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.