23/11/ – 27/11/15
On Sunday, the 22nd of November, I get the chance to switch from a double room for myself to a room of five for myself. So much space! The same day, “Help ‘n’ Travel” is mentioned on the HRS Facebook page … thank you, dear HRS team, thanks dear Franky, you’re the best! A great closing to my first week in South Africa. It can continue like this, I won’t mind.
My second week is also the most important and exciting one for the students of “Lighthouse Academy”. For one, the last exams are scheduled for the start of the week, and for the second part of the week the school is committed to the preparations for the big award ceremony on saturday the 28th. Numerous guests are expected, mostly proud parents and relatives of the students. Every class gets the chance to dance/sing/perform and the students are awarded according to their yearly performance. The excitement is almost palpable.
Before the preparations, I get to know more about two other projects of the NPO Tshega. “OVC” and “Feeding Scheme & Homework Club”. “OVC” stands for “Orphaned and vulnerable children” and is dedicated to supplying orphans and the poorest children with essentials. Affected children and families are, for example, given basic nutrition and clothing. I want to hand out the clothes I gathered from my nieces and nephews to these very children. Milly is responsible for this project. She knows all the kids of the village and their demands by heart. Some of these children are sponsored and can afford visiting a school. Joyce’s family can barely fend for themselves, and her brother and mother are HIV positive. Thanks to foreign aid, however, Joyce can visit Tshega’s Kindergarten (Lamb’s Heaven) where she’s already learning English. Soon, she will be able to go to Lighthouse Academy, Tshega’s school. Milly takes some of the dresses from my huge grey bag and gives Joyce a short leave from the kindergarten lessons. A short fashion show ensues and I’ll never forget that little girl’s pure smile in these familiar old clothes.
So Milly and I head to the village to visit Letty and her family. Letty is the lady that Tshega employs to prepare the meals for the “Feeding Scheme & Homework Club”. We unload two boxes of various foodstuffs amd Milly finds some pretty clothes for Letty’s granddaughter Diketso.
Then we head to the Modika’s, a family 11 hungry mouths strong. Mother and grandmother have to take care of nine children. Until half a year ago, the family had to live in two approximately six square metre single rooms of which one became uninhabitable every time it rained. Some months ago, two travelling carpenters came by and offered their help to Tshega. I had thought that the days of wandering craftsmen had passed since the middle ages, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Luckily, there are still Journeymen who wander the land and offer their craft in exchange for shelter and food, and through that, gain experience. Anyway, the family now has a third, solid room, which beats the other two by far in terms of size, functionality and aesthetics. A great story. We also leave some of the children’s clothes here.
We also head to other addresses and make cute little kids smile with colourful clothes. While handing out the clothes, I notice that the youngest of the villagers hardly ever get to see white folks, and they are initially quite shy, even frightened. However, as everyone is happy about the gifts, they start warming up, too.
On another day, Milly shows me the second “outreach” project: “Feeding Scheme & Homework Club”. In a rather economically sized lunch hall, the kids are given food, they are read to and helped with homework. If the children visit a school, it is often a public school with poor equipment and unmotivated teachers. To visit a private school like „Lighthouse Academy“, the families are usually dependent on sponsors. In a situation like this, Tshega’s homework assistance does more for education than the actual public school lessons. Not to mention that half-starved kids get something decent to chow down on. And of course here, too, the kids are encouraged to have fun, and so the timetable is dotted with breaks for playing together.
Even though I have my hands full this week, what with my helping in the setup and planning for the big event on the weekend, I still find the time to help in some of the classes. This way, I finally – 27 years late, I might add – get to go to Kindergarten that I never visited when I was smaller. I learn the days of the week, the seasons, singing and dancing games. What a great time! Since I immediately became best student in the class when it comes to writing numbers 1-5, the teacher asks me to help the others with learning them.
My good score in Kindergarden seems to be making the rounds, and so a teacher asks me to help with correcting some of the exams. In effect, that means I am to proofread corrected exam papers. On looking through about 10 exams, I actually find 2 mistakes that have yet to be corrected. All proudly and dilligently, I document these oversights. As I am playing with some kids in the yard, I realise they might accuse me of snitching. I decide to keep what I’ve been helping the teachers with a secret.
This week, I donate 4 large world maps for the geography lessons of the higher grades. I install them with the janitor’s son, „Klüter“ and rejoice upon seeing how much more colour they add to the rooms. The students love the maps and immediately begin studying the list of capitals and the list of records (highest mountain, longest river, etc.).
In the meantime, our big shared flat has gotten a new addition – a white South African that has already been an active Tshega volunteer. Weynand is 27 years old, a good flatmate and a helpful colleague. Weynand and I get tasked with assembling the stage for the prize giving ceremony. For a whole day, we stack and hoist around pallets and bricks. After covering it with 3 old carpets that we cleaned, I must say, the stage looks rather professional. It remains to be seen if it can withstand dozens of – simultaneously – dancing and trampling feet. The ceremony takes place in a very simple but large church built by Tshega.
Weyland and I help Amilia with the rehearsals in the classes. The individual Performances are called “Items” and it quickly becomes clear that there is a lot of untapped talent at the Lighthouse Academ. Not everyone has the same knack for dancing and singing, but the closer we get to saturday, the better and more “stage-ready” the Items become, and everybody is looking forward to the ceremony.
After having applied the final decorative touches in the church, we can head home, proud and full of anticipation. I’m ready for the weekend!