Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Operation Feed the Children:  The Sequel

For those of you that have followed my blog(and have an excellent memory), you may recall my post about a particular day in South Africa.  On that day I approached the building project manager, Deen and asked him what I could do to help the children.  He looked at me and said “If you really want to help them and make them happy, you must get them food”.  I listened to his advice, bought and prepared lunch for all the children at the building site.

The pure joy and happiness in the children’s faces while they were eating lunch is something that still resonates with me today.  For that reason, a few weeks ago I decided to make a donation to Deen to buy the children food.  The volunteers at the site prepared the food in a similar fashion and the results were the same.  The results are best explained by an excerpt from the Projects Abroad blog below:

“Less than a year ago I had been most fortunate to be associated with a remarkable volunteer Jonathan Verpent who again donated funds for food which would be distributed to the kids at the crèche on the building site. This had been the highlight of two weeks spent at the adventures of the building project. Receiving heart-warming smiles from the children in those three days spent giving out food and drinks was the most incredible feeling that reminded me of the true happenings in the heart of the building project.”

I wish I could have been there to deliver the food in person, but the the pictures below will have to do.  Special thanks to Deen and his son Vash for putting this together and executing my idea.

Volunteers preparing lunch

Volunteers preparing lunch

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Happy Children!

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Link to my article in the Projects Abroad Newsletter

projects abroad news letter

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On August 17th I embarked on the journey of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks.  I thought the trip would have been all about building a community center.  To be honest, the actual community center was secondary.  It was a ray of hope and provided a sense of community for the locals.  It was about being a positive influence on the young children, who have experienced more hardship in their short lives than most do in their lifetimes.  It was about helping out the stray dogs, and “adopting” them on the site as if they were our own.  Although my time there was short, I know I had a positive influence on the children, dogs, volunteers, and the building site in general.

My time in South Africa was nothing short of life changing.  The bonds I made with the other volunteers, my house family, Deen, and the children are everlasting.  I will never forget the times I had and will ensure I let the moments I shared have a positive influence on my life and others around me.

I could have not asked for a more amazing end to my journey to 30 Deeds over the past year.  However, in reality, it is not the end of the journey….It is  just the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to giving.

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Deen and I

I woke up today with mixed emotions.  I was excited to work hard yet sad because it was my last day.  I did not know how I was going to say goodbye to the volunteers and children I formed a close bond with over the last few weeks.  None the less, I ate my breakfast and headed out the door for the final day.

When I arrived on site, the volunteers and I quickly got to work.  We mixed cement and started “prettying” up certain areas as we had done in previous days.  Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes, it started to rain..and then rain..and then rain some more.  If you have read my previous posts, you may realize that this is a very common occurrence during the month of August in Cape Town.  Undeterred, I ran inside to spend time with the children.  They were watching a movie and I joined them to try and get a few more smiles out of them before leaving.

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Deen telling his infamous stories

Before leaving the site, Deen gathered all the volunteers to speak about myself and Jomo, who was also leaving that day.  Deen started off with stories and fatherly advice for both of us, before allowing each volunteer to say something to each of us.  It is a tradition for Deen that all volunteers have the pleasure of experiencing before leaving.  I also got to say a few words and thanked everyone for accepting me as if I were family.  I headed back home for my final dinner with my amazing house family before starting my long journey home tomorrow morning.

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Happy Children enjoying lunch

A few days ago while working, I had the idea that I wanted to do something more for the kids at the building site.  I approached Deen with a few ideas: get  kids a ball, crayons and paper..something to help them socialize and stimulate their mind.  Deen looked at me and said “If you really want to help them and make them happy, you must get them food”.  I trusted Deen’s word and decided to buy food for all the children

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Food Supplies

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Lots of Sandwiches!

Fast forward to today, I woke up early and headed to the grocery store with Deen.  I bought makings for about 50 sandwiches, a pack of 50 crackers, and  pack of 50  cookies.  We drove back to the job site and worked all morning: mixing cement and laying more of the foundation.   Mid morning, a few volunteers and I started made all the sandwiches. We brought them over to the kids along with a pack of crackers and pack of cookies for each.  After giving them the food, I have never seen them so quiet and content.   As always, Deen was right and the kids were happy!  The leftovers were given to the men and women who work at the daycare center to eat and distribute to others in the area.  Operation “Feed the Children” was a success!

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Today, as usual, I spent an equal amount of time building as I did with the kids.  I mixed cement and continued plastering the wall from last week.  It was a beautiful day and the children were happy and crazy as the usually are (so was I).  Over the last week, I noticed they all love swinging in the swings but are not very good at sharing.  Each day is filled with constant arguments over who gets the swings.  I came up with a system that each child gets pushed 10 times before switching and they all have to count out loud.  It seemed to work and it was a good learning experience for some of them too!

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Happy Swinging! If you look close, you can see the girl in the background counting!

Unfortunately this beautiful day was marred by a darker side of township life.  A group of kids, the oldest probably about 10 and the youngest about 4 brought a cat into the bush behind the job site.  While there, they either let the pit bull that was with them maul the cat or they killed it themselves.  As an animal lover it makes me angry, but dog fighting and gangs are just a way of life in the townships(albeit a sick one).  It does help me realize how important Deen and the volunteers are in the children’s lives to help make sure they don’t grow up on the wrong side of the law.

In more positive news, when I got home, I brought the soccer ball out for the kids in the neighborhood and played for a few hours. I left it with the kids when I went to get dinner at night and they played past dark before returning the ball.  All the kids seemed happy so day 1 with the soccer ball was a success!

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View from the Island

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Tour Guide who was a former prisoner at Robben Island

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View of Nelson Mandela’s tiny cell. The red bucket was his “toilet”.

While visiting South Africa, I felt it was important to learn more about the history of the country to truly appreciate where it is today.  I decided to take a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life locked away under harsh conditions.  For much of his stay, he slept on  a small mat, used a bucket as  toilet, and was forced to do hard labor.  It is amazing that a man who spent a large portion of his life behind bars, was able to get out and become an instrumental piece in the resurrection of South Africa.  I am very happy I decided to take a trip there and certainly have a greater appreciation for where the country is today.

Before heading home, I stopped in a local sports shop to pick up a soccer ball for the kids that live in the neighborhood where I am staying.  Yesterday, I noticed that they were kicking rocks and tennis balls back and forth to stay entertained so I wanted to do something about it.  Soccer and rugby are the biggest sports here, so a soccer ball was a natural choice.  I also played soccer growing up so I am looking forward to playing with them tomorrow!

When I arrived home I spent the rest of the day with my host family and other volunteers.  My host mother brought out a cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday to the old man :).  Between being humbled by the trip to Robben Island and the celebration with some of the most amazing people I have met, it was quite possibly my best birthday to date.

I start my second week of volunteering tomorrow, more humbled than ever, but just as excited as when I first arrived.

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View of Cape Town from the ferry on the way back.