.
Claire Lang (2014) | Zanzibar 2013
As Georgetown students, we are so fortunate. We have amazing teachers who challenge us, mentor us, and care about our success both in and out of the classroom.
Such an education is both an amazing opportunity and a gift–one that I could give to my students in Zanzibar, Tanzania. It was amazing to see the students grow and learn during the six weeks I was living in the village. Even after school had ended, they wanted to keep learning. We would gather in my living room at night by flashlight, and play their favorite game (Simon says) and I would share stories about my home.
I went to Zanzibar, Tanzania as a teacher, but I left as a student of a new culture, a student of family and community. It was the most amazing, life-changing summer ever.
Molly Morrison (2016) | Zanzibar 2013
As if being thousands of miles away from home, surrounded by a new culture, a new language, and new everything wasn’t overwhelming enough — on day two, I was given the assignment of teaching math to 50 fourth graders.
At first, I was full of doubt, thinking that I definitely wasn’t qualified for such a huge undertaking. But it was times like the following that affirmed that I was exactlywhere I was meant to be. “Ready? Go!”
The rows of children screamed, cheering on their teammates as two students scribbled the answers to math problems on the board. The room went silent and points were tallied. Team Paka (cat) had eight correct answers, but Team Kuku (chicken) scored a perfect 12. The children erupted in cheers unable to contain their excitement, with smiles stretching check to cheek and high-fiving everyone in reach.
When the class finally quieted down, a lone hand shot up into the air. “Zaidi mwalimu.” More teacher.
Erin Collins (2013) | South Africa 2013
When I met Olwethu, I was surprised to learn that she did not yet know her alphabet. Listening to the other fourth grade students in the room reading books and spelling words, I realized how behind Olwethu was in school.
As I tried to teach her the alphabet, she frequently became quickly frustrated and wanted to give up. So, it was time to get creative and approach reading from a different angle. Olwethu loved using her fingers to do math problems, so I decided we would do the same to learn her letters. Together, we made paper letters, tapped them to our fingers, and tapped them on the table as we worked to sound out words.
As this became easier, we created colorful word lists of all the words she had successfully sounded out and read on her own. Each day, we read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, so she could practice her alphabet and read along with me.
I watched as reading quickly went from something she struggled with and hated to one of her favorite parts of our lesson. During my home visit to her house, we brought along Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for Olwethu to read to her mom. She read the book almost completely on her own. At the end, I looked up to see tears in her mom’s eyes.
She told me she had assumed Olwethu would never be able to read. I was so proud of Olwethu that I felt my own tears forming. Olwethu taught me so much about patience, perseverance, and determination. She never gave up and proved how far that attitude towards life can take you.
Laura DeGiorgis (2016) | Zanzibar 2013
Taking time away from my busy life to serve a community in Tanzania was so far the best decision I have made.
Living in an environment so different from home taught me so much; the lifestyle that many people in Africa lead is refreshingly peaceful and simple. Living amongst people who have so little yet are so warm and loving is an experience everyone should have.
It was truly an honor to be able to give back to them for all they had taught me. Sharing my knowledge and tutoring in their schools were the least I could do. It was a mutual exchange: I taught them how to count, spell and read, and they taught me how to love and live in a community.
Courtney Hodge (2014) | South Africa
The most valuable part of my experience with One Heart Source was the community.
I became so close with the girls I tutored, as well as many other kids that I worked with or saw in passing that I feel like I’ve known from for a long time. One Friday, a few other volunteers and I had the opportunity to go hear the President of South Africa speak in the nearby township.
What really struck me about that day was walking back to school after the speech and having all these kids run up to me and hug me, kids that were not even in our program and who I had only worked with a few times in the classroom.
That moment cemented for me how much of an impact you can have by doing something as small as reading with a child for a few minutes or helping them with a math problem.
Gabriela Weigel (2014) | Tanzania 2011 / Zanzibar 2012 / South Africa 2013
I first volunteered with OHS the summer after my freshman year. I received an email alerting me to the opportunity, and something in me sparked.
Yes, I was driven to apply due to my fundamental belief in equality of education. Yes, I was driven by an intrigue of living in another country. But mostly, I was driven by desire to engage with people who could teach me much more than what I experienced in a classroom.
I did not anticipate that this decision would change the way I see myself as participant in this world, nor that I would return to teach in Africa every summer since. But after three summers of volunteering with OHS in Tanzania and South Africa, I honestly cannot imagine what my college experience would have been like if I had not had the perspective and inspiration that OHS has given me. I have found more meaning, purpose, joy and understanding when working in Africa than in any other aspect of my life.
I am forever grateful for the students I’ve taught, the communities I’ve been a part of and the invaluable lessons I have learned from my time with One Heart Source.