School, weather and hospital trips 

I feel like so much happens on these placements that one or two blog posts just don’t do it justice. 
Last week we started our projects, going into schools and teaching English and Six Bricks (a Lego development program), visiting local crèches, and facilitating a youth homework club. At the moment it’s a weird mix of having so much to do, and moments where we have nothing. Trying to keep everyone motivated is proving difficult, but I know how frustrating it is to leave somewhere believing you haven’t done enough. It’s also a hard balance because I don’t want to overwork everyone, this program can be really tough and I don’t want to add to the stress. I’m really proud of how my team are dealing with it so far. It’s hard to adjust to a new culture (even for the SA volunteers), new work, and new people all at the same time, but they’re thriving and I firmly believe they’re going achieve some great things.
The weather here has been a bit insane, it went from one day at 40 degrees to the next at 17. One moment the sun will be beating down on us, the next it will be chucking it down with rain. It’s honestly as temperamental as in England, though perhaps a little more extreme. Unfortunately, it has meant there were a few schools we couldn’t get to last week due to the rain. This was frustrating but provided us with some good downtime and a chance for team bonding.

The community continues to be great support to us, particularly the team at Wellspring and Abbie, I honestly don’t know what I would do without them. I’m discovering that being a team leader can be a very isolating position to be in and so the support I receive is invaluable. As a team leader I’m often the messenger, yet the phrase ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ doesn’t seem to apply. However, I think that the team often need someone to shoot their arrows at, so for the moment at least, I’m happy to be that person, I just might need to prepare some better armour.

Complete chaos struck on Friday as one of our team members, Amy, became extremely ill and I had to accompany her to the hospital. Her fever was raging and she was in a lot of pain. We travelled to Pietermaritzburg (1 ½ hours away) where she was admitted (after waiting 7 hours!) for observation. We were relieved to discover that she didn’t need surgery but the diagnosis still wasn’t great. She was supposed be discharged today but the doctor is still concerned about a number of things and so we’re still without our beloved Amy. It most definitely is not the same without her here and we’re desperate for her return.

Prayer requests:

For Amy, that she recovers quickly and can return to us, and in the meantime not be too bored or isolated in hospital; that she knows she is loved and missed.

For motivation – to continue in our work even when it’s tempting to give up.

For friendships in the team, that we’ll all be able to support each other, particularly on the hard days.

For energy and peace of mind –this weekend has been particularly difficult and stressful and I think we could all do with boost.

 

The final few weeks in Khayelisha

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Due to various problems, illness, lack of internet, busy schedules, I wasn’t able to write a post for each of the last weeks in South Africa, so I thought I would try and sum it all up in one final piece. Of course there is so much to say, I could write for days on end and never cover everything, but I’ll give it a go. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to Nonto, a room-mate, a friend, and a blessing within our team. Her talents in the classroom and constant love for others was (and still is) sorely missed., but we are happy to report that she is settling in Johannesburg and loving it so far. We are so proud of her and continue to wish her well.

Solar Ovens – in total we were able to complete 10 solar ovens, these will now be sent out into the community where they will help families in need provide food, without the added electricity expenses. It’s a project that we were all excited to be involved with and we are thrilled to help with something so simple, yet could make such a big difference.

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Life Skills- we continued with our life skills sessions with various age groups; we were particularly passionate about some we did on gender equality, and debated for a long time on how we could best discuss this with the learners (students). We came to the conclusion that the best thing we could do was just talk to them. I took the girls to one side and the guys took the boys, and we were honest with them. I will never fully know what the boys discussed but the girls really opened up about the issues they were worried about. They had all come from Zulu backgrounds so knew a lot of the problems women can face in the household.  Never before have I felt like I’ve made a difference with such few words, but reminding these girls of the power they had, of the choices they could make had an instantaneous effect. There was so much relief in their eyes when I told them that they could say no.

The Business Venture- by the end of our time in Tugela Ferry there was a curriculum for business training, we had three champions to run a competition, a peace corps volunteer taking the lead, and numerous points of support, including the local church and government.  We are sad not to see the outcome of it all but we have high hopes for the next team to get involved and we look forward to hearing of its success.

In out last couple of weeks we were lucky enough to get more involved with the care centre’s community work, including food deliveries and shadowing a care worker. This was one of my highlights as we were able to witness first hand  the importance of Khayelisha’s work; and to meet the women who work so hard for an insane amount of kids was completely awe-inspiring.

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Unfortunately in our last week in Tugela we had to say goodbye to our team leader Patrick. It was incredibly sad to see another of the group go, and we were all a little worried about how we would manage the next week without him. However, the three of us that were left pulled together and made sure we worked really hard to wrap things up before too had to leave.

