Volunteering in South Africa – Children of the Township

Posted by: Abby

The Teach Children and Surf in Cape Town project in South Africa was a wonderful experience. I spent three weeks, which flew by, in Cape Town. I arrived in Cape Town on a Friday afternoon where I was greeted by some staff members and in a room before our nightly dinner. Saturday morning, as part of our welcome to Cape Town, the new volunteers attended a history walk in the heart of Cape Town.

The tour was very interesting as we learned about the past and present of Cape Town and were given a briefing on Apartheid and how it affected and still affects black families. This was important to know since the townships and settlements we would be volunteering in were a by-product of Apartheid.
On the weekends after orientation the volunteers have Saturday and Sunday off to do whatever activities they may like. On the Sunday of arrival I hiked the fascinating Table Mountain, which was one of the many beautiful scenic sites in South Africa.

Monday morning was the new volunteers’ orientation day. This was the day which we learned what was planned for us in the following weeks. Our coordinator Gail gave a great introduction on teaching in the classrooms such as the motor skills and subjects students should be exposed to, along with some dances or songs to engage in with the children. This was the day I found out I would be helping at Zusakhe Educare in Dunoon. My first two weeks were spent at Zusakhe in the mornings from 8:30-12. I helped with a classroom of two year olds. The two year olds did not speak much English, but they were always overjoyed and screamed “teacher” every morning I walked in. What I will remember most will be singing songs and doing dances with the kids. Their faces lit up every time I began singing “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,” and they clapped their hands excitedly. The children at Zusakhe, both the two year olds and older, enjoyed their time at school and appreciated small things like being able to color, blow bubbles or sing.

Since I was on the surf club, in the evenings after coming back from Zusakhe, I joined the other surf club volunteers and helped give surf, skate and swim lessons to kids from Dunoon who were around 8-14 years old. Often, this was time for us to try to get closer to the kids and learn about their life stories. On days when the weather was too bad for surf club activities, we played board games and even had a pizza cook-off between different teams.

On the third week the scheduled changed. The kids had a three-week winter break from school, so we began a holiday club. During holiday club, the kids got to do things they normally didn’t have the chance to like ice skate, play putt, hike Lion’s Head and go to a Cape Town museum. This week was nice because it gave volunteers the chance to really interact with the kids and learn about them.

My volunteering experience was amazing, but to not mention the amazing experiences I had during the weekends would be crazy! On the second weekend, I headed with a few other volunteers I had become friends with to bungy jump off Bloukran’s Bride, the highest bungy in the world! That same weekend, on the way back home, we stopped at Knysna Elephant Park and spent time with the beautiful elephants at the park; we even had the chance to hand feed them or give them kisses. It was a weekend full of fun and building friendships. Many volunteers on the trip were from across Europe, which gave me a great chance to interact with them and talk about differences among the values and customs of our countries.

The following weekend, another volunteer and I headed to Gansbaai and Shark Alley to go shark cage diving with the Great Whites up close and personal. South Africa has the biggest population of Great Whites in the world, and we saw many of these intriguing creatures. Other parts of weekends were spent bonding and taking trips together to the V&A Waterfront Mall or Green Market Square which is full of handmade African items.

Teach Children and Surf in Cape Town is an experience I will never forget due to the amazing people and events I experienced. South Africa is different from third world African countries, like Tanzania, which I have visited. The culture shock was different, and hit closer to home. South Africa is a more developed nation with a diversity of people. I saw how Apartheid segregated communities by color, but even after Apartheid there is still much inequality in the country. For me, this trip inspired me not only to educate people in America about noticing hardships across the world and becoming educated about them, but it also inspired me to educate myself about similar hardships that many impoverished children within America face.