Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As We Say "Good Bye"

Friday, July 25:
Final Day in

As if we aren’t already on “emotional overload” as the service program winds down, we all attended a “farewell” celebration at the primary school this morning. The children sat by grade outside and were already in a chorus of song as Nkuli, Danice, Michael, Erin and I joined the rest of the team in front of the assembly.

Solomsi announced the agenda and led the prayer. Each class then presented hand-made cards to the team – many with personal notes to “their” teachers. Mr. Qwaka spoke of the numerous contributions the team made, and how he hoped many (if not all) of us would return on future teams. I heard a few sniffles….and not just from among the volunteers.

But, most of us were brought to tears as each team member reflected on the many ways the students and teachers touched their hearts…and souls. I wasn’t certain either Ryan or Molly would be able to complete their remarks. We all recognized how fast the time had gone, and how deeply we were affected by the children’s accomplishments…and needs.

After a birthday song to Linda, we moved on to the “picnic” portion of the event: Steak, sausage, bread and coke for the adults, and oranges for the children. The food was so good, we hardly realized how hot the sun was!

The 1:30 “talent” show was delayed as students gathered slowly at the community center. But, as none of us were anxious to end this final day, we waited patiently, chatting with parents and playing with the children. When the cast arrived, Chan announced the acts, and we were treated to a lively play about HIV/AIDS in Xhosa introduced by a number of songs, and followed by a short scene written by Olga and acted out by Chan, Erin and Ryan. What fun!

We reflected on the significant contribution we worked together on with our local friends....solidly in five areas of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals:

Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty: 29 volunteer hours in capacity-building
Achieve universal primary education: 416 volunteer hours teaching in the primary school
Promote gender equality and empower woman: 204 hours assisting women with sewing and crafts projects
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: 12 hours helping to restore HIV/AIDs library
Develop a global partnership for development: 792 hours working hand-in-hand on critical community development projects

We packed and planned our early departure tomorrow morning. All evaluations were completed! The roundevalles were buzzing as suitcases were stuffed with memories…and souvenirs…and return flights were compared. The atmosphere was more of a large, happy family than 12 individuals from cities spread across North America. Yes, we’ve formed a very special team!

Thank you all for your extraordinary patience, compassion and dedication on this very important pioneer team. You have been as much a support to me as to the people of Malungeni. Your indefatigable spirit remains as an inspiration to those who’ll follow us in many years to come. Never, ever doubt how important you have been in the history of this resilient, resourceful rural village. I hope to see you all again, and I wish you all the very best in life. Continue to challenge the status quo and to reach beyond your grasp. Together, we can indeed build a world of peace and justice one day at a time.

-Michele Gran (“Mama Mlbuwana”)

Ending a Beautiful Week in Malungeni

“And none of us need feel any shame at all at using help, since we all help each other.”

The reality of time passing is in full force for us all. We’re starting to say our good-bye’s and plan our thank you celebrations. The Community Center bleachers are complete, we’ve practiced our songs for the thank you ceremony and Chan and Erin are getting the drama club ready for tomorrow’s performance. In the middle of the commotion we received another resident to the guest house -- "Happy" -- a flea invested, scruffy, starving puppy.

As the majority of the team headed off to school, Erin and I were on our way to the Community Center when we were summoned by two local ladies – the real Joyce – asked if we were going to go with them to the river to carry water...how could we say no? The women filled the buckets in the pond and set us up with head gear, then placed the buckets on our heads. I had to make an adjustment, placing the bucket closer to the front of my head then set off with both hands on the bucket - there would be no hands free moments from this amateur. With concentration and determination, we made it to the road without drenching ourselves in the valuable resource and happily handed the buckets back to the ladies at the road. Joyce had a baby strapped to her back as she hoisted the bucket on her head and used her hands to carry scraps of sheet metal she had found in the field. The weight and placement of the bucket wrecked my neck, a constant and painful reminder of one of the many hardships the women of Malungeni encounter on a daily basis. Even our hauling in of water for drinking and washing from the storage tanks at the guest house this week pales in comparison to the realities of local life.

This afternoon Global Volunteers hosted a thank you celebration for Malungeni. Wendy opened with a lovely invocation and we led local people in a rendition of “Morning Has Broken”. Not possessing a harmonious voice, I was thankful for the iPod accompaniment. Michele gave a very heartfelt speech to the local community as Solomsi translated in Xhosa, which included reference to Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech where he quoted Marianne Williamson’s poem of “Our Greatest Fear.” “Our greatest fear is not that we are not strong enough, it’s that we’re powerful beyond measure.” The people of Malungeni are just that…powerful beyond measure. As their partners in development, I hope we have, in some small way, reignited that belief and desire in them - we’ve certainly been witness to it time and again during our stay.

