Its Beginning To Look A Lot Like… Christmas In Summer?

So almost 10 weeks ago I landed in Cape Town and was welcomed at DCH. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. 

I’ve really built some friendships with the children, child care workers and volunteers here. It hasn’t been easy at all and at times I have been pining to come home. Every day sees a new challenge to face leading to a new lesson learnt also. I haven’t written a blog post since my last as it’s been hard to talk about and I couldn’t find the words to put it into a post. It is still hard but I feel I owe it to all my sponsors and supporters to let them in on what life here really is like. 

Living in an instution whether it’s by choice or not is extremely difficult. The fact that I live and work in the same instution makes it all even harder. On days off duty you’re never really off duty. My phone has become my enemy with messages everyday to come to different meetings or help to do extra tasks. Luckily we live so close to such an awesome city that when we have a day off and plan to go out, we’re not far from such amazing sites and great things do to. 

Me and Moritz at West Coast National Park
Natural Pool in Eselbank, Cederberg
Me and Leon with my favourite rock defying gravity in Cedarberg Mountains
12 apostles from Oudekraal
Table Mountain from Blouberg Beach

As Christmas is drawing closer so is the summer season. The weather is starting to get hotter on the hot days. Although on the cold days it can be really cold and windy. We pray for rain and recently the prayers have been answered. Cape Town is experiencing the worst water crisis in over 100 years. Currently we’re at the highest stage of the water restriction and public toilets are beginning to be locked. There are 3 phases in which the water will be turned off. Phase 1 is in place (water restrictions aka random times with no running water) and it seems phase 2 (no running water majority of the time, have to collect water from collection points) will follow shortly. The local gym is now refusing members to use the toilets, sinks and showers. It won’t be long before there’s no drinkable water left in the dams. Although this seems extremely daunting it’s something that not many people in Europe can say they’ve had to experience and overcome.

Recently, one volunteer flew home as he couldn’t cope with living here especially due to his mental health issues arising again. A volunteer from Project Trust, Lisa, who I flew here with, lived with and worked with is also flew home a few days later. No matter how close I am to any of the volunteers it is a shame that they are flying home. The international volunteers here a bit like a big family. We are foreigners making us almost outsiders but together we come together as one. Although living, working and socialising with the same people it almost feels like we’ve been placed in the Big Brother house. But I suppose what can you expect from living in an institution.

Since I arrived I pretty much did solely dayshift. First in the youngest children’s house and then after the second youngest children’s house. For the whole of Novemeber I have been doing night shift which I am glad for. Dayshift is great for bonding with the children but it is very demanding and draining. Night shift is the perfect time to sit and reflect on my time here, write in my diary, and get odd bits and pieces done.

School Run
Outing to the local library
Movie day

During my time of reflection I have noticed how much I have changed from the person I was a few years ago and even a few months ago. Since moving to Eastbourne and meeting my boyfriend I have become a better person. I have also noticed since I moved to South Africa that the world is a much bigger place than I once thought it was. British people stereotypically are very polite but also very reserved. One quality I’ve realised I don’t like about the British society is that we think we can cope by doing things alone. It is hard to find a sense of community in Britain. Whereas there is such a strong sense of community here wherever you go. 

It is also optional to chose to learn another language in Britain. If you do happen to speak a second language you are seen as very intelligent and really admired. People across the world speak their own language aswell as others in order to be able to communicate to others, many learning English. The German and Dutch volunteers can all speak English to such a high standard and yet they believe their English isn’t that good. The same goes for the South Africans here. They all speak English and Afrikkans. In schools they also have to learn a 3rd language. They learn Xhosa and German for 6 months each and then chose which to study further and take an exam on in their final year of school. 

Next month I have a mix of working on dayshift, night shift and working in the office which is new. Everyone is preparing for Christmas and all the decorations are already up. I’ve been to 2 school Christmas concerts and will be attending another on Thursday. I feel like such a proud mum at these concerts as these children don’t have anyone else coming to visit them except the volunteers and sometimes their child care worker. I can tell Christmas here will be nothing like one I’ve ever experienced before and one I will probably never experience again. So all I can do is enjoy every moment and embrace the South African summer festivities. 

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Change of Plan

Since April I have known that I would be living and working in Mitchell House in Limpopo, South Africa. I would be a teaching assistant in life skill classes for children with mental and physical disabilities. I would be living with 3 other volunteers in a flat on site.  As of today, my placement has changed.

I will now be living and working in Durbanville Children’s Home in Cape Town. My job will be very varied. There are currently 144 children living at Durbanville Children’s Home, ranging from 18 months to 19 years old. I will do a mix of day shifts and night shifts. My main responsibilities will be getting the children ready for school, helping with their homework, playing/entertaining them, preparing food, taking the children to church on Sundays, making sure they’re okay through the night etc.

These projects are very different and both are intense and difficult in different ways. I will definitely still be visiting Mitchell House whilst I am in South Africa.

I’d like to thank all my sponsors, donors and anyone who has helped me on my journey so far. The path is opening up and opportunities are becoming endless. I can’t wait to share this exciting time in my life with you all.

Training

The journey to a small island on the Hebridean isle has become my greatest adventure so far but in just under 2 months from now, it will be minor and swamped by memories of a much more exotic place.

