I went to South Africa a couple of years ago with a group of friends to help volunteer with the charity COPT (you can check out their site here http://www.coptrust.org/).
53% of the South African population live in poverty. We were over there to try and make a small difference to help out some of those living in poverty. We worked in a few of the local townships in Durban on multiple project, such as:
Teaching – Between us we taught multiple Maths, English and Drama lessons from ages 4-16. All the kids seemed to be very grateful and valued the education they are provided with. Unlike in the UK, most of the kids enjoyed going to school and they wanted to learn!
After one of our days teaching, a local pupil offered to show a couple of us round her home. This was definitely an eye opening experience. Her whole family lives in a small wooden shack that has no bathroom or running water and only intermittent electricity. There were 2 rooms in total, both of which are virtually taken up by 2 single ‘beds’ that are shared between the whole family. We were also informed us that the pile of wood next to their house had been their neighbour’s house until a week prior when it was washed away in the rain. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence amongst the township community.
She is often left to cook, clean and look after her younger siblings as well as her school work whilst her mum tries to make money. Despite all this she always has a smile on her face and will turn up to school everyday because she appreciates the opportunity she has been given. Hence why volunteers offering to teach different subjects, or provide extra curricular activities is massively appreciated. You don’t need to be super bright or a teacher yourself, but if you feel you could teach something I would definitely recommend looking into any company looking for volunteers.
Breakfast Club – 1 out of 5 children go to school without food and this scheme was set up to try and provide local children with breakfast before they make their way to school. They try to provide this service 3 days a week. However, due to the continuous stream of kids coming in and the amount of jobs that need doing in order to be able to provide a quick service regular volunteers are needed to help keep it running.
Upgrades – We helped to do a Creche upgrade. This involved a lot of paint, half of which ended up down ourselves! Many of the kids love having activity trails and hopscotch painted on the floor outside. The great thing about this is you can make them educational at the same time.
Happy’s (Mason Lincoln Special School) – This school has residents with a range of special needs, ranging from ages 8-31. Some people are living there purely because they have a skin pigmentation disorder. Others have severe special physical needs, loss of limbs or are deaf or blind. There is little support for people with disabilities, therefore families often cannot help and end up leaving their child to fend for themselves. They are almost outcast from society so are taken in by this school where they have built a close knit community, allowing them all to support one another. The charity we worked with raises funds to not only keep the school going but for occupational and physical therapists to visit. Volunteers such as ourselves are often sent in simply to play with the kids or to teach them extra curricular lessons. It’s such a wonderful experience and you can tell each and every one of them appreciates the company. On one of the days we went here we set up a ‘fun day’ for them. This included nail and face painting, decorating biscuits, football, games, puppet show and singing. Each of these activities is so simple and can be led by anyone, but it makes such a difference to their lives and is something I would highly encourage anyone to try.
Feeding Scheme – We went to the medical clinic in Kwadabeka where people can wait a whole day to try and see a doctor and generally go without food whilst waiting. We made and handed out sandwiches and fruit to as many people as we could. It was so rewarding to see people’s faces light up just from receiving something so small! Whilst we were there we learnt the following facts:
- South Africa has the 3rd highest death rate in the world.
- The life expectancy amongst the township population is 49, whereas in the UK it’s 80.
- For people living in townships there is 1 doctor for every 4,000 people, compared to 1 doctor for every 370 people in the UK. Hence why people spend all day waiting to try and be seen.