It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to the kids and the Khayelisha crew, they have had such a big impact on us and our time here, and hopefully we will have left them with good impressions. We have made some amazing friendships along the way, and even if we don’t speak often we know that they are life-long, for which we are truly grateful.

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Khayelisha Week 5 – saying goodbye and Drakensberg

A lot has gone on this week, momentum has picked up and we’re finding ourselves busy throughout each day. On Monday we had a meeting with a group of about thirty people from the Rock of Life Church, through which we explained our business idea and recruited some ‘champions’ to take on the leadership once we’re gone. It went incredibly well and we were all very proud of Patrick, who has led most of it so far. It gained so much support that it meant we already had another meeting set up for Thursday, where we began to go through what the project was and the curriculum we would use for each session in the competition. With each person we talk to the project becomes stronger and we are excited to see where it will progress to next.

Katlego took charge of the solar ovens this week, so every chance we got we were cutting out the wood, screwing them together, and coating them with oil paints. We all got a bit messy though I was worse off, coming away with a bright red leg. They are coming a long really well and we hope to have a good amount completed by the end of our time here.
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We’re thrilled to announce that Nonto got the job she was working towards, it’s exactly what she wants to do and we are so happy that she has been given this opportunity; however, it does mean that she will in-fact leave us next week, something we are all very sad about. We’ve all become good friends over the last month and it will be tough to say goodbye.

We were given the chance for a proper farewell though, as Elzeth, the incredible woman who runs the project, took us on a camping trip to Drakensburg, a three hour drive away from Tugela. We were surrounded by some of the most beautiful views imaginable, mountains ascending at every angle, and waterfalls cascading above us; words alone (and even pictures) do nothing to describe the beauty we saw.

The aim was to do some hiking, but with everyone at a different fitness we had to split off into three groups. The first leaving for an 18 hour hike at 1 o’clock in the morning, the second at 9 (which included Patrick), and the rest of us at lunchtime. Each had different rewards, and I personally was grateful at the lack of ascents on ours.

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It was also a chance to meet some of the doctors that worked at the local hospital, and find out more about the work they were up to. It truly was a fantastic weekend (despite the lack of blankets at night) and we are all so grateful for the experience.

We will be sad to say goodbye to Nonto in the coming week but we’re also excited about the various projects we’re working on, and where they’ll take us. We pray that we will still carry the momentum and that we won’t be too disadvantaged at the loss of valued team member.

Time to Say Goodbye!

What can I say, it’s our last week here at Imbeleko Foundation. Looking back I am proud of what we have achieved during our time here. We have been challenged, had fun and also worked very hard!

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High School Assessments

Over the past 2 Mondays we were able to finish all 70 of the High School Neema English Assessments. We were surprised at how hard some of the pupils found it to spell some simple words in English. We are glad that the English sessions at Imbeleko Foundation will be able to help them in the future. Some of the High Schools were very far from the main road so due to the lack of taxis we had to walk. It was yet another opportunity to explore the beautiful Valley of 1000 Hills.

Primary After School Programme

After finishing all of the Primary School Neema Foundation assessments the previous week, we were glad to be able to finally start to teach the English Lessons. We have been working in small groups with 5 or 6 learners teaching mainly phonics based sessions. With a lot of speaking and practise you can imagine it can be very noisy at times. It was also a great opportunity to get to know the children more. Their energy was infectious and even if you had had a tiring day they still managed to cheer you up.

Even though we have only been working in the schools for 4 weeks we have built lots of relationships with the kids and even some of the teachers- it has been difficult for us to say goodbye. It was so touching when one child gave a goodbye speech to us in front of her whole class. She said

“The teachers of Imbeleko, you guys have sacrificed your time to give us a better education and shape us to a brighter future… what you do you do it with passion. I wonder how you manage to put a smile to so many hopeless children.”

They are all so motivated to study and reach for their dreams and I wonder where all of them will be in 10 years’ time.

Church

For the majority of placement we have been attending 1000 Hills Baptist in community. We received the warmest of welcomes from all the members of the church and it has been a real blessing to go each week. The worship and wonderful singing was always a highlight. By the last week even the UK volunteers could even sometimes join in.

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Farewells

On Wednesday evening during our final week, Pastor Vika and his wife from 1000 Hills Baptist Church invited us to their lovely home for a goodbye meal and to discuss what we had been doing over our time in KwaNyuswa. It is exciting to have started a partnership with ICS and the Church as they have lots of things that future teams could get involved with.

On the Thursday evening our team leaders host family had the team over for a farewell dinner. We were all very excited to discover it was fried chicken, rice and lots of different salads. The host mum and dad both shared a short speech and thanked the team for their work in the community, sharing how much it had inspired and encouraged them.