After we all took a moment to express our gratitude to the community and heard a touching thank you from a community leader, we closed with South Africa’s National Anthem, the same song Malungeni used to greet us two short weeks ago. The local women then got up and started singing, dancing, and hugging us, telling us the most important thing is love. For the fourth or fifth time today, I was moved to tears.

Dinner was scrumptious once again thanks to Danice. Perhaps Global Volunteers should consider marketing these fine dining experiences for its South African teams. We were “treated” to a drop-in by Nyaniso Magokolo after dinner, who wanted an update on what we did while we were here, and to offer us a safe journey home. He was open and gracious with suggestions on how to get children to read and the importance of childhood development through daycare programs. He left us with the challenge to continue what we started and continue to help Malungeni. From the conversations we’ve all had, I know we’ve all come up with our own ways in meeting that challenge.

In the spirit of being in the moment (a personal goal on this journey), the day was filled with flashes I will carry back with me in my heart…Vuyo, Rebecca, Nkuli and Gwen singing “Oh Happy Day” in the kitchen, the livestock rush hour, the magnificent sunset, walking the village with Chan to create a map, the kind well wishes followed by the extra yummy birthday cake, the dishwashing jam session, and Olga and Gwen bringing us our good-as -new laundry. In one day alone, these images captured so much of the complete experience in Malungeni.

We are all now faced with the inevitable farewell. Our Malungeni friends will carry on in the same environment as we head back home to our modern day conveniences. They will continue to be challenged…and hopefully uplifted with possibility. As for us, the volunteers, may we take with us another line from the Greatest Fear poem, “Your playing small does not serve the world.” Just as we’re hoping for big dreams for our new friends, may we continue ourselves to grandly dream, serve on a large scale, and remember we, too, are powerful beyond measure.

- Michael Kithcart

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 in South Africa

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5

We awoke to another chilly morning in Malungeni which by afternoon evolved into a sunny, lovely day. We all enjoyed the bright, warm weather. Yesterday, Cromwell told me that spring is on the way. This certainly seems to be the case. I so enjoy walking to school and sharing morning greetings with the local community members. We arrived at school to the smiling faces and the cheerful waves of the school children. I wish I could bottle this joyful, hopeful enthusiasm and take it home with me. Linda, Chan and I prepared a reading comprehension lesson on “World Heritage Sites.” Some children did extremely well, while others seemed to struggle. Yesterday, Cromwell “lectured” (for lack of a better word) on the importance of reading and writing. He strongly encouraged the children to read every piece of paper that they could get their hands on. I hope that when the library is up and running it will be a resource for the children and the community at large.

Cromwell told Chan, Linda, Wendy and I about the Premier who was set to resign today. Cromwell shared his fears of a potential civil war. Year 2009 will certainly be an interesting election year for South Africa.

We had a team effort of covering the grade R as the teacher was unable to attend school today. The little ones are such a delight. I think it is fair to say that we all hope for a successful, happy future for each and every child. Wendy enjoyed her morning with the little ones. I on the other hand experienced chaos – not certain what happened…maybe it was just because it was the end of their day or the children decided it would be fun to “play” the substitute. This is the first time I experienced frustration due to the language barrier. But, at the end of the day, the children’s smiles get to you.

Cromwell taught a class today on the changes in South Africa. He noted the change in the government – how it was going to build low income housing, it was assisting with brining a water system into the local community, etc. Cromwell also hopes there will eventually be more resources, such as, additional classrooms and libraries. At Linda’s suggestion, we had a raise of hands of those children who when they grow up wish to move to the city as opposed to remaining in the rural community. There were quite a few who wished to move to the urban areas with aspirations of being doctors, teachers, policemen, lawyers and soldiers….what an inspiration!

