By Karina McGinley
Karina is participating in the Gold Global Citizen Award. This is the second of her Global Blogs from South Africa
SERVE is an Irish development and volunteering organisation that has been working in the majority world for over 10 years. The tagline of the organisation is ‘Solidarity in Action’. I have been fortunate enough to volunteer overseas in South Africa with SERVE twice. I want to take this opportunity to shed some light on what exactly ‘solidarity in action’ means. A simple definition of solidarity is working together (in partnership) with others. In the case of a volunteering organisation like SERVE this means working in partnership with organisations in host countries.
SERVE works in solidarity with Tsholofelo and Tapologo in South Africa. In my opinion this provides a unique and enriching experience for SERVE volunteers. We are not simple shuttled from Oliver Tambo international airport in Johannesburg to a random hotel to live apart from the community for a short, intense period of time. We are fully immersed into the South African way of life we eat, work and sleep in St. Joseph’s Mission which is part of the Tsholofelo Community. Tsholofelo is a religious community that works in squatter camps in the greater Rustenberg area. Sr. Georgina Boswell runs a clinic in Siza, there are accredited adult education classes (basic literacy, sewing, computers, welding etc.), they run a number of crèches and also have a maintenance team that carry out structural improvements throughout the year. This year we have worked with the Tsholofelo community and an affiliated youth group trained and funded by SERVE called ‘Step Up and Serve’ to build a new crèche in Mpho Kunuo and an extension to an exceedingly successful crèche built by previous SERVE volunteers in Nkaneng. This is not just good for SERVE volunteers but also for members of ‘Step Up and Serve’, they see how to efficiently manage a group of diverse people and how to organise resources (human and capital) to get the maximum results.
Tapologo is SERVE’s other partner in South Africa. There offices and an in-patient unit are located just 200 metres from St. Joseph’s Mission. This year SERVE volunteers with Tapologo staff have completely refurbished an kitchen in an Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) centre in Freedom Park (the largest squatter camp in the area). Here children receive a nutritious meal, have a safe place to play and can receive help from volunteers with their homework. Volunteers also accompanied Home-Based Care Workers on their visits to people receiving anti-retroviral treatment for HIV in their homes (both shacks and RDP houses) in Freedom Park. This is an example of SERVE working in Solidarity, we do not simply build in Freedom Park, for a few hours every morning we become part of the community visiting people who are often too sick to come to the clinic.
There is no doubt that without the close partnership with Tsholofelo and Tapalogo the SERVE overseas volunteers would not be able to undertake half the amount of work that they accomplish in a small period of time.
So thank you to Kuhn and Thabang from Tapologo. Br. Alfred, Ephraim, Lucas, William, Charles, Loui, Zorro, Paki, Gift and the other members of Step Up and Serve in the Tsholofelo Community who we have worked closely with.