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.

Khayelisha Week Four

It’s incredible to think that we have now been in South Africa for a month, so much has happened yet it’s passed so quickly.

This past week has been really incredible, we started off on Monday up at the bore hole investigating the water issue. To show us how deep the pipes went, Laurens (who works with Khayelisha) dropped a pebble down the hole and we were amazed to hear that there was a splash of water as it hit the bottom. We all kept our fingers crossed in the hopes that it was more than a puddle. After lowering the pipe and giving it a test we were so grateful to find water pouring out at the other end. This hole was completely dry just last week yet somehow God has answered our prayers and provided for the people here. There are still some issues regarding the water but we are encouraged to have gotten this far and we continue to pray for solutions.

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Tuesday saw the start of our life skills lessons on ‘Poverty’ and ‘Human Trafficking’. We were relieved to find that the students really listened to a lot of what was being said and reacted in a way that provided us hope. They weren’t easy subjects to teach, nor to listen to, yet we are glad to be given such important topics.

We were finally able to start on the solar ovens this week, which we have all been looking forward to. Our first job was to dust them down and give them three coats of paint, and with each coat taking a day to dry, this took a while to work on. We hope to finish twenty of them by the 28th May, so far we have eight, but we continue with determination, after all the sooner they’re finished the sooner we can test them out (yum).

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There was some excitement on Wednesday this week, as we greeted Debbie and Tracey, where we shared our progress and were able to hear about how the other teams were getting on. As much as we love being out in Tugela Ferry we are sad not to keep contact with the other volunteers, we are so excited to be reunited with them next week for the midterm review, it’ll be so good to hear everyone’s stories.

Prayer Requests

We pray that water issue continues to improve, so much has happened yet there is still much to overcome.

That we finish the solar ovens on time. It would be so great to deliver all twenty to the care workers.

That we arrive safely back in Durban, and we get the chance to reconnect with the other teams.

Our life skills lessons next week are on Children’s rights, something we are all passionate about so we also pray that these go well.

Khayelisha Week Two

This past week has been a real insight into the area of Tugela Ferry, where we are based. We’ve been working on a number of different projects and have spoken to a wide variety of people, all of whom have inspired us in multiple ways. We started the week off with work on the library, it wasn’t particularly hard work but it was time consuming and tedious. In attempt to make it more interesting we blasted the music and began filming for a video we intend to put together.

Most of our week has been spent in the school doing lesson cover for maths and science, as well as teaching our life skills sessions; time management for grade 8 and 9 (which is a bit of an unheard novelty in South Africa), and HIV/AIDS to grades 4,5,6, and 10. Nonto was definitely the hero of the hour in these lessons as she captivated each class she was in.

Unfortunately we haven’t had as much time as we would like at the Khayelisha project but we hope that this will change next week. We already find ourselves researching recipes we could experiment with in the solar ovens (that we are still to build). Our stomachs grumble at the thought.

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A challenge that most of us face is the language barrier. Zulu is a particularly difficult language to come to grips with, the clicks and rhythm that comes so easily to those here, have caused us westerners to stumble. It really is a musical language and we are envious of the chants we hear daily. However, we persevere; we attend lessons every Tuesday in an aim to better ourselves. Nonto and Katlego laugh as we practice (badly). Our favourite words (the ones we can remember) are amanzi (water), woza (come), and inlovu (elephant).

This past weekend has been fantastic, we had a chance to meet up with the Pastor of the mission church (which works alongside the school and Khayelisha) and discussed with him our ideas for the community. It was fascinating hearing how he has strived in the area, and we feel encouraged to pursue our passion to help in the area.

Sunday was our relaxation day, which we thoroughly enjoyed as we took the opportunity to have our first braai (bbq) down by the river.

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At times this week has been quite stressful, but we have found rewards in unlikely places and are excited to work with so many inspirational people.

Prayer Requests

Our life skills lessons next week consist of Human Trafficking, and Poverty, both of which are difficult subjects. It would be great if our message comes across strong and effective.

Our Zulu needs to improve (a lot).

We’re a passionate team with many ideas, we pray that we can focus on the right things for the community and ensure that our time is spent wisely.

The boys have now moved up to Hebron (the boys site), so we pray that we are still able to communicate with them, and we manage to find time to socialise with them as well as work. The water is still an issue, so again we hope that this is solved soon.

The first week at Khayelisha

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During orientation we were introduced to our new team members, ours consisting of three UK volunteers, myself (Fiona), Patrick (our team leader), and Matt, and the two South African volunteers, Nontobeko and Katlego. Although none of us knew each other before the week began, we were starting to feel more of a team as we headed off to Tugela Ferry. The knowledge that you’ll be living with a group of people for eight weeks automatically breaks down a lot of walls.

Within the first couple of days we took the time to explore the area and meet those that manage and run the Khayelisha project. We discussed the work we would be doing, from schools to chicken coops, and became acquainted with our new accommodation. Being in such a remote area can have its disadvantages, but as we absorbed our surroundings these issues became trivial. We are situated in the heart of a valley, mountains filling our landscapes, rivers flowing beside us and the sun lighting us up. Each time we look out our windows we are blown away by the views.

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Meeting the kids has been one of our favourite experiences so far. The boys bonded immediately through the wonders of football (known here as soccer), and myself and Nonto provided the calmer experience, appreciated by the few that were less energetic.

Already we’ve been facing a lot of challenges, having been thrown in the deep end at the local school. Despite our lack of teaching experience we have all been asked to lead some classes in the absence of five teachers, the subjects of which some of us don’t understand. Another is the library, which has descended into chaos with the latest donation of books.

As our days progress we are finding more and more things that need to be done but we are excited to be keeping busy. We hope to leave in eight weeks having made a difference to those that reside here.  

Prayer requests

The boys centre currently has no water, at the moment they have to buy packaged water, which is an expense they can’t afford so we pray that this is solved soon.

There is a massive issue with gender inequality here and something that we are becoming increasingly passionate about. If we could effect change within just a few of the young people then that would be an incredible thing.

Next week we will be starting the first, of many, of our life skill sessions at the school, we pray that these will be a success and that our messages come across strong.