Reaching Out 2 The World

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ReachingOut2 a Couple Great Programs

Thursday and Friday were both catch up days.

Back home when I need to run a few errands I just get in my car and drive to the store. I can usually take care of everything I need pretty quickly. I hardly ever need to worry about what times stores are closing, and I don’t have to worry about being home before it gets dark. Over here in South Africa you have to constantly be mindful of those things. I don’t mind walking places and taking the mini buses but a simple trip into town to mail a few postcards could take over an hour. With this in mind we typically try to accomplish as much as we can each time we have to make the trip and that’s basically what Thursday and Friday were all about.

DSC_4932After utilizing the Wi-Fi at the trust center within the township we made our way the primary school. We wanted to catch up with a couple teachers and see a few students. We didn’t stick around too long because Dan and I both had other things we had to take care of. Pam is doing well and is looking for any ideas for helping fund raise money to buy furniture for her church.

Our next stop was the BMX track, run DSC_4911by Songo Fipaza. If you can remember, Songo is the guy who started the organization in Kayamandi called Epic. His program takes children off the streets, gives them a safe place to study, learn, and hang out, all while keeping them active with BMX riding. He’s created a custom BMX track, right next to his office, which is next door to the primary school and he trains kids on how to ride and race. DSC_4913Our plan was to meet up with him and discuss a bit more about his organization but we arrived just after he had left. While there I was able to borrow one of the kid’s bikes and take it around the course. It was a lot of fun but I took it pretty slow. I was worried I’d crash and ruin the poor guy’s bike. The very last bit of track had a low spot where there was mud. I wasn’t able to avoid it which made for two very muddy tires. At least I didn’t break his bike…

From there I split up with Dan and DSC_4918went into town. I got really lucky and caught a ride in with Papa Zulu, while making the walk. In town I visited the bank, a couple ATMs (because the max you can withdraw is just not enough sometimes), and the post office to mail out another 7 post cards! I actually made good time on everything and was home in just over an hour.

My afternoon was spent updating blogs, finalizing the pictures for the photo books, and many more post cards. It’s certainly helping to have the kids participate in writing the post cards, and they seem to still enjoy writing to you all! Please don’t be too critical with their writing, I think it’s a lot harder for them to write in English than to speak it.

In the evening all the volunteers got together for another game of true colors. We’ve now played that game all the way through so if we are interested in playing again we’ll need to first come up with some new questions. After our game the group divided and went off to bed but Hanneke, Mieke, and Gesa all stayed up to learn one of my favorite 4 person games. Spades is an excellent strategy card game played with partners but you need just 4 people to play. Our first game was mostly based around teaching the other three how to play but I’m sure we’ll play again in the future!

Friday wasn’t too different from Thursday with Dan and I having to take care of a few more errands.

DSC_4928When we visited Songo today, he was there and we were able to sit down with him and talk all about his program and our thoughts on working with him. Like Dave’s Surf Program, we were both very impressed with the work Songo’s been doing and felt confident that our contributions would be received in the highest regard. Both Dave and Songo have both successfully started programs that take less privileged children off the streets and provide them with a safe environment to learn and grow. Both programs also aim to keep the DSC_4930participants busy and healthy by teaching them how to balance work and play. While Dave trains his guys how to surf, Songo trains his group to ride BMX. As an added bonus, both of these awesome gentlemen work directly with the schools Dan and I volunteered at. This means we’ll be able to keep tabs on how things are going and what our students have been up to. Once Dan and I return from our trip to DubaiDSC_4931 and Morocco, we’ve set up a date where we can get all the kids together for an afternoon filled with sports (November 1st). I’m already pumped for this and will be contacting the Stellebosch Frisbee gang to see if they’d be interested in joining us. If you’re interested in visiting Songo’s website it’s

After our visit with Songo we went into town so we could deliver the 350 photos that we’d need printed so we could begin putting them into the photo albums. We  grabbed lunch at Asta La Pasta in the meantime and ate a delicious chicken and pasta dish. When we finished eating we still had enough time to send out a few more postcards, visit an ATM, and stop by the Western Union where I’d be able to pick up a very generous donation from my friend Eartha. Thanks again Eartha! Our timing worked out pretty great because the photos had finished printing just before we walked back into the shop. Before heading back home we picked up Dan’s laundry, and ate an ice cream cone from Steers. We’ve gotten pretty good at coordinating our visits into town so that we could accomplish everything we need to in the most efficient time possible. And yes, we always make time for ice cream.

Back at home we met up with the rest of the students that will be joining us on our DSC_4073beach trip tomorrow and wrote out another dozen post cards. We’re trying our best to get these cards done before we leave on our trip. We still have a handful more to go but I think we can do it!

I’m really looking forward to taking everyone to Muizenburg for our surf outing. I’m not exactly sure what to expect because a few of the kids struggle to swim, but I’m sure Dave has something up his sleeve. speaking of sleeves, I’m curious if all our crew will be geared up in wet suits tomorrow?! Time will tell!


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An Epic Kind of Day

I got up and joined everyone for breakfast around 8. The plan today was to go with the girls, they volunteer through Prochorus. Both Hanneke and Mieke are in SA serving their 3rd term of school. They are studying to be social workers and are required a one year internship. They told me that 99% of their class stayed back in Holland to complete this requirement. IMG_3651They decided to be a bit more adventurous and organized a year’s stay in the township of Kayamandi. That’s a pretty great move if you ask me! So far their first week with Prochorus isn’t exactly what they thought it would be, but it still had its highlights. They were both looking to be more involved with social working and so far all they have done is volunteer at the local crèches. I’m confident that they will be able to steer themselves towards some proper social working but until then they are just taking it one day at it time. Going with them today would also be my first time working at a crech. A crech is a nursery school.