On Friday day time Imbeleko Foundation threw a surprise party for us, with wonderful snacks, cake and drinks provided along with a note thanking us for everything we had done. We then presented to them all the work we had done and thanked them for being so welcoming and supportive. It was very sad leaving Imbeleko Foundation after building such special working relationships with their 3 staff members. At least we had lots of cake to comfort us (I held the record eating 4 slices!). On Friday evening everyone then spent time with their host families and for UK volunteers it was time to enjoy their last South African meal with their families.

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On Saturday we then say our final farewells to our families and community and headed back to Glenmore Pastoral Centre where we have been having ICS debrief. This is a wonderful time to catch up with other teams, reflect on our experiences and share stories about the incredible people we have met and worked with on our ICS journey.  Not one of us leaves ICS unchanged. Each person has taken their own journey of personal development and cannot but help leave inspired and motivated to make a positive impact wherever they go! We may not be able to change the whole world but each of us can make our mark! As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farewells

On Wednesday evening during our final week, Pastor Vika and his wife from 1000 Hills Baptist Church invited us to their lovely home for a goodbye meal and to discuss what we had been doing over our time in KwaNyuswa. It is exciting to have started a partnership with ICS and the Church as they have lots of things that future teams could get involved with.

On the Thursday evening our team leaders host family had the team over for a farewell dinner. We were all very excited to discover it was fried chicken, rice and lots of different salads. The host mum and dad both shared a short speech and thanked the team for their work in the community, sharing how much it had inspired and encouraged them.

On Friday day time Imbeleko Foundation threw a surprise party for us, with wonderful snacks, cake and drinks provided along with a note thanking us for everything we had done. It was very sad leaving Imbeleko Foundation after building such special working relationships with their 3 staff members. At least we had lots of cake to comfort us (I held the record eating 4 slices!). On Friday evening everyone then spent time with their host families and for UK volunteers it was time to enjoy their last South African meal with their families.

On Saturday we then say our final farewells to our families and community and headed back to Glenmore Pastoral Centre where we have been having ICS debrief. This is a wonderful time to catch up with other teams, reflect on our experiences and share stories about the incredible people we have met and worked with on our ICS journey.  Not one of us leaves ICS unchanged. Each person has taken their own journey of personal development and cannot but help leave inspired and motivated to make a positive impact wherever they go! We may not be able to change the whole world but each of us can make our mark! As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

Some useful Zulu to know when trying to control a class of 40 or more energetic children:

Ninjani? – How are you?
Siyaphila – we are fine
Ubani igama lakho? – what is your name?
Igama lami ngingu … – my name is …

Yebo – yes
Kahle – well done, good
Kuhle – beautiful
Shap? – okay?
Ngithanda … – I like …

 Ngicela – please
Sugumani – stand up
Hlalaphansi – sit down

Hamba – go
Woza – come
Woza la – come here
Buya – come back
La – here
Lo – this

Tulani – Be quiet (to more than one person)
Tula – be quiet (to one person)

Haibo – “hey,” “wow,” or “oh my goodness!”

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Imbeleko Blog Post No. 2

Sorry that such a long time has passed since our last update. Over the past few weeks have been very busy here at the Imbeleko Foundation. There is so much to share with you all!

An update on our home visits

I am pleased to say that in just 2 weeks we were able to complete all of our 80 primary school home visits along with our database capturing all of the information on each child. The home visits were the final step in completing the Imbeleko enrolment process. Even though it was at times an exhausting task walking to each of the homes, it was a unique opportunity to explore the community of KwaNyuswa with the beautiful backdrop of the Valley of 1000 Hills. Meeting the kids, hearing their stories and walking the distance that they travel to school every day (often uphill and sometimes very far) showed us how motivated they are to learn and to get a good education. All of that has inspired us as a team to try and create the best after school programme possible.

After school education programme

The after school sessions last for 1½ hours each and take place in 4 of the primary schools in the area. Every session includes 45 minutes of Life Skills and 45 minutes of English. We are implementing 4 sessions of this new programme and the next ICS team will then take over. Our decided topic for each of the life skills sessions is Identity, covering themes such as values, healthy relationships and peer pressure. We have also spent some time carrying out community mapping exercises with the pupils. This aims to give both the ICS team and the Peace Corps volunteers a clearer idea of the way in which the children view their community; i.e. the layout of their community, what they like/ don’t like about it, what they find challenging, what they would like to see etc. This research can then be used to help inform future community development projects in the area.

