A twelve-month adventure begins…

During my time working at AVI my desk was located right near the recruiters’ workspace, I can’t tell you how many times I heard the recruiters say things like…

“volunteering is about the planets aligning”

What they were referring to is the need to be financially, emotionally and professionaly ready to commit to the year or so required for an AVP assignment.  I’m not so sure that the planets aligned for me so much as I moved heaven and earth to make it happen …

The role of Digitisation Project Officer at the Nelson Mandela Foundation originally opened up in 2012 while I was still working my way through a Bachelor Degree with a lofty end-goal of one day becoming a digital archivist. Reading the role profile helped shape my interest in the specialisation of digitisation (and is the reason I pursued a practicum placement at the University of Melbourne’s Digitisation Centre). I was still finishing my Masters thesis when I noticed the assignment had become available again – I wasn’t actively looking for a job, I already had two amazing jobs and I was studying full time –  but looking for jobs is just kind of habit for me (some people watch cat videos – I procrastinate by scrolling job boards and day-dreaming of future versions of my life).

I honestly didn’t expect to get the role, the timing was awful, my thesis was due, I had multiple work projects looming but the prospect of being part of Nelson Mandela’s legacy was just way too incredible to pass up. So I penned an application then I called the recruiter to express my interest (because that’s what I remembered they were always advising prospective vols to do!)… and I got it!  The recruiter, Sue, stressed she had reviewed everything twice just to be sure she couldn’t be accused of favouritism.

The onboarding process was a rollercoaster of medical and psychological tests plus a three-day pre-departure briefing in Melbourne where we got to meet an amazing group of people all getting ready to embark on their own adventures. Just a few weeks later we were packing up our life in Perth and saying goodbye to our loved ones.

April 2018 AVI Southern Africa’s inductees with the Program Coordinator, Mmasechaba, at the Courtyard hotel, Johannesburg

We landed in Johannesburg on the 9th of April. On our arrival, we were welcomed by the AVI Southern Africa team. Our induction whilst informative, scared the bejeebers out of us – we learnt things like….

  • How common tuberculosis is, and how it comes with awful night sweats, fever, weight loss, and a cough that takes 6 months of treatment to overcome.
  • That in certain areas up to 1 in 5 South African’s are HIV Positive.
  • That if we want to travel out we need to be careful of things like Malaria and tick bite fever.
  • Apparently experiencing gastro is quite a normal thing and will happen… a lot.
  • Because of the elevation of Joburg (2000km above sea level!) sinus problems are also very common.
  • Where road rules are concerned this is a ‘lawless state’ with a very high death rate around Easter and in December.
  • Our biggest risk to our safety while here is car accidents, most commonly being hit at a red light by a car not stopping.
  • Don’t wear flashy jewellery or clothes as this will make you a target for robbery.
  • That taking out large amounts of money inside a bank might result in being robbed when you leave the bank.
  • When leaving your house, remember what you left it like and alert security if it looks different when you return.
  • Do not walk the streets alone at night.
  • Use Ubers but be careful of catching an Uber near a taxi rank as this can anger the taxi drivers and result in violence towards the driver.
  • If you get a speeding ticket don’t try and negotiate instead tell them you are in a rush and to please just issue you a ticket.
  • Do not disobey the law. South African lockups are not very nice places.
  • Find your nearest police station and learn the numbers of your security companies (yes, everyone has security companies)
  • This place can be emotionally exhausting, find an outlet… don’t bottle it up.

Phew! So we now we are formally inducted, we have all the info we need (perhaps more than we wanted)… let the adventure begin….

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