Welcome to my blog, where I will be sharing my experiences volunteering with ACE with anyone who’d like to hear! I am just about to complete my first of three weeks here in South Africa and so far I am loving my time here. I have been staying at a B&B-type establishment here in Gordon’s Bay. The accommodations are very nice; I am living in a suite with the other three guys on my trip and so far the room is still in working condition, not too messy.
During the first night I was surprised to discover was how cold it got at night during the winter here in South Africa, all the way into the mid 30s (which is very cold with minimal heating, even if I am from Buffalo, NY)! I now have about six blankets on my bed in addition to hot water bottles, which I place between the sheets about 15 minutes before going to bed. During the first few days of the program our group of 10 has had a very enjoyable time getting to know each other and have become a cohesive team with the help of MC, a team building strategist brought in to help us learn to work together. The spotty wifi network named “Jenny” has similarly helped us disconnect from the world of social media and actually interact with one another, bonding through movies and card games (I have personally won a few games of hearts, no big deal).
During the first few days of the program our group of 10 has had a very enjoyable time getting to know each other and have become a cohesive team with the help of MC, a team building strategist brought in to help us learn to work together.
The past several days we have started working with our community partners, GVI, and have visited the elementary/middle school and the students we will be working with during the remainder of our stay. At the school, we gave several presentations to fourth, fifth, and sixth graders about the skills we have learned through varsity athletics, how we apply them broadly to our lives and how they can do the same. During the final week of the program we will be running a track and field camp for the students, so it was important for us to get the students excited to come participate, since it will be during their winter break.
Our day-to-day schedule has so far been to commute to the schools in the morning for presentations, followed by training at the gym for a couple hours each afternoon. ACE has very kindly provided us with membership to a nice gym close to our B&B, which I am extremely grateful for. One thing I have found quite jarring, however, is the stark contrast between the conditions of the township in which we work and the quality of the gym we work out at maybe 10 minutes down the road. From the presentations we have heard thus far, inequality is a major social problem in South Africa, and is currently a major focal point of the South African government. It definitely makes me appreciate the experiences and resources I have been afforded.
Moreover, my interactions with the children have been extremely enriching. The language barrier has been somewhat challenging, but I’ve enjoyed having the children attempt to teach me Xhosa. I’m almost able to consistently make the three distinct click sounds properly. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed hearing what the children would like to do when they are older: social worker, teacher, doctor, nurse, president, etc… It is similarly encouraging to hear that efforts are underway to make university-level education accessible to all here.
This weekend we will be having a traditional South African Braai (BBQ) and will be going into Cape Town to see some of the cultural sites in the area. I look forward to what the rest of the trip has in store, thank you all for reading!