Back at The Ark

Earlier this week, I blogged about my first visit to The Ark, an organization that provides Christian-based support services to roughly 800 individuals who are homeless, unemployed, abused, and abandoned. The basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter) of the men, women, and children are met. Trainings, workshops, and courses are also offered to empower the individuals to reintroduce themselves into South African society.

The day after my first trip to The Ark, I unexpectedly returned to help the Office of Leadership and Social Responsibility (LSR) with a CV and cover letter workshop. Three student leaders and three LSR staff members, including myself, piled into the trusty LSR van. (Driving around in the white Toyota van has actually assisted me in understanding the rules and procedures of the South African roads. Driving on the opposite side of the road and on the opposite side of the car has been quite enjoyable for me.)

THE ARK CITY OF REFUGE greeted us again as we entered. This time, we had to drive much slower down the gravel path that connected the road to the campus. The dramatic potholes, some as wide as the Toyota, were filled with a brown-gray water from last night’s rain. We went through the motions of checking in at the gate: surname, name, registration number (license plate number), purpose of visit, date, and signature. This is a common occurrence in South Africa, whether it is visiting my colleague at her apartment complex for a dinner party or navigating in and out of the university.

We organized ourselves in the Bible study room. Twenty weathered, wooden, long table-like desks hosted a melange of donated chairs that ranged from once plush office chairs to discolored plastic patio chairs. Roughly thirty younger men shuffled into the room in an orderly and gentle manner. Following a quick round of introductions, one of the students presented via PowerPoint on the basics of writing a CV and cover letter.

I worked with a group of seven men. I resisted the strong urge to chat with them about their paths in life. I desired to learn about their backgrounds. I focused on my work and kept the discussions light, cheerful, and informal. We distributed a template of a CV and cover letter, and the men simply had to insert their personal details. I aided in the men in extrapolating more details about their educational and work experiences.

Tony (name changed), for example, noted that he had seven years of experience as an electrician. He used two phrases to capture his responsibilities: “wiring and fitting” and “site supervisor.” We collaborated to author some of the following phrases: ensured that daily work was completed by 60+ employees; referenced schematic diagrams and divided responsibilities to the electrical team; and transitioned from electrician to site supervisor during the construction of major retails, such as Pick ‘n Pay and Edgars. We also highlighted his experiences as a leader for a youth development program and a supervisor for a substance abuse rehabilitation program.

Two hours was not nearly enough time, but we made progress. As for the next steps, the LSR team will use the information on the templates to produce the first draft of a CV for each man. We will return to The Ark in a month to continue editing the CVs.

I really enjoyed working with the men at The Ark. Such a simple act, a CV and cover letter workshop, has so much potential to change an individual’s life.


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