This is the second post about my trip to South Africa to volunteer with Volunteer Eco Students Abroad (VESA) in May/June 2019.
The second portion of the volunteer activities on my VESA adventure was Education. The first was Construction (covered in my previous post) and the third was Conservation. We spent two days at both a school and an orphanage/daycare.
It is pretty mind-boggling that they manage with such a lack of resources. The teachers are amazing and well respected, and getting an education is highly valued. The elementary school (that’s what I would classify it as) resembled old army barracks in construction. A series of long buildings divided into classrooms. Each room had rows of desks with up to THREE children squeezed into the seat! A table or old desk with no storage in it for the teacher. And some also had one set of shelves or a storage locker at the front of the room – all were broken in some manner and most contained nothing.
Many of us had brought school supplies and other items (VESA had sent lists in advance if we wanted to bring things) which were collected to be distributed later. The kids were all asking us for pens. And they really did need them.
The buildings were all painted green and yellow, and the school uniforms were also green and yellow. There wasn’t any playground – just bare soil and some walkways. But the kids are very resourceful.
When we got there we were divided into groups of four or five and assigned to a classroom. Our first was a Grade 6 class. The kids all wanted us to sit with them – which was a tight squeeze in those desks! The teacher got us to mark the kids exercise books as she reviewed the answers. Then… she had some of us actually get up and teach part of the lesson! ACK! I got given a grammar lesson – I was petrified! The teacher gave me the answer key to teach from thank goodness! Honestly, grammar was always my least successful part of English classes! But I managed, I think. I hope!
If you got out your camera or asked to take a photo you were mobbed with kids wanting in the photo – then they all wanted to see it.
During the break/recess, which was pretty long, we all hung out and played with the kids out in the yard. I got a frisbee and showed a group of younger ones how to play – which is quite the achievement as I’ve never played. I have to say we were all doing quite well – this is the official Frisbee Team photo.
We spent two days helping out. The second day we were in a Grade 4 class helping with Math. At least they were teaching math there the way I actually know math. Not like they have been doing here in Canada lately.
The other part of the Education work was spending time at a “creche” – an orphanage/daycare run by a lady called Mama Doris. She started out taking in orphans and over time expanded into daycare for teen mothers so they could continue with school. Our activities there consisted of playing with the little ones mostly.
I had taken along face paints and supplies for them, so did face painting on the kids. They all wanted to paint and were getting into it so I just went with it (which if you know me and my sanitation procedures was hard!) One particular girl kept coming back for more painting and wanted to paint me, so I gave her a brush. Yep… here she is and here’s her work. Decent eye for colour and design for a two-year old.
I had no mirror so until this photo was taken had no idea what I looked like! I kept trying to put her down but she would climb up my leg again. When it was time to leave it took two of the adults who were there to convince her to let go.
The second day I help paint a mural on one of the buildings. Raj, one of the other volunteers, had bought paint and supplies in town and recruited some artists in the group to help. See if you can figure out my contribution to this…
We got Mama Doris to pose with it too.
On the evening one of these days I went on a Night Safari – well, a Sunset Safari – in iSimangaliso Wetland Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Conservation Area. It was pretty cool – literally and figuratively! Saw quite a few animals, but some were too far or too fast to capture with my camera, but here is what I did get photos of:
Three Rhinos! All of these had their horns removed for protection. The third photo gives an idea how close they were. They were all strolling down the road towards us, and ignored us completely.
Then Water Buffalo! That is two of the Big Five, right there! They were pretty skittish and the bull was a bit threatening, even at the distance they were from us.
Also saw a few zebra – they were usually a bit far away and the light was fading.
Then we went up to a lookout where you could seen the Indian Ocean from one side and the St Lucia Estuary on the other.
On the way back we passed this Kudu walking along the rode, completely unconcerned about us.
We also saw Wildebeest, Warthogs and other antelope species. It was a pretty satisfying drive.
Stay tuned for Part 3 with Cheetahs and Crocodiles!
To find out more about VESA check out their website at www.vesabroad.org
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