I decided I wanted to come to South Africa last June. I have always wanted to volunteer with children, to make a difference in another country and to challenge myself. I am here for 6 months before returning back to England. I originally trained as a chef but decided that it wasn’t for me so I went back to college and did a course in childcare. This involved being at college for 1 day a week and 3 days working in a day nursery. Once I qualified as an ECD teacher. I got a job working in a Day nursery where I worked for 1 and a half years. I started working with the 3-5 year olds before being moved to working with the babies. I enjoyed working with the babies much more.
I have known Sofi all my life as she is a family friend and that is how I came to be a volunteer here. I arrived in Winterton in February and live with Sofi and her family and I volunteer at the Place of Safety. I work closely with the house mums and one of the German volunteers (Nora). We got a new member of staff at the place of safety at the beginning of March and I mostly work with her as we both cover the day shift together.
There are currently 14 children at the Place of Safety including 4 young children who don’t go to school or pre-school. I usually work Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4.p.m. I spend my time looking after the babies and I help out as a house mum when needed. We have a 10 month old, two 19 month olds and one who is almost 3. I help with keeping them stimulated throughout the day and encourage them to do activities. They can get very messy! I made gloop using corn flour and water and they loved it, making lots of mess. Another activity I did with them was to fill a plastic bath tub with some water and bubbles, give each of them a cloth and get them to clean a plastic doll. They had a great time. One of the babies just held the doll and spent about half an hour cleaning it. They got rather wet.
When I first started at the POS I went to the old crèche at Isibani and collected all the old bits of card board and plastic and tubes so that we could use them to make things. Junk modelling is a great way to get the kids to make toys and get them creative. We made shakers using seeds and plastic yoghurt pots. I also got them painting egg boxes.
I wrote a feeding chart for the younger children. I wrote what they should be eating, how much they should be eating and when they should be eating up to the age of 18 months. This was to help the house mums and so that everyone is on the same page. It is now a big poster on the wall. I have recently done a poster about road safety. The kids at the Place of Safety have no clue about road safety so I am hoping that I can help to change that. I like to think that in the time they are at the Place of safety we can make a difference in their lives and we can influence them for the better.
I hope I am making a difference in their lives and that I continue to do so.
During the last few days, around the Easter Weekend, all the schools were closed and that meant that all the children at the place of safety were at home all day. We didn’t want the children to have boring holidays and to just sit at home the whole time so we made a plan lots of activities for the children to get involved in.
On the first day of the holidays, Sandra took some of the kids out to the Waffle Hut and they really enjoyed sitting in the restaurant and eating a delicious waffle. On the following Friday everyone went to Church in the morning and after coming back, we painted Easter Eggs and made some Easter Biscuits. The children liked the biscuits that much that they had all been eaten within just a few minutes.
One of the most exciting days was the next Sunday. Everyone went to Sofi’s house where we played games, ate a delicious lunch together and had a good time all round. The best thing about the day was that we rented a Jumping Castle! The children were jumping on it almost the whole day and in the evening everyone fell asleep right away.
After going to the Church on Sunday in the morning, the children went to search for Easter Eggs in the afternoon and everyone of them got a little surprise. The day ended with a little sleepover-Party. We put all the mattresses in the living room and while we were eating popcorn and fruit we were also watching Tom and Jerry. The children were very excited about a night together with all children sleeping in the same room so they stayed awake for a very long time!
Monday the 06th of April was the Sports Day at the Place of Safety. The group got divided in three little groups, which were competing against each other in ten different games. At the end of the competition, the group with the most points got a little prize. But even though there was just one winning group, all the groups really enjoyed playing the games and everyone participated and they were all very motivated and energetic.
The group got divided in the older and the younger children again on Tuesday. While the younger children went to play games and to have a picnic at the playground at the Lutheran Church, the older girls learnt how to crochet with Sandra as their teacher.
