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.

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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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!)

Greetings from Mariannridge!

Sanibonani or Sanibona as many people say in slang meaning Hi everyone!

So we are the Mariannridge team, and although we have been very delayed in giving everyone an update on how we are doing, I am currently using a very unstable wifi connection so please bear with us.

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So, I think the team and I can gladly say that for the 4 weeks we have completed so far, Mariannridge has certainly captured our hearts and made us feel like we are part of their community and that Mariannridge is a part of us. From the day we arrived, we were introduced to Uncle Ralph who is the co-ordinator of Church Alliance for Social Transformation – C.A.S.T. and runs the Ridge Café, which has turned into our meeting place and where we always start our day.

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—  By the way, we realise that in African tradition, anyone older than you is referred to as either Aunty or Uncle and if they are really old, are normally referred to as Ouma which is Afrikaans for Grandma.—

The next few days we spent getting to know the township in which we will be spending most if not all of our time. So we were treated to a grand tour of the local residency, nicknamed ‘F-Section’, located moments away from our meeting place. We very quickly found that it contained many drunks, drug users, overcrowding and is also where Barney and Jabu stay. Good luck guys! We also got to know that it is the essence of Mariannridge and we found that residing in the middle of it meant that we can really understand what it means to live in “the Ghettos” which in Zulu is called “Asinamali” — direct translation: “We don’t have money”!!!

So a typical day consists of:

Morning worship and devotion with the team and whoever wants to join, from 8-9am at the ridge Cafe which is where we spend most of our time. Then we have a morning meeting to plan our day and also discuss our ideas. We often meet with Jenny who is the Mariannridge Coordinating Committee (MCC) coordinator and she gives us a complete run down of the things we can and cannot do. Thank God for her as she has been working for MCC for the past 9 years and despite the setbacks and disappointments from failed projects, she still has hope and encourages us, giving us ideas of what we can do. This usually runs from 9-10am.

At 10:05am, Nomvelo and I coach the high school Netball team who are currently preparing to play a match against another school. I felt that the current coach needed some encouragement in commanding the children to play better and listen to her but she seems to often have an excuse as to why she cannot attend the practice.

Then from 10:30 we run a literacy programme for grade 3 learners who are slightly behind than their peers in their reading abilities. The purpose is to encourage grade 3’s to read confidently and practice reading comprehension. Between, Barney, myself and Tebogo, we have two classes each who read to us for 30 minutes and then return to their classes. We play games with them to do with reading and try to make it fun. We noticed that there is a wide range of abilities in one class which gives a good indication as to why the teachers find it difficult to engage the entire class.

Then at 12:00, we break for lunch. Then the day’s vary from this point depending on where each day takes us. Sometimes we spend the afternoon just bonding with the local community members, be it playing snooker, going swimming in the local swimming pool, or hanging out at the pastor’s house to take advantage of the wifi connection!

In our second week, the buzz around town was certainly to do with the xenophobic attacks happening just a few miles from us. So we were able to visit a refugee camp in Chatsworth, a neighbouring town which was one of the biggest refugee camps in Durban. At its highest capacity the number of refugees reached just under 3000 people including children. It was by far the most emotional and heart breaking moment of our placement and we were all moved at the sheer size of the people who had been displaced from their homes and could not go to work or open their shops as they feared for their lives. We volunteered along with other community workers in the area, religious organizations and local churches to distribute out lunch for all the xenophobic victims. It was a challenge but it was also eye opening in that we were face to face with real life victims experiencing real life issues.

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Prayer requests are:

-Thank God for the safe arrival of all the teams in their designated placements.

-That God continues to lead us in where the needs are and how we can make the best impact in the community that we are working in.

-That we are able to build a good relationship with the teachers in the schools and encourage and motivate them in their jobs.

-That the team continues to bond with each other and no problems or illnesses come our way. (we are all fine so far)

-That we all settle well in our host families and maintain a good relationship with them throughout.

Keep checking for more updates on how we are doing and progressing.

Thank you for all your support and prayers for us. We are feeling very blessed to be here and that everything is going well so far. God Bless!

Gayle

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.