Day to Day volunteering

Trip Start Dec 31, 2008
Trip End Mar 20, 2009

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Sunday, February 1, 2009

I've been seriously neglecting my blog, I know but time just flies away from me.

I've had a great week at my placement and host family.

Basically my day to day life is as follows;

I go to the home at 8am and the kids are playing outside for a few minutes until
they go to school. Since this is just a transitional home they don't go to a mainstream school.
They go to the school on the property and they only go for about an hour an a half each day.
Since the chidren are at different levels (aged 6-14yrs old) they basically take school "shifts" so
there are always a few children for me to take care of.

They have no homework so basically they learn almost nothing.

There is this one girl, her name is Venolia and she is supposed to be in grade 8 but here that is considered high school so she can't go to the program on the property. She is extremely bright and so I have decided to teach her a little in the mornings. We've been doing math for several days (don't laugh if you know how horrible I am at math), today I did geography and I'm teaching her to type as well.

I have to get creative because the kids don't have computers of their own so I drew a keyboard on a sheet of paper and taught her that way. Today I borrowed a keyboard that the staff wasn't using and it was much easier since she could sense where the keys were. I really want to get her and the others a second hand computer, I have to gather the cash somehow. If anyone wants to chip in, let me know!! They are much cheaper here!

After "tea" at 10am (which is a sandwich and juice) the kids switch up
and I play jump rope, soccor etc etc with the kids. This is always fun
because kids are kids and there is always someone crying because they
got hurt or this one said something nasty to that know the
drill. All the workers generally just hang out and supervise at this
point. I'm the only one that gets right in there with them. I find that
this is also a good way to get to know them and listen to what's going

For instance, one of the kids, mentioned how he tried to hang himself with his
shoelaces the other night and yesterday he tried to do it with the jump
rope outside in front of everyone. He wasn't serious the second time
but I immediatly grabbed him and removed the noose. He told me that I
saved his life today and his friend saved his life the other day with
the shoelaces.

His father and brother are in jail, they are actually gangsters which he strives to be one day as well. One of the workers said that he's a lost cause and "he'll have babies before you know it". He's 13yrs old.

He can be a bully, gives everyone a lot of attitude and was doing so with me last week as well. He was saying bad things to me in Afrikaans and the kids were translating. Even the kids said that I should not allow him to speak to me that way.

I could have told the director but I chose not to and told him that I'll respect him if he respects me. He apologized and we're buddies now :) I don't know if I can help him, he can't read and is very stubborn. He does have a good soul...

His mother is nowhere to be found and in the year that he's been there he hasn't had a single visitor or even a phone call. 

My favorite boy is Shawn. He's such a gentle sweet boy and everyone really likes him. He's also adorable and his smile lights up a room.  He always asks me about the world, he wants to be a pilot. When I told him I was going to India he asked if I could adopt him just for a little while until the trip was over.
He's very skinny even though the home does give them plenty of food and he's always hungry. Today he told me he was hungry so I went to the kitchen and asked the cooks if I could have a sandwich for myself. They love me there and so it was no problem. I gave it to him and he ate it
on the sly. I'm thinking of putting aside my "tea time" sandwiches for him.

Shawn is 10 years old and he can't read, I asked him if he would like me to teach him and he said yes. For some reason there are no books in the boys section so I bought a couple today. I'll start with him tomorrow. I'd like to get him "Hooked on phonics" because I can't teach him to read in 2 months but first I need the computer..
He has many scars on his face from I don't know what. His mother is a drug addict and they believe she's a prostitute as well. She has visited several times since I've been there and even
stayed for a few days.

His sister is also at the home. I love her to death as well, same beautiful smile as her brother and is just a little ray of sunshine.....until something upsets her. Her light switches off immediately and she gets this blank dark look about her. She won't speak to me when she's like that, it's like she's in a trance and it scares me. It can happen rather suddenly. Today, she was sitting on my lap after we read together (we read during 'rest time' every day on her bed after lunch) she was her smiley giggly self and she was rubbing her cheek onto mine. I asked her if she has the same daddy as her brother and she went blank. Her and her brother look quite different, that's why I asked. So I just said nevermind and in a minute or so she went back to smiley again. It's like she has two distinct sides to her.
I wish she would talk to me. Some of the kids are very open with me, others are a closed book.
We have a great relationship, she's the first to jump on me and kiss me in the morning and the last one to kiss me each day when I leave but I just can't get her to open up to me.

It makes me very angry that their mother was blessed with such beautiful, bright, adoring children that any normal parent would be so thankful to have.

Ella has a very difficult history of abuse, the worst of all of them I think. She is a bright girl but her history makes her constantly want attention and she can be quite sexual as well.
I worry about her future. I tell her that her power is in her mind not her sex. Ella has AIDS and might also be bipolar. She takes medication for both.

I stay at the home until 4pm every day and I try not to take breaks. I always feel like I should be doing something.
This is what I do every day. When you look at these pictures you probably won't believe what you're reading because they all look like normal happy children. I can't believe it myself actually.
I'm almost to the point where I don't shed any tears every day, almost.

When my family comes to pick me up it's like the world has turned upside down. The children in my home here are well cared for and loved. We have dinner together every night.

Kira left today so 'dad'  took us on a little tour. He took us to this beach that even he had never been to. It reminded me of Whitehaven beach in Australia, the most beautiful beach
I've ever seen. Sand so white it looked like snow from a distance. There was no one else there and it was huge. I had one of those moments where you see such beauty that it takes your breath away. The battery in my camera ran out so I could only get a couple shots. They don't do it justice.

This experience here is certainly one of severe highs and lows.

Tomorrow I go back to Cape Town for the weekend. I need to clear my head a little bit so that I find the energy for another week.

Hope you're well :)


All my love,

* for privacy reasons I changed the names of the children
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