Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Why half day Friday?  It is not because the volunteers want to leave early or because Deen wants to give us a break.  It is because the residents in the township tend to start partying a little early on Friday and it starts to become unsafe.  Even though the day was cut short, it was still a good productive day.

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Playtime!

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An everyday activity with most of the children. Love her smile in this picture!

The volunteers and I spent time plastering the wall we worked on yesterday.  In what is becoming a recurring theme, I also spent a lot of time with the children.  We played in the playground and I ran around like a big kid, playing games and making them laugh.

While we were at the site, a woman in her early 30’s  had a heart attack/stroke in her home next to the building site. (I later found out that she was the mother of one of the children at the site)  Deen, being the amazing man he is, jumped into action and rushed her to the hospital.  By the time he got her to the hospital she was unconscious and remains in critical condition. Unfortunately crazy things like this are more common than uncommon here.

After the day of work, all the building volunteers went to Deen’s house for dinner. His wife made an amazing meal and we laughed and had a great time.  His talented sons (Vash and Nash) provided the entertainment by singing, playing piano and the drums.  Also providing entertainment were 9 puppies.  Deen rescued a female dog from the building site and brought it home.  The dog met his Siberian Husky and one thing led to another…yadad yada yada… 9 puppies!

After being stuffed with food, we all sat around listening to Deen tell stories about former volunteers.  The love and joy in his face when talking about other volunteers can light up even the darkest streets.  He has been a mentor to the younger volunteers throughout the last 3 years, and even though it has been a week, he has taught me a lot and I feel like I have known him my whole life.

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Puppies!

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With my favorite puppy!

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Today, I spent the day building a wall..maybe not “the great wall of South Africa”, but a wall none the less.  The process really is quite simple.  Step 1: fill the bags with sand.  Step 2: lay down cement.  Step 3:  Place sand bags on cement  Step 4 place cement on bags Step 5: repeat steps 1-4 step 6: plaster the sides and tada!  A wall!

The Great Wall of South Africa

The Great Wall of South Africa

I also spent a large part of today playing with the children again.  Since it was nice weather, we were able to play on the playground at the site. One thing I noticed today about the children is that they are all sick.  Every single one of them had a runny nose and was coughing.  They are all staying in a small room so when one gets sick, they all get sick I suppose.  Either way, we still had a great time and I am looking forward to finishing the wall tomorrow.

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As the title indicates, the day was filled with rain.  Weather in cape town is a bit sporadic.  It is bright and sunny one minute and pouring rain the next.  The few times the sun came out, we mixed cement and did our best to add onto the foundation.  Our efforts may have been futile as I don’t think it will dry very well by tomorrow.

View of the Building Site

View of the Building Site

The good thing about the rain is that it let me spend more time with the kids.  What kids you ask?  There is a day care center right in the same complex as the building project.  I spent time doing what I do best: acting like a kid..making funny faces and noises, lifting them up in the air to the ceiling, tying shoes, and anything else I could do to make them happy.  These children crave attention and immediately latch onto you when they see you.  I was told it is because they do not get it from home so they look for it from volunteers like myself.  It is quite sad but I will make sure to give plenty of love the rest of the time I am here!

Day Care Center

Day Care Center

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The kids and Jomo from England.

I woke up early on a beautiful Saturday morning from the comfort of my bed in Hoboken, NJ and headed JFK airport.  I was filled with mixed emotions.  I was not looking forward to the long flight but was excited to get to Cape Town.  After a few complications and missed connections, 27 hours later, I arrived at the airport in Cape Town to head to what would be my home for the next 2 weeks.

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View from my host family’s home

Immediately after leaving the airport I was struck by the beauty and poverty of Cape Town.  Cape town is surrounded by mountains and is just plain gorgeous.  After living in a city and working in New York City, not being surrounded by concrete and steel was quite refreshing.  However in between the beauty of the mountains is extreme poverty.  I have seen and experienced poverty in America, but this was just on another level.  It was just shack after shack after shack as far as your could see.  There are no bathrooms and there is no running water.  Some of the lucky residents have a single toilet similar to a “Port-o-John” that they are able to use.  I tried to mentally prepare myself for the poverty before the trip, but to be honest, it was hard to witness first hand.

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My bed for the next 2 weeks

After I finally arrived, I met my host family and the rest of the volunteers. Everyone was very nice and interested in my background.   There are 6 other volunteers staying at the home from all over the world England, Japan, Canada, Germany, and Holland.  I am staying in a bunk bed, and sharing a bathroom, which feels a bit like college…just without the heat. It gets down into the 40’s at night in the winter so it gets quite cold.  Either way, the accommodations are better than I anticipated.  After a brief conversation with my host family and other volunteers,  I headed to my bunk bed early to prepare for the all day orientation I have tomorrow.

On August 17th I embarked on a journey of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks.  I had never traveled outside the country, and to be honest, was a bit nervous.  I was to stay with a local family who would provide me with meals.  When I was not home, I would spend my days during the week volunteering by helping build a community center in an underprivileged area outside Cape Town.  Other than that, I did not know much about my trip.  Was the area I was staying safe?  Were there other volunteers at the house?  What will they feed me?(as a fat kid at heart, this question was important)  What will the community center be used for?  How long have they been building it?  What will the other volunteers be like?  How else can I help?  Among many others.  Throughout the journey all my questions would be answered and my concerns would be addressed.

I went into this trip assuming it would just be about building a community center.  I soon discovered that it was much much more.

KEEN is a national, nonprofit volunteer-led organization that provides recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities.  They get children involved in a variety of different activities and basketball2sports, including basketball.

I arrived at Attucks Park in Brooklyn on a gorgeous Saturday morning.  There were plenty of volunteers and lots of children running around having a good time.  After 20 minutes of free time, the athletes were gathered together and separated into three groups.  Each group completed a different drill: shooting, dribbling, and passing.  I spent most of my time with a boy named Julio.  He was a happy kid with tons of energy.  We spent time on the court participating in drills, chasing each other around the court, and having a ball of laughs.  After basketball, we went to the playground next to the court and did more of the same.

For me, this deed was a full circle of sorts.  The first time I volunteered was for a program called “Buddy Ball” in my home town when I was in high school.  Buddy Ball is a sports program for children with disabilities.  It was at that time that I picked up the volunteer bug and knew I wanted to make a difference in the world.  It just took me some time to get back into it.

With 29 deeds completed it is onto number 30 and beyond!

I have been in sales for the past 8 years, so making phone calls is something that comes natural to me.  You may be asking..”Why is that important and what does it have to do with a deed?”  Great question!  I signed up to help make phone calls for an organization called Fresh Air Funds.  The amazing organization sends children from low income neighborhoods in NYC on free vacations/camps throughout the country. For some children, this is the first opportunity they have to leave the city.IMG957016

I arrived at the Fresh Air Fund’s office in NYC after a day of work.  There were 6 other volunteers that joined the program that night.  I was given a list of about 60 names, a script, and a bit of coaching from the team leader.  Soon after, I sat down and started calling!  It was my job to call the parents of children to remind them about the date, time, and place they needed to drop their children off for a sleep away camp.  I spent about 2 hours on the phone, going through the list and providing important details to the parents.

This particular deed may not have been the most hands on or involved deed, but it was still quite important.  The organization stays afloat because of volunteers and donations.  It does not receive any government funding.  If you would like to donate so you can help provide a great experience for a child, you can do so at the link below (I did!).

Donate Here!