Hello from Focus on iThemba

Hi everyone!

After travelling for over 32 hours the UK volunteers finally arrived here on the 11th of April! We stayed at a pastoral centre/ hostel which just fit all 47 members of our team (we’ve been split up into eight smaller teams who are located across KwaZulu Natal within this). We had a pretty chilled day on the Sunday, we went to a church in Durban centre and then had the afternoon to relax, do lots of chatting, played some games and got to know each other better. Orientation started at eight on Monday morning- we had to be up for breakfast by seven- which was a bit of a shock to everyone from England! We’ve discovered over the five weeks we’ve been here that everyone will be awake by six and have started going about their day- half seven is a lie in! However, we’ve also discovered that South African ‘midnight’ is nine o clock, and we’ve have got used to being in bed and ready to go to sleep by eight- sometimes earlier if load shedding happens! So our days at orientation were long, we’d start at eight am, and then we’d finish by nine pm (seven pm one day which was fab!), with the odd toilet break, and then dinner and lunch thrown in, it’s safe to say we were all shattered by the time we’d finished the week! Our evenings tended to be filled with lots of cups of tea, singing various songs with the girls and a guitar! And also enjoying the hot showers whilst we had some! After our week of orientation finished, groups started going to their host homes on the Friday afternoon. Some of us weren’t leaving until late Friday evening, or until Saturday morning (as we did) and so we had an afternoon at the beach and had a chance to buy some ice-cream which was a brilliant day- the beach is beautiful and the sea wasn’t freezing which is always a bonus! Our team consists of five people, three of us from England (Me, Jo and Constance our team leader) and two from South Africa (Nokwe who is my South African counterpart and Nonku who’s Jo’s counterpart).

So, we’ve been at our host home for over a month now- time has flown by! We arrived at about 9am on Saturday 18th of April and were welcomed with huge smiles, hugs and lots of love! Constance, Nokwe and I are staying with a South African Gogo (grandma) in a house which she moved out of so we could stay which is amazingly generous! Jo and Nonku are living in another house slightly further down the road from us (after a slightly difficult first week in a house with such a kind hearted Gogo but was unfortunately not suitable for Jo and Nonku to live in and so they were moved to be closer to us, and are now with an amazing family in a beautiful house). For our first week we (Jeni, Constance and Nokwe) were cooked for, had our washing done and were pretty much spoilt rotten- however this was due to a slight lack in communication about the money which was provided for our food so we’re now cooking, cleaning and washing for ourselves which in some ways has been quite a blessing as it means we’re able to eat what we want, and at the times we’d like so no more evening meals at 3.30! Nonku helps with the cooking and cleaning in her host home. We all have a working toilet inside which is a luxury here but we have to fill up the tank every time we want to flush it as there is no running water in the house as something to do with some tap somewhere is broken and the house will apparently get flooded, so we have to fetch it from outside to wash up, have baths (using a bowl full of cold water mixed with boiling water and a jug- we’re all so excited to have a real shower when we get home!) cook, and everything else. Gogo also has two women working for her as she is too old (she’s said this herself!) to look after her house on her own, and they’re both lovely, one speaks fluent English which is fab, and the other doesn’t speak much other than basic hello’s and stuff.

We’ve mainly been working at a crèche called Siyajabula in the Embo Valley (a rural area) alongside an organisation called Focus on iThemba. The children are all hilarious- one of them told Nokwe she thought Jeni was an angel because she’s so white which made us all laugh! We’re getting used to being fed a lot of plastic food by the children at the crèche who love coming up to us and hearing us go ‘nomnomnom’! A typical day at Siyajabula would be to get up and have breakfast at about seven/ half seven, walk down to the crèche for eight/half eight and then help the teachers out with breakfast- we give out bowls of porridge and then feed the younger children who can’t yet feed themselves, then its lesson time (at this point we usually go and work in the garden for a bit, or do some admin in the office as we’re more of a distraction than a help! Nokwe sometimes helps run the lesson for the 3-5 year olds which she’s brilliant at), then it’s outside play time for the children. After this its lunchtime where we again dish out food to all the children and help those who can’t feed themselves, then the children go to sleep while we clean, and sometimes give Gogo Elizabeth a computer lesson before the ‘official’ end of the day. However- as some of you may have guessed- people here are very chilled and so some children are picked up 2-3 hours after the end of the day. We normally come home between half 1 and 3 as the crèche shuts at this point for aftercare of the children who haven’t been picked up yet. We tend to go back to Nonku’s house to do admin/paperwork, make resources for the creches and prepare for the next day, and then we’ll separate and have dinner before going to sleep for the next day.

Every Tuesday we go to Siyabaphephisa crèche where we get to paint one of the two classrooms. We have also been doing the ECD assessment report (a report of which the goal is to help them become registered with the government to allow the crèches to receive funding and support-however this can take years to achieve!) with the owner Bright. Hopefully we can help her crèche to get closer to be registered by the Department of Social Development. This Thursday Khanya is driving us to Sizakancane crèche. We haven’t been to this crèche since week 2! So as you can imagine there is a lot of work to be done.

In the next few weeks, we hope to deliver First Aid, Child Protection, and Hygiene training at all three crèches as well as completing all the ECD reports, and delivering some of the teaching resources we’ve been making!

If you have time your prayers would be wonderful for the following things:

  • Continued bonding as a team- we’re all getting on really well which is wonderful!
  • Thankfulness that we’ve all arrived safely, are living in safe host homes, and that we’ve not had any major problems.
  • For continued good health- no-one is ill at the moment (fingers crossed!) but there’s a lot of flu/colds going round that we don’t want to catch!
  • Last but not least, that we’ll continue to build positive relationships with the people we’re working with at the three crèches, iThemba, the local community we’re living within, the people that we’re staying with and that through everything we do we’ll shine out the love of Jesus! J

Thank you all for your support, love and prayers!

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