Michael and I set off to the Community Center for the “community project workshop” (bakery, poultry and piggery, community garden, beads and crafts). I must preface this summary by saying words cannot express what transpired at the workshop. Per Michael, it was on her “top ten list” of things she has done in her lifetime. I must admit, it was an extremely powerful afternoon. We had 14 attendees (12 women and 2 men). Michael and I were stunned and extremely proud when the community members asked when they could stop calling it a project and begin calling it a business. Ideas were hatched, thoughts were shared, dreams became a possibility in a little over 2 hours. It was truly amazing. Jagged by corporate America, so many people have unlimited resources at their fingertips but no vision. Vision is certainly what the community has. Given the time, I have no doubts that goals will be met, businesses will succeed. I do not think that the community members grasp the power in their hands to forge the community forward. I however, am impressed by their vision and am hopeful for a prosperous future.

Back to the guesthouse for yet another yummy meal. Danice certainly does spoil us…what a disappointment when I go home to frozen meals!

We ended the evening with music practice for our upcoming events. Thank God for Chan. He is such the director. Hopefully, we will be a hit! We are all looking forward to expressing our heartfelt thanks to the community. We will take a little part of each and every community member home with us. What a truly awesome and comforting thought!

- Molly McGuire

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - Malungeni, South Africa

"Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Day 10
The morning began with Ryan and his faithful followers doing a workout and run before breakfast. Danice made delicious bran and fruit muffins for us. Over breakfast Wendy read a Joy Harjo poem and Linda shared her journal entry from yesterday. We are all aware that our time in Malungeni is quickly coming to a close and there is the desire to accomplish several tasks before we all head back to our own lives and challenges.

Chan will return the rental van today which has become our primary source of transportation outside of the village. The challenges of transportation or more specifically the lack of quick or easy transportation to town, gives one the realization of how difficult it can be to complete, what can be viewed as simple tasks within the spheres of our own life experience.

Nkuli and Linda are accompanying Chan to Mtatha where more food will be bought, US dollars converted to Rand, school supplies requested by the principal will be purchased, and other small errands run. This task could take much of the day. While 12 km is not an enormous distance it is one that can add unforeseen challenges along the way.

Cara, Ryan, and Erin are teaching Math today because the regular teacher will be away due to a need to address some personal issues. Mavis the Social Science and Xhosa teacher will be arriving at school via a combi today because the math teacher is her regular way to get to school. She did arrive about 9:30am. Transportation for her to get to work is one of the big challenges of her job.

Elsa and Mary Juan are busy helping to meet the needs of the grade 1, 2, 3 students and, while walking to school, discussed strategies of how they might use their day to help it be a productive one for the students.

Michele spoke with Cromwell, the school principal, about a farewell ceremony at the school and he was pleased to learn of our desire to mark this first trip to Malungeni by the Global Volunteers.

Molly is spending the morning assisting Cromwell with the English class. The children in her class smile easily as she works with them and respond well to her praising their work. The trip to the restroom is the universal break from class regardless of where in the world school children are. Molly attempts to help avoid a mass exodus from her classroom.

I give a test to the grade 7-9 students on Nazi Germany and the violation of human rights by the Nazi government. We spend the morning grading papers, doing math problems, assisting in teaching lessons and generally helping where and however we are requested to do so. The children seem comfortable with the rhythm of the day even if the volunteers don’t always know what’s going on.

Michael and Molly are preparing for the business workshop which will be held tomorrow. They hope to facilitate conversations that will lead to the ability to organize the steps in order to set the groundwork for the many business ventures the people of Malungeni desire to initiate.
Organization skills appear to be one of the concepts which the leaders of Malungeni are most grateful to learn about. Most of the groups are struggling with this issue in order to move forward with their hopes and dreams. Michael and Molly are helping to develop relationships that will hopefully assist them in moving to the next steps in their visions for their lives in Malungeni.

Chan reported that the shopping trip was typical of their other ones. As he says, “their on African time” and “no rules or laws just suggestions and guidelines”, adjusting to the pace is something that challenges us as Westerners. While on the trip Linda found the school supplies that have been requested and she said they’ll be presented to the school on Friday.
The late afternoon was abuzz with several group meetings. What was thought to be a meeting of the soccer coaches was actually a meeting of several players from the here at Malungeni who walk one and a half hours on Sunday to play without a proper field and very little, if any, equipment. Cara and Michael helped facilitate the meeting and hope in the future they can help point the guys in the direction of coaching and funding equipment needs.
The women were back with t-shirt dress project. Wendy and Elsa assisted them and by the end of the afternoon 16 dresses of various sizes were now part of their initial inventory. The women laughed and chatted and good work was the product of their time together.
Danice prepared yet another feast for us. A West African spicy chicken dish was enjoyed by all along with yellow rice with raisins and a colorful medley of peppers and cucumbers. Homemade oatmeal cookies were our sweet treat.

