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Volunteers' Stories




Teaching Drama on a voluntary placement in Khanyisa, South Afrifa

 A diary of her first two weeks on her Drama project in Khanyisa in Limpopo Province - Felicity (Flick) is one of our first volunteers on this placement.

Day One - On Monday, 17th April, Geert [a volunteer] and myself arrived in South Africa. After connecting from Johannesburg airport to Phalaborwa we stepped off the plane in front of the most intriguing airport I have ever seen. First of all it was absolutely tiny. Secondly it was Safari themed so the whole place was covered in plants with little animals tucked away and a pond and fountain in the middle. Even the floor was covered in footprints. The weather was absolutely beautiful and Rich and Hein were already there waiting for us so we headed straight home.

When we arrived at our house my first impression was surprise at how much space each of us had. The house is divided into three living areas and each bedroom is large bright an spacious with plenty of room for our clothes baggage etc. We have a very comfortable television room (with a working TV now… thank-you!) and a large kitchen and store room. We then made our way into town and Rich got us to try Mopani worms (apparently a local speciality for stews etc. I think he was quite surprised that we both had no reservations and munched away. It wasn’t the best food I’ve ever eaten but at the same time I expected it to taste worse. Actually it tasted quite like chickpeas! That night we hit the sack at about 8 pm… we were absolutely shattered.

Day Two - When we arrived at the school, although the weather let us down our impressions of the school were very good. I don’t think either of us expected it to be so well equipped. From the playground to the sports field the whole school seemed bright and cheery. After a busy day of meeting we headed home excited about what tomorrow would bring. That night we were invited to our headmasters house for dinner. Our first taste of South African food (worms excluded) was pretty “lekker” as they say here. Satayed peanut flavoured roast chicken with stuffed pumpkin and loads of salad. Rusks followed - what we in England would call rock cakes. After watching the Barcelona and AC Milan play until about 12 we headed home to sleep.

Day Three - Today the school was completely different. With the arrival of the children, the whole school brightened up. There was so much more colour and energy and everyone were in high spirits. This week was more about organising timetables and activities but both Geert and I were thrown into supervising lessons where the teachers were absent. I have got to know the two grade six classes quite well now (day 8). At I mainly supervised but now I get them all up on their feet doing warm up activities and confidence building games. I think that the main hurdle with the children is getting them to go up in front of their peers and not be shy or embarrassed because that usually provokes a fit of uncontrollable giggles which then sparks off the rest of the class.

Day Five - Today Rich drove Geert and I to see some of the surrounding schools in the area. The difference between them and Khanyisa was profound. For example at Hyani Thomo there was a class with 120 students. Lots of the classes didn’t even have a teacher. I was told by a white South African teacher this weekend that after the bell rings for break there is immense peer pressure from the other members of staff one any member that goes straight back to his or her class to start their lesson because it will of course make the other teachers look bad. As u can guess, not a whole lot of work takes place in these schools.

In one classroom I took out my camera and the whole class looked a bit apprehensive as they had never seen anything like it before. As soon as the flash went off however they all jumped into the air literally screaming and whooping with excitement. To them it was like a really cool magic trick. Us three were absolutely gobsmacked. One class bombarded us with handshakes, kisses and cuddles and Geert was even dragged into another. It was almost as if we were royalty. Seeing young white people from us (especially non-South Africans) is something they had probably never seen before.

The Weekend - The first week was pretty exhausting. We had no water the whole week so after 3 days I went to stay with Mr and Mrs Leroux and when the bus stopped working the boys went to stay at the boarding house… although they managed to hold out in the house the whole week! There were no after school activities this week but somehow we were always busy with the occasional staff social/supper which gave us the opportunity to get to know the members of staff a lot better. Unfortunately the weather has been a bit patchy this week but many people here say that it is a blessing!

On Saturday I spent the morning with the Leroux’s walking the dogs and going or a run as the weather was sunny and warm. I got a good tour of the local nature and Ebert took pride in introducing me to the various fruits, trees and animals of South Africa such as the spotted Dove! That evening Rich, Geert and I went with four other members of staff to the dam near us to watch the sunset. We were planning on taking a canoe with us and swimming but it had got too late so we are saving that for a sunny day. Apart from the mosquitoes the evening was relaxing and good fun.

 Afterwards we walked to another British girls house (who works in another local private school near our house) and went to the local pub (the Snoopy) with a few of her friends. The drinks cost about £1 and the music and food were awesome. The boys had the most gigantic steaks for only 56 rand (£5.20) so boys being boys… they were very happy.

On Sunday one of the boarding house members of staff (Dawie) drove us to a larger town about and hour and a half away called Tzaneen. We went up into the mountains to have lunch in a café with some of Dawie’s friends from church.

The mountains were absolutely beautiful. Much of the area was once used as tea plantations but now most of it is overgrown but still a stunning sight. It was quite a misty morning which added to the effect. After a tasty lunch of chicken and mushroom pancakes we headed off to the highlight of the day: the infamous Baobab tree! This tree is so large that the trunk has been hollowed and replaced with a pub!!! We have taken plenty of photos to show you. It was awesome. There was also a tree house restaurant and Jacuzzi and a place to go quad biking although we are saving that for another day.

Week 2 - We have now been given our teaching timetables. I have pretty jam-packed days with remedial one on one (or on two) teaching as well as drama and culture. I am also starting up gymnastics as an after school activity which is a little daunting because it’s a group of around 30 little girls. Where to begin? We have also drawn up a list of activities to do with the boarders after school like basketball, softball, water-polo etc. We started basketball yesterday and the kids seemed to love it so that was pretty satisfying.

On Wednesday we break up for a long weekend after school because its freedom day on Thursday. Geert and I are planning to travel to Mozambique for the 5 days so we will let you know how that goes soon!

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