TOMS to Africa

by on Monday, 12 August 2013

TOMS – for every purchase you make, TOMS will help a person in Need (c) Jaclyn Stephenson

Being a project leader with ISV, I get to meet amazing volunteers from around the world and I am able to take part in experiences in my own country that I never would have before.

I never thought that by meeting volunteers and by them coming over and taking part in such rewarding and team building activities and work, that such friendships and networking could happen. What I recently experienced is the kindness and communication from the volunteers when they get back home. It just shows what volunteers can actually get out of coming volunteering in a new and unfamiliar country.

I have worked on both community and environmental projects in South Africa and on one particular project, De Wildt, I met a volunteer who came out hoping to work with animals at the cheetah centre and take back valuable experience for her studies and hopefully, get into Veterinary school.

Great ISV experiences mean sad goodbyes (c) Jaclyn Stephenson

She arrived and had on a pair of TOMs ‘takkies’ (as we call them in South Africa) – or sneakers – I loved them! She told me the story of TOMs and how they give a pair to a less privileged child around the world, for every pair that is sold. It was such a cool story and I joked that I wished that I could be a ‘child in Africa’ to send to, as I loved them so much!

We worked hard that project. We cleared enclosures by hacking out alien plants, by sawing protruding branches, building roads, feeding cheetahs and learning more about the fascinating creatures of Africa. Everyday we were covered in dirt, sweat and cheetah saliva, but we loved it and were all smiles when leaving the centre each day. When the time came to say goodbye to my group I was sad, it is never easy to say goodbye to such great people and friends after knowing them side by side in the dirt for two weeks.

Working with animals such as Cheetah is an incredible experience for veterinary focused students as well as any volunteer passionate about wildlife conservation (c) Jaclyn Stephenson

I then continued my season and after a few months I received an email from that same vollie – with the TOMs – to ask to help out as a reference for vet school. I was only too excited to help, as she was a volunteer that didn’t mind the hard labour, she didn’t mind roughing it out in the bush, LOVED the animals and in my mind, would become a wonderful vet. I wrote letters of recommendation, spoke to people from the school and even got a code, password etc, to help her apply for the placement. I was only too glad to help out and told her school about all the work we did and the experience this vollie had.

Time passed and one day I arrived home and to my surprise a big package was waiting for me. In it was a thank you letter from this vollie, thanking me for my help getting into vet school and with it a beautiful ‘African’ pair of TOMs with a book explaining the story. I was SO excited and just so grateful for the kindness shown for such a small favour.

I believe that even though volunteers and project leaders only get to know each other for such a small amount of time, there is a great companionship that forms with each volunteer and with the group as a whole. It shows that even though we are far from one another, we essentially are one big ISV family and that we are always willing to go the extra mile, help where needed and support one another.

I am so grateful for my job and for the wonderful people I get to meet. Sometimes it is not through gifts or letters, its just knowing that we are all like minded, active citizens all out there doing something in your field of work, impacting people every day.

 Jaclyn Stephenson (aka Jax), ISV Project Leader

To learn more about ISV’s program and life changing experiences please visit our website –

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