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The dangers of stereotyping: Thoughts from an under-18 volunteer in South Africa

Posted: October 29, 2021

Some images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19. 

Have you ever had your preconceived ideas about a place challenged? An under-18 volunteer with GVI in South Africa shares how the ideas they arrived with were turned around as they got to know the community they worked with.

Here are their thoughts:

 

 

People all over the world contribute to, or believe in, stereotypes about people and places they’ve never interacted with or visited before. During my two weeks with GVI in South Africa, I observed more acts of kindness than I’ve seen in an entire year back home! Other volunteers and I spent a week and a half on an under-18s project doing light construction work on a community greenhouse.

The members of this community made the experience one I will never forget. There wasn’t a day that passed when I didn’t feel delight from seeing the reactions of community members as they walked by our project.

Every so often an individual would pass, glance up, and smile at the progress we’d made. I liked to imagine they were thinking about the benefits it would have for the community.

 

 

Doing this type of collaborative work may not have worked in the community I come from. Back home, our work may have been vandalised, questioned, and disrespected. But here, it brought immense joy. Nothing will compare to being given a thumbs up from a young boy strolling past on his way home from school, or a pair of women stopping to admire our handiwork and express their support.

Further reading: The harmful effects of stereotyping: The Mexican stereotype

Most people tend to focus on the negative aspects of life, but the community I worked with taught me that there’s happiness in everything.

 

 

Volunteering abroad as an under 18 has many advantages. While GVI no longer runs construction projects in Cape Town, you can sign up for the Cape Town Adventure and Cultural Immersion Teen Volunteer program. Take the leap and get ready to explore your own insights. Apply today.

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