Iben & NolleKasper & Roel Marijke

Internship/volunteer work

PASS is a project by and for volunteers. We owe everything to the support of people with a heart for vulnerable young people. Twice we have welcomed Belgian students who have given their best to the school. Committed volunteers also supervise reading, sports and other project days. We would love to continue – and expand – this system.

Our experience with interns and volunteers allows us to support and guide new students in this project. We offer practical and material support for interns (housing, language, tickets) and we are a contact point for interns in case of day-to-day problems. Adapting to another country’s customs and habits is not always easy (we will also offer the necessary support in this regard). Internship opportunities in the Prince Albert Skills School are very broad. We are always looking for future teachers, remedial educationalists, engineers, etc. to contribute to an educational or technical aspect of the project.

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Iben & Nolle:

In early 2020, we left for South Africa for an internship abroad. As nearly graduated teachers of wood and technology, we would be working in a school for pupils who can no longer attend regular schools. We did expect that this would be something we would like, but the whole internship experience really exceeded our expectations.

The Skills School was a dream place for us to do an internship. First of all, we were warmly received and very well guided by Roel, Sien and Rodine. Due to the language barrier (Afrikaans is quite different from West Flemish) it was not easy during the first weeks with the students. When we were more successful in Afrikaans it soon went smoothly with the pupils.

We also liked the fact that we were given a certain amount of freedom in completing the internship assignments. Because the school can still grow in many areas (students, buildings, learning content, activities) we could certainly use our creativity! During the internship we really had the feeling that we could add value and really mean something to the students and the school. At most internships you replace the present teacher and perhaps experience less the enrichment for the school or the students. We could really take the initiative, start up the practical lessons and also realise practical things in the school. For example, we installed the shower and the fence. We will never forget the images of ‘the baptism of the shower’ and of the boys happily singing under the shower!

How we would love to go back and help the school evolve again! It would be great to set up a girls’ class at the school, or to build a new building with classrooms and more space for teaching.

We would really recommend everyone to do an internship or volunteer work at this special school. Don’t hesitate, do it!

We would like to thank again everyone who made it possible for us to have an unforgettable time. Memories and experiences for life!

Any questions about our experience? Contact ibenverschuere@gmail.com

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Kasper & Roel

In the second year of our teacher training programme we could apply for an internship abroad. We immediately applied for it.

At the end of the year one of our teachers asked us if we were interested in an adventure in South Africa. She had heard that there was a small-scale school project in Prince Albert for which they were looking for technically trained teachers. We accepted the offer without hesitation and a year later we were in the Prince Albert Skills School.

It was the first time that the Skills School welcomed trainees. Because of the language and cultural barrier the first weeks with the students were difficult. There was a lot of fighting among them and they could hardly concentrate.

We got on very well with Rodine and Helene from the very beginning. We could come to them with all our questions/problems from day one. After a few weeks our Afrikaans started to improve and this made a big difference in our relationship with the boys. We also did a lot of sports in the beginning and worked on our relationship that way.

From then on the best experience of my life began. We started to draw up lesson plans and together with Rodine we did co-teaching.
Due to the low starting level of the students you quickly notice the progress you make. This was immensely satisfying and the students also became noticeably happier.

The highlight of our internship was a football match that we organised. We played with our school against the Swartberg High School. The pupils of PASS are often looked down upon. By winning this match we took a big step towards a more positive self-image and we created a close group dynamic.
The boys came to school more often, they did better and better, they argued less, they brought up subjects themselves that they wanted to know more about! And then suddenly, three months have passed…

Watching the sunrise together at 6 am in the back of the ‘bakkie’ on the way to the airport and realising that everything is already over. We absolutely could not resign ourselves to that.
It did not take long before we contacted Helene again to ask what we could do. And voilà, here we are! A beautiful sequel to the most beautiful, intense experience of our lives!

“In Prince Albert huil jy twee keer, een keer as jy aankom en een keer as jy vertrek”

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When I am asked that question, I answer: ‘I am retired and what else do I do to spend my time meaningfully?’

However, that is only a half-truth. When Roel asked me to write something about my volunteer work at PASS I had to come up with something better than an often-heard cliché.

I was brought up with a great sense of justice. If you have a good life, if you can do something well, if you love doing something, why not share it with others? Especially with others who, through fate, a political system or through their own actions, have a harder time finding their way. In my village in South Africa, where I have lived for many months of the year together with my South African husband, you can see with your eyes the difference between the “Have” and the “Have Not”. There are also several projects with young people who fall through the cracks.

Here are a few favourite pastimes I would like to share with the less fortunate of my village in the hope that they will come out strengthened:

-I like to organise because I am a bit of a rule follower. For six years, I have been the “facilitator” between the students of Charlemagne and Artesis-Plantijn Hogescholen and the various schools of our village, Prince Albert. The young people of Noordeind really look forward to their arrival every year.

Roel Noens and Kasper Stockman joined PASS in 2019 and did wonders during their internship. Roel and friend Sien Bolsens even came back for a year to build up the school professionally but Covid put a stop to it and they had to return after eight months. However they ensured that the school continued to flourish, even without them on site.

-I am by education, a teacher and a reading wolf. I combine both in my volunteer work at PASS. We sit in a large circle outside under the pepper tree. I read from novels written by brown-skinned writers, with themes that are closely linked to their world. My Afrikaans is sufficiently understandable by now and my drama skills ensure that the boys do not fall asleep. When I resumed reading after a few months lockdown they turned out to know even more about the storyline of ‘Puntemasjien’ than Tannie Marijke herself. Now I read every week two chapters from ‘Gerook’ on the theme of drugs (tik). After each paragraph I wait to see if there are any comments. Slowly but surely the boys start to loosen up and as a former educationalist I cannot resist giving wise advice now and then.

-I am addicted to yoga, have been doing it dutifully for 30 years and now also teach it at the POP (Path Out of Poverty) Centre but the boys from PASS prefer to play soccer. Who could blame them?

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