We’re upgrading a day care centre! Last year it was just a painted shipping container. Previous ISV groups have since built a playground, prepared an area for an educational garden and added a rendered brick extension which doubles the size of the building. The progress is huge especially considering it was mostly done by a few dozen novice uni students.
My first South African day was orientation and a visit to the school, cultural centre and medical clinic that past projects have built. It’s fantastic to see projects similar to ours proven to make a difference to life in the village. One of our guides grew up in the village and knows all the locals. He taught us some of the language; Xhosa. It’s a great sounding language with three different kinds of clicks. I’m learning very slowly but there are so many unfamiliar sounds.
So far I’ve done three days of the kind of work which your muscles don’t let you forget about quickly. I’ve carted rocks, dug out and carried soil, sanded smooth the rough render on the new walls, assisted in the assemblage of sand pit shade, befriended locals with their brilliantly beaming smiles and unquenchable enthusiasm. My favourite task has been transforming a patch of dirt into a vegatable garden. I accidentally took on an apprenctice, the children are so eager to lend a hand. Where others had tried to help then become bored, my new friend stuck with me with her small amount of English, my smaller amount of Xhosa but both with an eagerness for teaching and learning.
I’m looking forward to the next few days and will hopefully get a chance to write you something about travel, culture and the ethics of voluntourism.