The blog below is written by U-turn volunteer, Anouk Vos, who during her time at U-turn transformed our upcycling production line, produced beautiful videos of U-turn graduate stories and won all of our hearts. Hope we see you again soon Anouk.

My time at U-Turn started in the beginning of March. Only a few weeks before that I got in touch with Sam Vos, the director of U-Turn. The fact that we share last names created an immediate bond for me, even though that might sound a little funny! You see, moving 10.000 kilometers from comfortable Holland to wild South Africa which is a destination were people warned me about my safety, things like last names can make a difference. My reason for coming to South Africa was to make a difference to peoples lives for those that were less fortunate and less privileged. I also wanted to find out in what way I can use my creative and social skills to the greatest potential, to share and to grow.

I have been happy at U-Turn since day one. All my colleagues at the office have been so sincrerely friendly and you can see everyone works here because they have a heart and care deeply for the homeless. In the first week, myself and two other new people at U-Turn engaged with every sector of U-Turn: the laundry, the shop and the service center, which has been christened the “Power House”. It is very special to see how much positive energy I found everywhere and how motivated everyone is. Together they achieve astounding results. Lives change here: people grow from living on the street to responsible parent, shop manager or an example for the people still living on the street. U-turn suits me in many ways: from their voucher-earning system to the recycling of used vouchers and from their bottom-up approach to spiritual teachings.

The organisation and people gave me the confidence to be myself and with this faith I’ve been able to grow and expand in my role. I started giving retail and conflict management training and making videos about people that graduated from our program. I now have a role that is perfect for me: I can use my creative and management skills to run the upcycling project. Together with a great team I create beautiful products like dog bandana’s & dog pillows. I really enjoy this but what I love even more is being able to motivate the people in the program to follow their heart and stay strong, even in the toughest of times. This I have to say gives me the most energy. I think that my role as a volunteer is also a good position to do so: I work close with them but I am not an official staff member that makes me more one of them!

The Power House has become like a South African family to me. I am very grateful my path has lead me to U-turns door and for every powerful productive and inspirational new day I will be with them. My sister asked me the other day
“Are you waking up at 6 am for a volunteers role???”
and I said
“Yes and I do it with a smile, day after magical day”.