“Sounds dangerous”

What I’ll be doing in SA

I’ve given you a brief background on my program and employer here in Canada, but I haven’t shed much light on what I will be doing in South Africa. I will be a Resource Mobilization & Administrative Coordinator at Ukulapha in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. I know, what a mouthful. In my experience, so many communications positions have the longest titles that don’t give you the slightest clue on what the job entails. Luckily for me, the job description is much, much longer than the title! As I explained in my earlier post, I will be employed by VIDEA Canada which is partners with Ukulapha (the host organization in SA). Ukulapha is a grassroots community project in Slangspruit & Imbali in Pietermaritzburg (KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa), offering support to orphan headed households and families with vulnerable children. Ukulapha works in the community with men and women, girls and boys to build self-esteem, life and employability skills and to provide peer support and counseling to manage HIV and AIDS related grief in their communities, facilitating social upliftment and revitalizing the vital spirit of Ubuntu.

In my role, I will be focused on mobilizing resources and assisting with policy creation. This involves organizing and delivering a strategic planning process, researching and drafting a resource mobilization plan, recruiting a team of volunteers to assist with the proposed strategic plan, creating a partnership and networking plan, strengthening links with Canadian organizations/stakeholders, strengthening relationships with the local municipality, and delivering public engagement activities. It’s a challenging position with many roles, but I am excited to be working on such an important project that directly impacts the lives of the community in Slangspruit (the oldest poorly developed township on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg with very high levels of poverty, unemployment and HIV infection).

As some of you may know, I’ve been on the job hunt for many months now, and I found myself applying to meaningless work that was guaranteed to cultivate unhappiness. I spoke to many people when I was first offered the position in South Africa, and I got mixed responses from everyone. Here are some of the more memorable reactions:

“You do know that you’ll be back by the end of the year and still looking for a job. What’s the point?”

“Sounds dangerous, just stay and keep applying for work”

“You absolutely must go! You’ll look back on this in the future as a life-changing experience”

“Once you enter the workforce it will be very difficult to live abroad for a few years, do it while you’re young”

“Job search is that bad, huh?”

After consulting friends and family, my mind was made up. Those who gasped and kept referring to South Africa as dangerous were not completely wrong, but were misinformed to say the least. If anything, it made me want to push VIDEA’s agenda of advocating for global responsibility and that begins with educating the global community. To those who think this is a runaway scheme because of the desolate job market in Toronto, I beg to differ. If I were running away, I would choose a much less challenging job in an easier environment. A few months ago I considered applying for a TIER5 visa to work in England for two years; THAT would have been the sayonara exit strategy, not this. That leaves the YOLO comments, which were reassuring but not the only encouragement I’ve received. In fact, a combination of all three reactions was the encouragement I needed to make this decision, so thank you everyone.

I hope you’ll stick around for the ride, we’ve got much to learn together.

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