Maya Harding

North Carolina, USA


Maya joined the VACorps Program in January 2024 as part of her GAP year, and participated in a social work internship at a shelter for women and children suffering domestic violence.

I stayed in Cape Town for two months during my gap year and worked with a domestic violence shelter for women and children. Of all places I could have interned, Cape Town proved to be such an incredible city to work in. Not only are the VACorps staff helpful, but they make the adjustment process to living on your own in a new place comfortable and easy. The city itself offers an amazing array of activities. There are not many places in the world where you can hike huge mountains to look at amazing sunsets and drive a couple of minutes to white sand beaches with cold water to cool off from the heat. Observatory, where everyone stays, is also perfect. There are incredible food and drink options only a couple of minutes away, including a personal favorite, the café Sonder and an Ethiopian restaurant Timbuktu (one of the best meals I’ve ever had).

My internship itself was at times difficult, but completely worth it as well. My coworkers quickly became friends who helped me both understand how to do the best I could at my job and keep things light in a place where we were dealing with some very tough situations. Working with such a vulnerable population is far from easy but I would not give that experience up for the world. From practical skills such as doing intake forms and speaking with clients about their struggles, to understanding the complexities of South Africa’s stance on gender-based violence and mental health, I was immersed in a world that proved to be incredibly inspiring. The strength that lies in each of us even in the hardest of circumstances to carry on was depicted day after day. It was nothing short of incredible. The people at my internship are those who I will miss most dearly.

Every week we also had cultural activities and opportunities to see the more “touristy” spots with VACorps. This was extremely helpful as it allowed me to see many sides and areas of Cape Town that I may not have visited otherwise, giving me a fuller picture of this multifaceted city. A highlight was seeing the African penguins… shocking yes, these guys love the heat apparently which is not what one normally associates with penguins… nonetheless, they were there! We also had the privilege of seeing traditional dancers from Khayelitsha who taught us a few moves. As a dancer myself, this was such a cool opportunity for cultural exchange where we learned something from each other.

Overall, Cape Town with VACorps was amazing and I have made connections here that I will never forget. I highly recommend and make sure to pack sunscreen! I’ll miss you Cape Town!