Before I left on my volunteering trip to Cape Town, I naively thought I was gone have plenty of free time and almost be bored during the evenings. Write on my blog each week, or even every day. Well strangely enough volunteering is actually work, and it will keep you busy. After five weeks, I have still not had time to write anything. The time goes so quickly by, and I feel an urge to look over my shoulder to see what it is that is pushing me so fast forward. Therefore, here is my first apology of many, to my friends, that I have not written anything before now. I will absolutely try to write more in the weeks to come. This time I am wiser, and I will not make any promises.
Very little has gone as planned on this trip, but that is the charm of travelling, and I will try to keep the wining to the minimum. When I first arrived it was quickly clear that I was quite much older than most of the people here. The only one, who seem to be close to my age, is the funder. Even the coordinators was in their early twenties. As most situations in life you have to take it as it is. The second challenge was that no one seemed to be aware that the business project even existed. Is that even an option, one of the volunteer asked with big eyes? Here they are all working with children half day, and then we split up in to the projects in the afternoon, the coordinator explained. That forced me to take a step back and just consume and understand the information given to me. In reality I screamed inside my head for a way out, and could not believe that it was happening.
When I turned up the first day at Skandaal camp, I was terrified. Not for the children, all children are adorable in their own ways, but I was so painfully aware of my lack of experiences that I thought I was doomed to fail. In Skandaal there was about 20 kids, in the age from 2 til 6, and we were 10 volunteers. That is only 2 children per volunteer, and amazing. I can do this I thought and my spirit was high. It was a school that was run by the organisation Save, and we really succeeded in teaching the children everything from alphabet to counting, and I enjoyed my day. Then I volunteered to move to the Elundini project in Du Noon, which were short on staff. Things took a new turn, and from the start, I realized that the two projects belongs to two different worlds.
They quickly placed me in the star class, which had children with severe mentally disabilities. If I thought I was not qualified for Skandaal camp, it soon became clear that I had gone from ash to lightning fire. This was a school for 80 children. 40 of them was disabled in some way, both mentally and physically, and the rest was able children with a need for preschool. With only three volunteers and with understaffed teachers, it was challenging. They were placed in a temporary building that was in poor shape, and they missed electricity, system, order or other material a school needs. This was the life in the Townships, run by locals and the organisation we worked for was only there to help with resources. We were there to assist to assist only. The teachers was friendly, and the longer I worked there, the more I admired the work they did. Although I did not always agree on their methods, they did their best and out of love for their community. It was a huge bonus and a rear opportunity to get close to the people in a world that are usually closed to someone like me.
After some time, we got the business project started as well. The Coordinators asked me if I wanted to move out of the Elundini project, but at that point, I was involved and had my own plans for what I might be able to do for them. So here we are, I am starting the business project in the afternoon and spend my days in the school Elundini. So when you think of it, I got two for one, and more then I bargained for, which is great.
It took approximately four weeks before I approached the headmaster for what I had observed that they needed. It was not an easy task, because the people in the Xhosa culture is very proud. It was not like Skandaal were we could just suggest something, and they would say yes. In Elundini they were more likely to say no to changes then to agree with us. I said that we wanted to fundraise some money and help them, but I needed to know exactly what they needed. I presented a list of changes to them, and asked if they agreed or had other input. After a few meetings, we came down with a list of needs that they as well agreed with. I felt that I was getting closer to what they really needed.
The next step was to get funds, so we were able to help them. I put up a request on facebook, to see if the people back home was interested in helping the school that I had come to be so found of, and the responds was overwhelming. The other volunteers quickly got involved, and the project Elundini was a reality. It did not take long before the organisation I worked for started requesting to get the lists so they as well could continue to help Elundini. I would dare to say we have created a cooperation and an awareness of the Elundini School that exceeded my expectations.
The lesson I received in this is that it always is what you make of it, and if you want to make a difference you can not wait for the opportunity but you will need to create your own. Strangly enough I found my element where I did not expect it to be. Now I do not want to leave the school, and I am already planning on how I can come back. I want to see it finished, and I want to see the results moving forward.
Thank you to all of you that have shared my journey in South Africa, but also a big thank you to everyone back home for your enormous responds and help. Without you, I would not have been able to accomplish what we have so far.