The Volunteers: Our gap year in Namibia

Lea, Anne, Linus, Simon, Lale, Leah

What do you think does a school need? Teachers and learners, of course. Parents, management, chairmen, cleaning operatives, groundkeepers, gardeners, staff for the office and finances, donors, sponsors…

But is that all? Nope. Not at Waldorf School Windhoek. Like a lot of schools, this one as well has some interns over the year. Six of them, who in most cases come all the way from Germany, stay for 12 months and are displaced yearly. They don’t only work at the school but live there. And that’s us: the Volunteers!

What’s our job? It’s quiet easy: to support the school wherever and whenever we’re needed. However we all have our main working areas. Two of us work in the hostel, two in the afternoon care, one in the kindergarten and the sixth of us supports the grade four teacher, especially due to a deaf-mute child in that class. We stay in a small but cosy house on the school premises, which is equipped with everything we need.

Some days start with learners knocking at our windwos, telling us we have to get up and work. In the beginning it wasn’t easy to shake them off, but over time an angry growl out of a boys bed was enough to make them run for their life. The first of us gets up 5:45 to wake the hostel children. Then, one after another we fall out of our bunk beds to fulfill our daily tasks. Everybody has different working times so we only meet occasionally.

When I enter the little house there is a fifty-fifty chance of finding another Volunteer lying on the couch, relaxing, writing reports for friends and family in Germany, watching movies, sewing, knitting, drawing, crafting, eating (especially eating!), drinking tea or just doing nothing. If not there, we are in the school knitting with grade 1, doing English with grade 4, gardening with grade 6 or woodworking with grade 7. But the coffee break is sure to come and everybody is finally waking up.

In the afternoon when the teachers and most learners are heading home, we take the afternoon and hostel children under our wings. After eating and doing homework there is tons of free space for our own ideas, projects and lots of fun! The last trimester e.g. was completely taken by our circus project. I think it’s quiet good for the learners of the primary to have some younger reference persons who deign to play „tatsch“, hide and seek or other fun games with them. People who they can tell their secrets or ask embarrassing questions.

So apart from having fun we sometimes were struggling to find the balance between being an authority and a friend. Looking back I’m convinced it worked out very well.I think I’m talking on behalf of my five colleagues when I say: being a Volunteer is not a job – it’s a lifestyle. It’s hard to describe it if you didn’t have it. We were like a family, cooking, washing, going out, working and living together – sometimes just annoying, but really loving each other.

Through our organization (Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners e.V.) young people from all countries get the opportunity to go and work in Germany for one year. Therefore it’s becoming a real intercultural exchange. I wish and hope that everybody who’s striving for it gets the same, great opportunity that we had!

We, the Volunteers of 2016/17 take this opportunity to say goodbye to the school, the children, parents, teachers, staff and to the wonderful country of Namibia. Thank you to each and every person who made our stay so joyful, instructive and unforgettable.