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Clare Downs: Wild Coast Schools Computer Literacy and Arts Project in South Africa

South Africa Chintsa , South Africa  |  Aug 02, 2012
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 The people, the place and the children are all truly special and will always hold a place in my heart 

What made you choose that particular project/country? 

I volunteered here 5 years ago and have always wanted to go back. The place, the people and the children always stay in your heart. 

 Can you tell us about your experience in your accommodation? 

The Vollie house is comfortable and warm. It is not slumming it by any stretch of the imagination. You have comfortable beds, running water and 3 meals a day. The added extra is the house mama who looks after the cooking and the cleaning of the house. You feel very looked after, even spolit. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your role on the project?

A typical week from my time in Chinsta:

Monday morning – off to run Grade R (reception class – aged 5 -7 years old) at Bulugha Farm school, this morning we are learning the letter A and number 1. We are learning to write, colour, play games and a story all in English to help the children learn the language.

Monday afternoon – off the Greensleeves orphanage to play with the children, do arts and crafts and teach computers. A small privately run orphanage where any help is welcome and the children love new people to play with. A very humbling place but happy children.

Tuesday morning – Grade R at Bulugha Farm school. Its arts and crafts day! Today we are making play dough for the children to mould and play with. Then we are decorating Giraffe masks to wear and play outside as giraffes.

Tuesday afternoon – Sports with the village children at the sports field. The sports field has been creating in the last couple of years through fundraising and volunteers hard work. Chinsta East village now have a football pitch, changing rooms, volleyball pitch and soon to be completed netball pitch. Volunteers help teach a variety of sports to the children.

Wednesday morning – Grade R at Bulugha Farm school. It’s the letter B and number 2 today. The children practiced writing the letter and number, some have only just started school so haven’t even learnt to hold a pencil, others need to develop this skill.

Wednesday afternoon – Vollie afternoon!! We spend the afternoon together going on dune walks, walks along the coast or boat trips! Anything organized by the team!

 Thursday morning – Grade R at Bulugha Farm school. Its arts and crafts day again!!! This time we make cars from cardboard boxes and play with them outside. Next we also make bracelets from bottle tops and pasta necklaces

Thursday afternoon – Bulugha school concert. The whole school sings for the tourists in the hope they can earn donations to help their feed a child scheme. It is a truly amazing spine tingling experience that you shouldn’t miss. The children have amazing voices and have no musical instruments, just them and their clapping and stomping. It makes you hair stand on end!

Sports afternoon – you rush back just in time for the second sports afternoon of the week. Sport is very important part of the volunteer project. It is hoped that by keeping the children active and giving them something to focus on, especially the teenagers, it will divert them away from early drinking and pregnancy. Plus the fact the younger ones absolutely love it! 

Friday morning – Back to Grade R for more writing and learning. Its letter C and number 3. We always finish the day off with a story and songs. The children can sing a few songs in English and its where they practice for their starring role in the school concert.

Friday afternoon – is Vollies afternoon off. You can hit the beach, swim in the sea, go to Buccaneers the backpackers across the beach (also where to go for party time!!!), have sundowners cocktails at Michealas restaurant or hang out in Barefoot café. 

Saturday and Sunday are your own – you can go on safari, ride quad bikes, go mountain biking, cultural tours and visit Mama Tofu and her village to learn about the local culture and customs, organize weekends away to Hogsback mountains or Cape Town or just hang out and enjoy the chilled out vibe of beautiful Chinsta.

Did you have any worries before you left?

Would it be safe? – yes perfectly as long as you are sensible and don’t take any risks.

How would the flight connections work? – JNB airport is huge but there is always someone to ask if you get lost

Will someone meet me from the airport? – greeted by a friendly face and my name on a board

Where will I be staying? – in a lovely house in a lovely village

Did anything surprise you?

How friendly the locals are, if you spend the time they love to chat to you.

The children love any attention you can give them

The children are not angels but cheeky little imps that you can’t resist

How beautiful Chinsta is right on the beach.

What were the highlights?

The people, the place and the children are all truly special and will always hold a place in my heart

What does travelling as a volunteer mean to you vs travelling as a tourist?

You experience their culture and their way of life as opposed to just seeing the tourist parts. In a very small way you are making a difference

How has the experience affected you?

It is the most rewarding and humbling experience. It makes you put your life into perspective and how we are all motivated by money and material things. These people have not one quarter of what we have but they know no different and are happy with their lot. Chinsta and the project creep into your heart and you leave a little piece of your heart with them.

What would you say to others thinking of volunteering?

If anyone was thinking of doing this project I would say DO IT, DO IT, DO IT!!!!!!

It is a once in a lifetime experience that I promise you will never forget!

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