Humans of EPAFrica 2017 – May 2017

Humans of EPAfrica April 2017 – Cambridge 

This instalment of Humans of EPAfrica comes from Cambridge, with a group conversation with former PWs and committee members for EPAfrica, to understand their thoughts about the charity and its direction. The conversation has been split into three parts-
· Their work before they went to Africa
· Their time in Africa
· What they learnt, and their current work with EPAfrica
The group included both members of the committee at Cambridge currently, and previous PWs who went out to Kenya and Uganda last summer:
· Hayden Banks, a third year student at Queen’s College reading Human, Social and Political Sciences,
· Daniella Sauven, a second year Natural Sciences student at Murray Edwards,
· Daphne Argyrou, a second year studying Education with French at Churchill,
· Karolina Hes, a second year Linguistics student at King’s College,
· Rosie Bishop, a second year Geography student at Newnham College, and,
· Ellen Parker, a history student at Jesus college in her third year
In order to get a personal perspective on what it’s like to be a part of EPAfrica, we began with their work before they came to Africa, and how they prepared for the trip to their schools in Kenya and Uganda.

How did you guys get involved with EPAfrica?

Hayden: I just saw it advertised at the fresher’s fair. I was thinking about doing some kind of volunteering over summer but some of the other ones seemed a bit problematic, and seemed a bit too much like tourism.
Ellen: I found out about it from someone in the year above that had done the same thing [been a PW], and I just thought that it looked really fun.

So, philosophically, what drew you to EPAfrica?

Karolina: It’s realistic. We wouldn’t go into a school whose biggest issue is that they didn’t have enough classrooms, because we don’t have the time to able to help with that. We recognise what problems we can solve in ten weeks on a tight budget and get to work on them. I also love the sustainability of it, and that we ensure that investments into the infrastructure can continue for generations after we’ve gone, as opposed to if you go and teach for a few weeks in the summer, which is great, but after a while your knowledge dissipates.
Daniella: I also really like how self-critical EPAfrica is. It recognises that there are flaws in its own way of operating, and it’s constantly working to break that by using feedback from each year so that they can improve what they’re doing.

Was there any part of the organization of the charity that you found particularly exciting?

Daphne: I like the fact that it was ten weeks. It sounds like a really long time, but also shows us that we’re investing our own time and effort in it.
Rosie: The UK side of EPAfrica as well is amazing because I feel like I’ve learnt so much just from a year with the charity. All the training you get, all the talks we’ve been to, and all the leadership work we’re doing with this coming year of PWs is really valuable. I’ve never really had to give presentations before so it’s such good experience.
Karolina: They prepare you really well- there’s no way to explain what it actually feels like arriving there because it’s a little bit of culture shock. But at least knowing what to expect does help, and they really help you understand what you will do when you get out there, through things like case studies from previous years. The ten weeks really gives you time to get a feel for the school before you start investing in it, so you get to talk to everybody and find out what really is needed.
Rosie: And in that time you can make friends for life. I’m still in contact with people from out there now, and you really do forge proper friendships in that time.

For those trying to raise funds in coming years, how did you guys raise the funds to go out with EPAfrica?

Daniella: Doing big events helps, especially if you do it between two or three of you. I did a dinner/dance kind of thing, and I got a band and a hog roast really cheaply, because I said it was for charity. And if you get the right crowd of people who are willing to pay the money for tickets, then you can get a lot of money in one night.
Rosie: Definitely make the most of the Easter holidays. This will be such a good time to target family and adults who actually have money, and also you can get like siblings and friends to help out.
Karolina: I did a week in a onesie, so I dressed up in a penguin onesie for a week. That meant that people would ask me why I was wearing a onesie, so I’d be able to tell them it was for charity and that would start the conversation, so I raised awareness about EPAfrica in a very noticeable form.
Daphne: I got about £300 from reselling cupcakes from a local bakery. Normally the ones I bought were like £3 a cupcake but because it was for charity it was £1, so you can make a lot. And they were really good as well. I found that it can seem quite daunting to have to raise all that money, but little by little it is possible. Fundraising for me was part of the whole EPAfrica experience. I learnt a lot from it, it’s good for your CV, and gives you a lot of confidence.

The next part of this interview series will be released tomorrow morning, where we discuss some the work done in Africa, as well as some of the stories the PWs came away with.
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