Ann Dorsey lives a life less ordinary volunteering overseas
It was in Eritrea in 1998 when it first occurred to me I couldn’t return home to what most would call normality.
I had been with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) giving my time teaching in rural projects in the country when I realised this kind of life appealed to me.
What exactly attracted me, I’m not quite sure. At one stage I was threatened by irate villagers who accused me of witchcraft; another time I was very nearly abducted by rebels. I even had my arm bitten by a monkey which paralysed me with infection.
At one stage I was threatened by irate villagers who accused me of witchcraft; another time I was very nearly abducted by rebels
Yet I returned the following year for more. By then I knew the country quite well and I ended up working for the Overseas Development Agency (now DFiD) as a rural agricultural officer, getting farmers to grow more sustainable crops, and in my free time I taught English in rural schools.
I saw work as a way to finance my volunteering, if I’m honest. I come from Elgin originally and after graduating worked in finance for the public sector.
It was a job that left me numb so I started looking for something more exciting. That’s when I thought of VSO.
Since that first foray to Eritrea, I’ve worked and volunteered in seven other African countries: Nairobi, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
I currently have a home in South Africa where I’ve been running a charity called Street Safe. It’s involved with diverting children off the streets and out of crime. Most of the children have no formal education so that’s one route we take with them.
Civil society in South Africa is actually flourishing.
That wasn’t the case 15 years ago. There’s a lot of projects from the United Nations and international NGOs really want to work here. The country has its problems but they are being addressed. Civil society is helping achieve this.
I don’t get the chance to travel back to Scotland much as family are now elsewhere.
People often ask if I miss it but, in truth, I don’t. Yes I love Scotland and I love my own people but there’s always something about the grass being greener that makes me want to be travelling.
I’m not even sure if here, South Africa, is my last stop. I’m getting on but if there are opportunities elsewhere, perhaps in another African country, then I may consider one last jaunt.