Kayamandi has many crèches but I’ve never volunteered at one. The one we’d be heading to today was located right along my walk to the primary school. Typically when I pass by a crech it’s to the sounds of shouting children. They yell, “A Teacher, A Teacher, A Teacher!” I really didn’t know what to expect spending all day at a crech but I was excited to see what the day had in store.

IMG_3655Our morning started off with the children showing up sporadically for the first hour. It was such a nice day out and we played on the jungle gym and kicked a soccer ball around. It was pretty amazing playing with these kids because of how skilled they were on the jungle gym. The other volunteers and myself have all talked about how carefree these children are with their playing. I think at least 50 times a day I say to myself, ”Well this would never fly in the US”. Children 2-4 years old climbingIMG_3658 to the top of a jungle gym, jumping from places that are far too high, running across the streets and so much more. These little kids are also tough! When they fall down they get right back up. There’s a little girl I met today that had a huge scar across her chin, and she was easily the smallest of the bunch, but even she climbed to the top of the jungle gym. After everyone had arrived and we had played for a while we all headed inside.

The crech didn’t have too much but I was pleased to see it painted with colorful pictures on the walls, pictures the children created, and an adequate amount of tables and chairs for the youngsters. When we all got inside the children all took turns using the bathroom and washing their hands. Afterwards they gathered back in their seats and shared in a morning prayer. Next came the snack! Each child got half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and half a cup of milk. When they finished eatingIMG_3661 they brought their dishes back to the sink. Once everyone was done they joined their teacher in the front of the classroom for their daily procedures. The children recited the alphabet, the days of the week, and the months of the year all in English. There was a brief lesson on shapes, and another on colors. The kids really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The next part of the class was probably the best! The teacher led them in loads of songs. Almost all the songs were in Xhosa but I was able to understand some of them. One song was about family members, and another was about counting. When I didn’t understand what they were saying I focused on enjoying the show. They were so incredibly cute singing and dancing and I recorded loads of videos to share. I tried getting involved as much as I good, singing when I knew what words came next and dancing when I could follow the motions. Without a doubt these children are much better singers and dancers then I’ll ever be! IMG_3665

Following the music portion of the class was an art project. The little learners were in the middle of finishing a book filled with pictures of family members, their home, and a self-portrait. The teacher would explain in a mix between Xhosa and English what it was they had to draw. I definitely learned today that they start learning English a lot earlier than I originally thought.

After a few more songs and dances the day was over for them and the children all left. I’m not exactly sure where they went and I’m still wondering if they just walked themselves home.

The girls and I walked back to Mama Zulus for lunch before heading over to the trust center. At the center I emailed Songo, the man who started Epic. Epic is the organization which gets the kids involved with bike riding and provides them with a safe place to study and hang out. I was wondering when I could come by to check out a practice and he told me any time after 3:30.

At about 4 the three of us made our way across the township to where his organization was located. It’s just beneath the school, but still up on a hill. At the bottom of the hill is the road that takes you to Stellenbosch. With the mountains in the backdrop and nothing to block the view, this is easily the best view I’ve seen in Kayamandi, and that’s saying a lot! IMG_3714IMG_3717

For the next hour I watch kids from the ages of 6-14 practice BMX biking in one of the most spectacular places around. I was very impressed with the course, and even more impressed with how flawlessly they could navigate the course. They were unbelievable as they flew over jumps and took turns at high speeds. The biker in the blue hoodie was one of my students earlier in the week. IMG_3719He’s been biking with Epic for a year, and he’s great! There was also section of the course that was designated for the newest riders. There was a lot of wiping out and a lot of crashing but nothing stopped them from trying again.

Once the practice was over we walked back through the township, but this time we had Songo as our guide. Besides being born and raised in Kayamandi, Songo also has loads of experience providing walking tours of the township.


He works with Hotspots and is one their most valued employees. He took me a way I had never been, and taught me about places I never knew existed. He even took us inside a few shacks to share with us what a few looked like. Still blows my mind that one room, that could hardly fit two beds, is home to multiple families. He told us that usually it’s one family per bed. Try imagining that for a couple days! Before popping out the opposite side of the township, where I typically take the mini buses into town, we passed behind a shack where they were preparing sheep. It might have been goat but all I know was that I was staring at a bucket of heads. They call them smilies around here because when you cook them and the flesh burns it pulls the skin back on their jaws and appears as if they are smiling. I’ll attach a picture at the end of my post, fair warning. IMG_3723

Of course right when we got home it was time for dinner and I had visions of the heads in a bucket. Luckily, tonight would prove to be one of the most enjoyable dinners yet! We had Mama’s Mashed Potatoes, rice, beef and gravy, cooked carrots, and steamed broccoli! I know I rant about how great the fried chicken and mashed potatoes are but the Zulu’s also know how to make perfectly steamed broccoli. Back home I like to dress my broccoli in cheese but here it’s so good that I just eat it as is.

After a very satisfying meal we went back to our rooms. A few students had been waiting for us. I worked with Lupo and Atha on their first bracelets and was surprised how quickly Atha was able to grasp the process. Lupo abandoned his after an early mess up and joined the girls back in their room where they were creating signs to welcome our friend Dan back to South Africa. While Lupo was gone I helped him along on his bracelet.

Around 8 the kids went home and myself, Eric, Hanneke, and Mieke prepared for another game of Catan. Only one game tonight because we were all pretty tired. I won… but who’s counting…

Before going to bed I had planned to video chat with my dad. We were to try for 11 but after an hour’s worth of complications on his end, it was more like midnight. It was great talking to him but I hope in the future it can be under less stressful circumstances. I pay for internet by the amount of data I use and sitting around online waiting isn’t how I wanted to spend my data. No worries though, it was worth the wait. But seriously Dad, you owe me like 6 dollars.