Clare Barrell, organisational development officer, South Africa

Ahead of South Africa’s World Cup, VSO volunteer, Clare Barrell, 26, from Hertfordshire has spent the last two years working with local charity SCORE, helping vulnerable children find a better future through the power of sport. Here she gives an insight into the life of a volunteer in the run up to Africa’s first ever World Cup.

Could you tell us about what SCORE does in South Africa?

SCORE works across the whole of South Africa helping to change lives through sport. We aim to get everyone in vulnerable communities, especially women and girls, taking part in sport. SCORE runs a huge range of activities, from the highly successful Soccer Legends programme, where retired coaches teach kids football at shelters, to volunteers like myself going into schools and providing counselling and care. I also manage SCORE’s other volunteers from around the world in the 44 communities we run programmes in.

What is an average day like for you as a VSO volunteer?

An average day is crazy; I don’t think my feet have touched the ground since I have been here! It’s hard work, but it is incredibly inspiring. One highlight has been our 2009 World Aids Day celebration in Johannesburg. I managed the event and over 800 disadvantaged kids from the Hillbrow district came together to play football and train with the South African national team coach, they also took part in performances, workshops and had a great day outside Hillbrow. 

How did you come to be involved with VSO?

I had known about VSO for years, but I always thought I was a bit young to do it. I was lucky because I came across the placement first. Because it dealt with sport it looked really up my street after I studied sport at University, plus I had been to South Africa before, working for a small NGO so it felt right. When I was accepted it was fantastic because I knew it was all leading up to this placement.

What do you love about South Africa and what were your first impressions of the country?

I have been here for around two years now, when I arrived my knowledge was a bit idealistic. I remember getting out of the taxi where I was staying and not knowing if I could even walk in the street. Then two days later I was in a rural community in the Limpopo Province, were chickens were being slaughtered in the yard and there was no running water – there was no time for a culture shock. Initially everything was crazy, the noises, the colour, but now it is very much part of my life, I don’t know what it will be like to go home to quiet Hertfordshire.

What advice would you give to other young people considering volunteering?

I think young people don’t just want to go travelling for the sake of travelling, and for me it was always about doing something that I felt was worthwhile. I did not want to be involved with anything where I was paying for the privilege of volunteering. VSO represents the proper way to go into communities; it has the right links in countries and works with people that are known for doing a good job. If you want to work for something that is really sustainable then VSO is the way to do it, if you just want to party all the time, then it is absolutely not. It is hard work, but you’re motivated by other people, that has been truly special, no one can take that away.

How to apply

Interested in volunteering with VSO? Find out what you need to apply and begin your application process now.