The ins and outs of my journey as a volunteer

The ins and outs of my journey as a volunteer

Hello everybody,

So yesterday I told you how I’m doing as I’m trying to learn how to code. It’s not easy for me, but what’s easy when you are venturing into something new, something outside of your comfort zone?

Anyway, today I’m going to tell you why I’m trying to learn this new skill.

Well, last year I attended several Girl Code workshops, one of which was on how to scale your business. I think when I attended the all-female hackathon in August, I was hooked on Girl Code’s vision.

Basically, Girl Code wants to bring more females into the tech industry. For most of us, the tech world is seen as a man’s world. I seriously thought that the IT world looks intimidating and hard. That’s until I saw that there are many young women working or studying within the IT-space.

And these females are actually excited about their work! I mean really, who gets excited about computers and sorting out the back-side of things related to computers and the internet? The more I listened to these women, the more I found out that they were there to solve problems.

The hackathon was where small groups of women thought of a problem within their community or a community and then they would look at finding a solution (using tech) for that problem.

I did an interview with Zandile Keebine for Brand South Africa’s site. She said, “it is an undeniable fact that programming is the language of the future and if you want to be part of the economy then it is important to have the right skills that will allow you to be employable.”

She is a co-founder of Girl Code. The NPO was started because “we realised that there were, in fact, a lot of women in tech and that the underlining issue was visibility. We provide a platform where women who are already in the space can volunteer their time and knowledge.”

Speaking on a GirlCode ZA podcast, Keebine said she had been to many hackathons where she was either the only female or one of a few to attend. This prompted her to approach her employer to organise a women-only hackathon. GirlCode ZA was born in 2014. Every month or so Girl Code hosts a workshop where you learn programming languages like HTML, CSS or Javascript. These workshops are free.

Last year, I thought of volunteering. You know Mandela Day comes around and you feel the urge to help somewhere, but I thought one day wasn’t going to cut it. I thought “okay if I volunteer I want to be able to use my skills – help with something I’m good at”. I knew if I used my skills, I would be able to put in more time for a valuable cause.

I also wanted to volunteer using my existing skills because I don’t always have money to contribute towards a good cause.

Initially, I thought I would volunteer for Girl Code by being a writer for them, handling their blog posts on their website. But, friends at Girl Code saw another skill of mine and suggested that I help in that area instead. I’m a social media manager for Girl Code – I mainly run the Twitter account.

And social media management had been something I wanted to explore career-wise, so Girl Code is actually helping me do that.

emergency fund melissajavan

In my blog post “Lessons learned in April” I share my experience with Girl Code. I’m definitely being reminded the importance of teamwork and the impact an individual’s workload has on a team.

It’s also nice to speak to ladies with different work positions on how they do things on a daily basis. Each of us is different yet we share similarities.

At the last workshop, for example, the words “Raspberry Pi” were mentioned. Some of the team got all excited, while others didn’t know what the fuss was about. I seriously thought Raspberry Pi was food, but apparently, it’s a tiny, affordable computer that you can learn programming on, for fun.

Hanging out with different people (in small groups) is also doing good for my self-esteem – especially since I’m an introvert.

learning to code melissajavan

Well, I’d tell anyone to volunteer, preferably in a big organisation (my opinion). Why? Because in a big organisation there are mentors within the area where you are willing to help. One lady, for example, tells us she is enjoying doing project management and learning about it from the peers who have experience in it. And project management is something she’s exploring for the first time while volunteering. How cool is that!

Also, with volunteering, the ball is in your court – you decide when you want to give up your time. But the important thing is, you have to know your why (this helps for when you feel like sleeping in on a Saturday but get up early to volunteer instead).

I have volunteered before – for another organisation – but after a month I stopped working with this team because I felt like they didn’t appreciate my time. One has to guard your time because it is a currency just like money is – or so I’ve heard.

Anyway, I hope this blog post was useful. If you have any questions for me, drop it in the comments below.

Have you ever volunteered before or have you considered it? Please share your story. Thank you for reading!


  1. Lived this. I have no clue when it comes to coding so this would be something to consider

  2. The first place to start is HTML I think; download the SoloLearn app on your phone and learn for free.

  3. I did a lot of volunteering in my twenties when I was unemployed. At that stage I wanred to be a psychologist so I was spending time with things like Life Line, Pregnancy Crisis centre, and other courses. Actually I met a good friend at Life Line and we travelled together so you never know what doors will open from it.
    By the way super impressed you are learning to code, it’s all a bit beyond me!

  4. This is amazing! I would love to learn to code! I know a bit of HTML but am definitely interested in learning JavaScript. I also enjoy volunteering its a great way to meet new people, have fun and learn new skills. Good luck in your journey!

  5. I can’t quite believe that I didn’t know about Girl Code when I’m currently studying coding and computer science in uni. Thank you for spreading the word! x

  6. Yes, I have volunteered on mission trips and the food bank. I’ve volunteered at school and making mums. I give away a lot of time to help others. So great you have learned a skill that you can use to help others.

  7. Thank you Julie for sharing. I would have loved to see a day in a life of your volunteering trips.

  8. I had no idea you could volunteer as a writer! That’s so interesting. Thank you for sharing.

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