Skip to content

‘One of the most welcoming and friendly places on Earth’ – a volunteer describes the GWF magic

Marion Worrell
Volunteer Marion Worrell with Good Work Foundation CEO Kate Groch (left) and hospitality student Portia Mkhonto (right).

All images courtesy of Marion Worrell

Volunteering at Good Work Foundation (GWF) is an enriching experience for young graduates, gap-year adventurers, empty-nesters or anyone looking for an opportunity to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in rural South African communities.

Just ask Marion Worrell, who spent a month volunteering with us in Mpumalanga – and who has crept into the hearts of staff and students alike.

Before she bade us farewell and jetted back home to the United States, we asked Marion about her experience with GWF, and why others should take a leaf out of her book.

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I live in Boulder, Colorado, and have two adult sons. My interests are wildlife photography, hiking, wildlife and nature conservation, and animal rescue.

How did you hear about GWF, and what made you interested in coming to South Africa to volunteer?

My husband and I spent three weeks in Mpumalanga last year. We stayed in several safari lodges and visited an animal rehabilitation centre, where we learned about the plight of the rhino and the problem with poaching in general. This stirred a desire to learn more and somehow help, so I enquired about volunteer opportunities.

I knew I had found the right place when we were at Londolozi and learned about their non-profit partner organisation, Good Work Foundation, which teaches children not only the basics of reading and writing, but also the spirit of nature conservation.

GWF Team at Londolozi

Can you provide a snapshot of what your volunteering experience at GWF entailed?

I volunteered for four weeks. I spent the majority of my time at the Hazyview campus but also had the opportunity to visit all the other satellite campuses. I took part in many of the hospitality exercises and helped the students understand some of the French words that are often on menus. I participated in activities at all the other career academies as well, such as the ICT Academy and the Facilitator Academy, and accompanied the Conservation Academy students on an outing to Elephant Whispers in Hazyview.

What have been some of your main observations and takeaways from your time in South Africa?

I didn’t expect to form so many wonderful friendships. The staff are amazing! They are so dedicated and enthusiastic. I was treated like family and I feel the same way in return. The kids are visibly enjoying their time on the tablets and it is easy to see the seeds that are planted and how the kids will grow and prosper.

GWF staff with the young learners

How would you describe the GWF vibe or magic?

It is probably one of the most welcoming and friendly places on Earth. There is definitely a vibe of acceptance and a huge amount of positive energy.

What is your message to others who are thinking of volunteering?

Volunteering at GWF was an absolutely wonderful experience. If you are taking a gap year or are an empty-nester like me, spending time with the kids at GWF is the most amazing way to share your knowledge or expertise. Knowing I had a positive impact on their lives, no matter how big or small, was hugely fulfilling.

Marion Worrell with GWF team
Marion with her husband Jim (left) at GWF's Hazyview campus, and with members of the Hazyview team (right).

Any final remarks?

A heartfelt thank you to the whole GWF community – you have given me a home away from home, taken me in like family and allowed me to create unforgettable memories.

  • Keen to join us as a volunteer to experience first-hand how we bring wonder-filled education to young rural people in our digitally led, creativity-fuelled learning environment? Find out more here: Volunteer with us | Good Work Foundation


Subscribe to our newsletter