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.

 

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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.

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!)

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.

Embracing the Zulu life!

Sanibonani! Ninjani? (Hello! How are you?)

Siyaphila! (We are fine!) We have been living in Zulu host homes for almost a month now, and what was once very new and very different is gradually becoming normal! For us UK volunteers, it took a lot of getting used to!

We are living in a beautiful community called KwaNyuswa in the Valley of 1000 hills. The views here are breath-taking and on a clear day you can see for miles and miles into the distance. I wish you could capture the sheer beauty on camera, but a photo doesn’t even come close to showing how amazing it is.

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The first and most noticeable difference between our life in the UK and the Zulu lifestyle is the food. No complaints at all, it is delicious! But very different too; Zulu culture, similar to many African cultures, is to eat in order to fill up so that you can last as long as possible before your next meal. That means that every meal is very VERY carbohydrate heavy, with a minimum of 1, usually 2 large portions of starch: rice, pasta, potatoes and “maize meal” which can be cooked in lots of different ways – porridge for breakfast, pap (sticky) or phutu (grainy) for lunch and dinner. The majority of meals will have some sort of a stew – beef curry, chicken soup, fish stew, mostly fairly spicy and really tasty, with lots of sauce to soak into the rest of your plate. The main vegetables here are pumpkins and butternut squashes, as well as tomatoes, onions and carrots which go nicely in soups. For our packed lunches, peanut butter and apricot jam sandwiches have become a regular favourite, along with avocados, bananas, apples and delicious, juicy, in-season oranges. Yum!

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The second difference in our host homes is the lack of running warm water. Bathing is interesting – some of us are lucky enough to have a tap in the house, and others have to fill up a bucket at the tap outside. Then you heat up some water in the kettle and pour it into a wide shallow bucket. “Bucket baths” basically consist of lots of splashing – you pour the water over you, lather up, then splash it over you to clean off all the dirt and dust! It took some practice to get the right technique, but it’s becoming easier now. And a gecho in the bathroom is a common sight!

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We wash all our clothes by hand in buckets which, if you’re not used to it, gives you blisters very quickly. But the plus side is that everything dries really quickly on the washing line out in the sun!

Once a day we have “load shedding” which is a 2 hour period where the electricity goes off. It’s not too bad if you know what time it’s happening because you can prepare and make sure everything is charged up and you’ve got a torch nearby if you need it, but it can be a pain when it comes unexpectedly! The absolute worst is when it means that dinner is delayed by 2 hours.

An interesting part of life in KwaNyuswa is the transport. Public transport doesn’t exist, so we get to and from the HACT offices in local taxis, which are minibuses that comfortably seat 13 people but quite often squeeze in around 17 or more. Once everyone is in, you get out your money and amalgamate it as a row, then pass it to the front. The unlucky person who gets the front seat then sorts out everyone’s change and passes it back down. It’s a process that requires honesty and trust from all the passengers, because there are lots of opportunities to quietly pocket someone else’s taxi fare, but no one ever does. It’s something we have grown to admire about South Africans.

Living with a host family is a really special experience that we value a lot – it has allowed us to really connect with the community and live how they live, as well as practicing our Zulu. Here are a few Zulu phrases we have learnt:

Ngicela amanzi? – please may I have water?
Ngiyajabula – I am happy
Ngilambile – I am hungry (an important one to know!!!)
Ngikhathele – I am tired
Ikuphi ithoyilethe? – where is the toilet?
Ngiyabonga – thank you

We’ve also learnt phrases that are useful for playing cards with the kids:

Ithuba lakho – your turn
Thatha – pick up
Unakho… – do you have…?
Sizodlala kusasa – we will play tomorrow
Kuhle – well done

If you have any questions about what it’s like to live in a Zulu community, please leave a comment below! We hope you’re enjoying your luxurious bath tubs, washing machines and ant-free homes!