The younger kids went on the next day to the Valley Bakery to have lunch there and all the kids were also making Money Boxes to save their Pocket Money in future.
On the next day, Thursday the big challenge was to work together as a team. The Group faced ten challenges which they could only complete in if they would work together as a group. Because of their great work together, they got a little prize in the afternoon.
The last day of the holidays was Friday the 10th. As a good end of the holiday programme we all went out to Pig n Plough to have a nice time at the playground, to have some slush puppies and to jump on the trampoline.
We want to say thank you to all the helpers who made all these activities for the children possible and who helped us so much. The children really enjoyed these holidays and had an amazing time. We really appreciate your support.
Every day we meet people and behind all the people we meet there is a story to find! Here is just a small selection of the stories we have come to know and we are happy to share them with you:
Jacobs* Story: Jacob, who is confined to a wheel chair due to a stroke, was suffering from a urinary tract infection. He and his wife, who is also his daily care giver, received help and ongoing support through home visits made by our Home Based carers. We were also able to provide transport assistance to the hospital and back again. Now, after one month the infection has cleared and he is doing very well..
Place of safety update: Even after children leave the Place of Safety we like to do follow up visits and calls to see how their placement is working out and how the children are doing. This helps us to find out if the placement is still suitable. During follow ups on one particular family of 3 siblings we found that the placement with extended family was not working out and the children were again at risk. For now the children are back in our care until a better place can be found for them.
Report from the social welfare Department:
This month we had 40 walk in clients who have been counseled, 45 Home visits were made. Ncami saw 820 children from Grade 2 to Grade 7 where she delivered an awareness training on rape, sexual abuse, harassment and human trafficking at Celimfundo Primary.
- Designing Awareness for local schools about sexual abuse, rape and HIV/AIDS
- One on One Counseling Session days at High Schools
- Home Visits to clients in the community
- Participating in Government driven awareness campaigns
- Maintaining records of all cases, checking and updating client files
- Assisting with feeding scheme program running from Isibani
- Play Group with children
- Follow ups and referrals to Social Workers through phone calls
- Organizing children’s Camps and articipating in Camps
Sbongile’s* story: The mother came to Isibani for advice about a problem she had with her children (4 in total!) who were not doing their duties at home. She came to ask for assistance in this matter. We had a meeting with them and made a few suggestions. A bit later in the following week the mother reported the change that had taken place since the meeting. The family had made a duty roster detailing who will do what and on which day. The mother was very happy about the support she had received and the change she was seeing in her children.
Mthethwa* children: The children from this family last attended school in 2013 and did not attend at all during the 2014 year. The mother came and asked if we could assist her to get the children back to school. We spoke to the children and then we also spoke to the Headmaster of a local school. Through this we managed to get one child back to school.
Expect the unexpected! Last month we had a naked lady running around early in the morning in Khethani. Xoli found her and assisted her to get away from the street. She seemed a bit confused and did not know what she was doing. We met up with her again on the way to another home visit a week or so later and she said THANK YOU for helping her that day. She is now recovered and promised not to run around naked anymore.
Sbo*: One of our “street kids” is accepted for a Rehabilitation Programme. Sbo is 14 years old has not been to school for the last two years. During the day you will normally find him at the local supermarket begging for money or food. The money he gets, he uses to buy glue to sniff or smoke. The government social worker has been informed about this case but has not attended to it so far. Through love and trust and ongoing invitations to Isibani community centre we managed to create a relationship with him. He often comes to get a breakfast and also brings friends who are also not going to school. The families of children with these sorts of challenges over despair and give up on the children. We recently started facilitating family meetings with Sbo and his mother and we have also been trying to get him back to school. He did attend on some days but often skipped days. He asked us to help him to go to a Rehab because he can not stop the glue sniffing by himself. We were able to take him for an drug assessment in Pietermaritzburg and they referred his results to a Rehab centre where he been accepted.
*The names of the people in this stories has been changed by us.