Olivia Hoppen was part of a team from Muskegon, Michigan that served with ER South Africa in May 2015. Her experience was so profound, she plans to return for a month-long internship this spring. She shares her story here:
When people ask me about my time with Extreme Response in South Africa, I can’t help beaming with joy. From the moment I got an email out of the blue about joining the team, to the moment I got home, it was clear that I was meant to have this experience.
My team had the opportunity to work with several ER partners while we were there. We toured the Cape Town Aquarium with African Hope Trust, spent our mornings painting and playing with children at God’s Little Lighthouse, and in the afternoons helped run sports camps alongside ER staff and life skills educators from Living Hope.
I have countless stories from my time in South Africa, but one that sticks out the most comes from the sports camp in Masiphumelele Township. Because of my lack of soccer skills, I worked with the preschool group. The first day of camp we had about 25 kids; by the last day we had around 130 – talk about overwhelming!
Since these kids were too young for school, only a few of them understood English, but they were still excited about our time together. We sang simple songs, which they quickly learned. During this time, one little boy caught my eye. I reached out to make friends with him, but whenever I looked the other way, he would wander off by himself. I grew to love this little boy even though he was a bit of a troublemaker,
On the next-to-last day of camp, one of the ladies who works with these kids every day told me his primary caretaker at home is his 6-year-old sister (who also attended the camp). Though I was heartbroken to learn this, I had peace knowing that through Extreme Response and Living Hope he is being loved and has some of his basic needs met.
Even before I left South Africa, I knew my time there would not be enough. I had fallen in love with South Africa and knew I would leave part of my heart there. I immediately started talking to ER’s Lindsey Fisher about the possibility of returning, and eventually the opportunity arose to go back as an intern for the month of May. Primarily, I’ll be working with God’s Little Lighthouse and the ER South Africa Dream Centre.
I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity because it is something I feel very called to do. Because I’m majoring in social work and minoring in youth ministry, I also see this internship as an opportunity to further discern what my future entails. I am so grateful to Extreme Response for this opportunity to serve!
Learn more about Extreme Response internships.