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The English Programme we have been recently trained on and will be using is called “Gateway into Reading” by the Neema Foundation. Neema Foundation aims to “bring hope through education”. English is a key factor in succeeding within higher education and securing jobs in South Africa and this is why Imbeleko have picked it as a main focus in the primary school programme. We are excited to be using the Neema Foundation programme as they have had great results improving English skills in pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. At the moment we are completing the first 2 weeks of the programme. This consists of phonics, reading and spelling assessments to find out the English level of each learner, and from there we will then be able to tailor the programme to best suit them.

Creating a holiday club resource

We are currently working on our Holiday Club Resource that we can hand over to the next team, who will then implement it during the July school break. 150 High School pupils will take part in the week long educational and fun programme. There will be workshops each morning in Media, Drama, Arts and Craft, Sports and Dance. Then in the afternoons there will be talks based around some issues that may affect the young people; drug and alcohol abuse, internet safety and sexual and reproductive health. Plans are also in progress for a team challenge day and also a community action day (including a litter clear up, gardening and possibly painting a mural in the community). This is the first Holiday Programme that Imbeleko is running on such a large scale and we have enjoyed being a part of the planning even though we will not be there when it takes place.

Raising awareness and funding for the Imbeleko Foundation

Sbu the CEO of Imbeleko has taken on the challenge of walking and cycling 1000 kms over a period of 12 weeks. This has the aim of making the dreams of a 1000 children from the Valley of 1000 Hills a reality. On the 16th of May we joined Sbu along with 150 other people (both High School students and other guests) on a 5k walk through the community to raise awareness and funds for Imbeleko. Our team played a role in helping to coordinate the walk and Steph designed a banner and invitations. As it was also Sbu’s 40th birthday there was a big celebration afterwards with food, music and speeches. The day was a massive success! It was crazy how it all came together with only 1 ½ weeks of planning.

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Thanks for taking time to read about what we’ve been getting up to. There has been a lot of hard work but also laughter and joy on our ICS journey so far! Please continue to pray for us as we go into the final weeks of our placement.

Why not add a comment or share.

Catherine (and the rest of the Imbeleko Foundation team) 🙂

 

Our Aged 4-11 Support Groups

Sanibonani bangani! (Hello friends!)

We have almost been in South Africa for 2 months, and we are now used to living the Zulu lifestyle! Our work at Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust is going so well and we’re really excited about what the final few weeks hold.

In our first 2 weeks we observed how the current after school sessions for aged 4-11 Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) ran, met the kids and became more familiar with the curriculums they use. The sessions are run by Home-Based Carers (HBCs); amazing volunteers who live in the community and know each of the 40 children in their group by name, they know their stories, their backgrounds and their current situations at home, meaning they can really effectively help each child to grow and develop to reach their full potential.

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The sessions begin with a few ice breaker games which the kids really enjoy after a long day at school, followed by a meal where each child is given a sandwich and a cup of juice funded by HACT, which is, for many of the OVCs, the last meal of their day. After every child has been fed, the HBC facilitates approximately an hour of “life-skills” curriculum, and they then finish up with a final game.

After attending a few sessions, we came to realise that the main issue that the Home-Based Carers face is the lack of a varied, interesting and thought-provoking curriculum to deliver to the children each week. They have been working from a pack of 7 sessions, of which most of the topics are already covered in life-skills lessons during school hours.

 

Part of our team plan is to develop a curriculum pack of new sessions. We want them to be fun, interactive and engaging, as well as relevant and informative for all the age ranges in the group and delivered appropriately to all ages, ranging from 4 up to 11 years old. We think it is very important to work alongside the Home Based Carers in developing and delivering these new sessions so that even once we leave, they can take ownership of the curriculum and continue to develop new sessions so that the support sessions are sustainable.

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As we are not trained experts in developing curriculums that are appropriate and relevant to these OVCs, we are using a variety of different resources that are already available that have been tried and tested by the experts. We will be pulling out different topic ideas, activities and discussion questions, as well as relevant games and demonstrations, in order to build each session. Our team are going to work on a series of sessions entitled on “The World VS You” which will begin with building each other’s trust and learning to respect each other by appreciating our similarities and differences, followed by discussing discrimination and resolving conflicts, and then drawing it all up into understanding human and child rights. The ICS teams that follow us will continue our work by partnering with the Home Based Carers to develop and deliver series of topics based on Identity, Health and Growing Up, which will help to ensure this project is sustainable.

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We have now delivered 3 sessions to 2 different primary school groups. We have included lots of fun games and activities as well as discussions and reflections.

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Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers, specifically the upcoming sessions for the OVCs.

Look out for our next post!

Sala kahle e ube nosuku oluhle!

(Stay well and have a good day!)