After travelling by coach which felt like forever I arrived in Oban.  Dragging my (overly large) suitcase behind me I managed to catch up with one of the girls from the coach and asked if she was staying at backpackers plus and was going on a Project Trust training course. Like I had thought, she was. Her name was Danielle and she was also going to South Africa. We got into Backpackers Plus and all the memories of selection came rushing back to me. Upstairs was another girl from the coach. Her name was Amy. She was also travelling to South Africa with Project Trust. After asking which projects they were going to they realised they were actually going to the same project in Kimberley. They both were so excited and I was excited for them. I had already spoken to my partner Isabelle on Facebook as well as Daniel one of the guys also at our project, Mitchell House Enrichment Centre. We were added to a Facebook group about a month before training by our to-be host.

 

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Oban

 

After a few hours, more and more volunteers flooded into the sky room. There were at least 30 project trust volunteers and about a billion conversations going on all at once.  That night, as I was taking off my make up Daniel announced he had found his partner. I jumped off my bed and to my surprise, Tom was in the bed next to mine. We had finally found our little group making the whole concept of going away much more real.

 

Our country group were incredibly lucky as we had our Country Representative on training with us. The training itself went by so quickly. It’s hard to remember what even happened during those 4 days. There was so much information squeezed into that time, I’m so glad I wrote down as much as I did. The sessions were so important and covered such a  range of questions I had about South Africa, my placement and what day-to-day life will be like. A few sessions were: Living in an Institution, Disability Awareness, Rights of a Child, Culture Shock, Primary Teaching, and so much more.

On the last night Project Trust organised a formal reception and a ceilidh. The dinner was amazing the summer staff make amazing chefs and the ceilidh was just as hard to do as it was on Selection. But I had a brilliant night all the same.

The ferry home was strange. I couldn’t wait to get home. But at the same time, I never wanted to leave the Isle of Coll or the incredible people I met on training. Thankfully I will see them all again at Heathrow airport on 7th September (if my visa application goes smoothly that is).

 

Placement Confirmed

On Friday I received an email giving me details of my placement. It has been confirmed that I will be leaving for South Africa in the first week of September. I will be living and working at Mitchell House school. My work will involve working within the Enrichment Centre which is the learning environment for children with mental and physical disabilities. This will include one to one sessions taking the children to the mainstream classes, arts and crafts, cooking sessions, life skills sessions (writing CV’s, preparing for interviews etc), basic hygiene/grooming sessions, horse riding, swimming, social integration sessions, sexuality awareness sessions for the older students, basic numeracy, basic English and more.

I now have to start the process of getting my visa, inoculations, and all the equipment I’ll need for my year abroad. My running total is £5315.23 which means I have £884.77 left to fundraise with 4 months left before I leave.

My training on Coll is on the 6th July and I’ll learn all the crucial information I need whilst there including my definte date for my flight.

I am still looking for sponsors for my skydive. So far I have £179, if i get £46 more, someone has agreed to match my sponsorships and donate £225. So if you would like to sponsor me, please donate via the link https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kayleighsskydive

Goodbye Dreadlocks

After wanting dreadlocks for over 4 years last March I finally got them. Just over a year later I’ve spent between 15-20 hours this week picking them out. Anyone who knows me, knows exactly how much I loved them and took so much pride in having them. This post is to explain why I had to remove them and what that has to do with my year in South Africa.

Since last May I have had odd looks, many people asking me questions such as ‘Do you wash them?’ ‘Don’t you have to chop all your hair off after?’, and on the occasion I’ve received racial hatred and abuse due to having them. The first was a hair and beauty student on the bus shouting at me that hair must stink and that I’m dirty etc. A few times I’ve had black men come over to me out in public hold one of my dreads out inspecting it asking why i have dreads considering I’m white. I had some straight up say I shouldn’t have them because I’m white etc. Most recently I was at work and a black lady in my section would not look at me whilst I spoke to her, kept pointing at me and talking about my hair to her family, she stared at me whenever I wasn’t at her table, and tried to be as difficult as possible.

I’m a strong person and I can deal with it. I have an open mind and can see why the ignorant have an issue with my hair. As August draws closer I began to wonder if my dreadlocks would be an problem to more people in South Africa. I spoke to Project Trust and my country coordinator explained she had chosen my placement (although it cannot be confirmed until May) and it would be wise to take the dreadlocks out. It’s a touchy subject and I am the least racist person you could meet coming from a very diverse community. But I could become a victim of racial hatred on a frequent basis out there. Having dreadlocks could almost be like putting a target on my head for anyone who has racist views against white people. In August I want to settle in with the best chance possible, and not have views determined at first impression because of my hairstyle.

As many know, I had dread extensions put in also to make them longer as my hair was so short and thin. So without a cut this is what my hair now looks like. I should be having a cut sometime next week, I hope. The other photos are a bucket with all the hair that fell out and the dread extensions cut out in one piece.

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Nelson Mandela Day

Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday, the former president of South Africa. He spent 27 years in prison for attempting to overthrow the pro-apartheid government. He was the first black South African president and worked hard on human rights and to bringing peace to South Africa after the apartheid was brought down. He spent most his life trying to help others and make peace within his country. Today is all about remembering his legacy and values during his volunteering and community service.

He is an inspiration to all and should not be forgotten. This annual day is not celebrated by many people other than South Africans. I am lucky enough that on this day in 2 years time I will be coming to the end of my voluntary experience in South Africa, celebrating this day in the country Mandela fought to make a better place.