– By Stephanie Caulfield
I am really having a fantastic time here in South Africa. At the weekend, we went to The Cradle of Humankind. It is like a natural history museum, but better! We also had a traditional braai (BBQ) on a farm which was thoroughly enjoyable.
Today, Monday, was the first day that I went out on site. The previous two weeks I had been doing sessions at the Orphan & Vulnerable children’s clinic in Freedom Park. Freedom Park is the biggest squatter camp in the area with 25,000 inhabitants. There we checked the children’s weight and teeth. There is a nutrition programme running for those children that are underweight.
Today, we finished a project in Nkaneng which involved digging the foundations for a vegetable plot. This delighted Gladys who will be running the crèche. On Wednesday, we went to a clinic in Ceeza where we were invited to observe in a vaccinations and minor ailments clinic. Ceeza is the name of another squatter camp. The ladies there are great, always in good humour and great at explaining about the clinic and about how it is run. Just across from the clinic is the crèche which is full of very enthusiastic pre-schoolers. They are taught in English which is not their first language. Of course they had to sing for us! Singing is a very important aspect of South African life, even adults gather round to sing a song before and after they finish work. We gave the children stickers and toothbrushes, these children wouldn’t have much so they were delighted. Over the past few days we went back to Freedom Park. Most of the ‘buildings’ there are shipping containers. We partitioned one container into three rooms- a counselling room, a kitchen and a storage room. We spent the time painting the walls, windows and doors. Tiresome work but well worthwhile when you see the result!
The healthcare workers now can at least have a cuppa while they are working, something again we take for granted at home. The weekend is upon us now and we are going to a famers’ market on Saturday and to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg on Sunday.
I have loved my time here for several reasons. It takes you out of your comfort zone, you get to meet a great bunch of people from Ireland, you see a completely different culture in South Africa and you experience the warmth of the people.
I would highly recommend it to everyone ..the memories and photos you take back to Ireland are very special.