Dumela from South Africa!

By Niamh Fanthom

“Dumela”, meaning “hello”.

Niamh Fanthom on site at Dichibidu

Niamh Fanthom on site at Dichibidu

I have learned that this is the most significant and probably the most valuable word in my Tswetswana vocabulary. One may think that it lacks depth; but from one stranger (me) to another (a fellow South African), here in Rustenburg this one simple word creates conversation and friendships.

Niamh Fanthom at Dichibidu with Tsholofelo Community Member William

Niamh Fanthom at Dichibidu with Tsholofelo Community Member William

Throughout the week we travelled by van from one squatter camp to another, observing the shacks or houses built by the people living there. People were staring at you while you stared back at them. But a lot of them were smiling as they stared and waving at you as they strolled by. A simple thumbs-up or wave and you felt welcome by the community. The children wanted to touch thumbs and replied with a happy “dumela”.

Niamh Fanthom, Aaron Whelan and Karina McGinley with the ladies in Matlhabe, South Africa

Niamh Fanthom, Aaron Whelan and Karina McGinley with the ladies in Matlhabe, South Africa

On the other side of things, I have become great friends with the volunteer group here in Rustenburg. From day 1, the SERVE volunteer group have transformed swiftly from familiar faces to great friends. It was bizarre to me that we barely knew one another and we had a two day journey ahead of us. However, we soon realised that each one of us were determined to become a team.

At Tsholofelo, we are split into rooms. I am delighted to be bunking with Sarah from Waterford and Caroline from Limerick. We get on like a house on fire. Sarah wakes us up in the morning with her tin whistle practise which gets us out of bed and ready for work. Then after a long day of work, Caroline supplies the after sun and hand creams. Going to bed is a laugh – hearing about each of our days and the different trials and tribulations we experienced on each site.

Overall, each day starts with a “dumela” and you feel like you belong here just as much as you belong at home in Ireland.

4 replies
  1. Julie says:

    Hi Niamh, Great to read your blog. It puts a lot into perspective and a great theme “Hello”. A simple word that we take for granted so much. Well done on a great read and insight. This is truly a great experience for you, but also a brave on on your part.
    How long more have you left?
    I am sure the friends both from Serve and local people will remain with you for life.
    I wish you continued success and safety.
    Would love if you can let me know when you write your next blog.
    Take Care,
    Much Love
    Julie xxoo

  2. Avril Clare says:

    Great to see the fantastic work you are contributing to such a worthy cause. Keep up the great work Niamh. Best wishes Avril Clare

  3. Bernice Brennan says:

    Hey baby girl – you are AMAZING!! Talk about “duck to water”, you are a natural. It cant be easy being in the midst of such poverty – photos are really lovely, I love the one with you talking to the little girl in the pink dress – so sweet – you make sure you look after yourself and dying to hear all after you get back.

    Stay safe!!

    Lots and lots of love


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