As we finished dinner the conversation shifted to the programs which will occur at the end of the week to let the community know how grateful our hearts are for the opportunity to live and share with them for two weeks. The young people from the school have a talent show in the planning phase and a program of thanks to the school teachers and students is on the agenda for Friday.

Thursday afternoon will be time to have the community gather at the house where music, words of gratitude, and our photo will be presented to them. Their radical hospitality has touched our hearts and minds. Michele has begun her taped interviews of each of the team members with the hope that our experiences here will inspire others to come to this wonderful place to help in the future. We will later tonight gather to review our goals which we set upon arrival in Malungeni.

The days have slipped away so quickly. We all are already anticipating how difficult Friday is going to be when we prepare to go back to our homes. We have made special friends in just two short weeks. We have found that we share some common hopes and dreams for our lives and communities. On Friday, I hope we will say, perhaps with tears in our eyes…not good-bye my friends, but see you soon, my friends. For as the Zulu proverb says “I am because we are”.

Much peace, Wendy

The Start of our Second Week - South Africa

Monday, July 21, 2008

We all gathered together again this morning after our various weekend adventures. Most of us were in freshly laundered clothes thanks to the substantial efforts of Olga, Kwena, and the other ladies. The work involved in hand washing all that clothing was appreciated and I know I will think twice before complaining about doing laundry at home in the washer and dryer in my basement. Loubabaloo joined us for breakfast and graciously handed out wonderful gooseberries for us to taste.

Molly, Chan, and I had a wonderful day at the school. We taught English to the grade 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 students. We also taught electricity to the grade 7, 8, and 9 students. The discussion of positive and electric charges somehow led to a discussion about gay and lesbian rights in South Africa, Canada, and the United States. Cromwell has really opened up with us and is eager to discuss a variety of political, social, and educational issues. He also seems to enjoy some of our different teaching strategies and has become much more relaxed with the students. Today, he picked up a boy so that he could write an answer on the board. This set the class laughing and Molly and I darting for our cameras. Elsa and Mary Juan worked diligently with the grade 1, 2, and 3 students who have more needs than can possibly be met by two people, even two remarkable ladies like Elsa and Mary Juan. I think Wendy was pleased that her teaching partner actually showed up at school today. They continued to work on social studies and Wendy experienced the teacher’s displeasure with a few students who had not completed their homework.

Next, Molly and I headed to the daycare. We passed Ryan and Cara who were walking to the school for soccer practice. The kids at the school were very excited with the new soccer balls that Cara bought in East London and they ran off kicking the balls in all directions. Cara tried to set up drills to develop soccer skills but the students were too excited and unorganized to really focus on that right now. Erin had everything set up at the daycare after spending the morning sweeping and mopping the floors. Michael, Mary Juan, Erin, Molly, and I spend the next couple of hours entertaining the children with bubble blowing, Duplo blocks, skipping ropes, balls, colouring, story telling, and songs. The children also had a delicious pasta dish courtesy of Danice.
Back at the guest house, we discovered that once again there was no running water but that there is not a water shortage so we just needed haul water into the bathrooms. Just another small glimpse into daily life in Africa.

Elsa met with the sewing group and worked on the t-shirt dresses. A fashion show broke out as Nkosi, Vuyo, and others paraded around in the beautiful fabrics that were bought for the children’s dresses.

Back at the guest house, Michael continued to work on business plans with community members. She was pleased to discover that they had followed through with the planned next step and returned to her with new information. Chan made yet another trip into Mthatha to work on Olga’s computer and buy yet more groceries. We enjoyed another delicious dinner of pasties, corn chowder, and bean salad prepared by Danice as she was serenaded all day long by Vuyo’s operetta.

After dinner, we discussed ideas for a culturally relevant and meaningful final celebration at the school and with the community members in order to thank them for all they have given us and to say good-bye until the next team arrives. It is sad to already be discussing leaving Malungeni. It seems like we have just arrived and have been here forever at the same time. The evening ended with a birthday party celebration for Ryan. They was singing and dancing and well wishing by all. I’m sure we will all leave Malungeni with heavy hearts as many friendships have been forged with the people here and among the volunteers.


First Week in Malungeni

“Ubomi Bunzima” (Xhosa for “Life is hard.”)

I’m running late for school this morning. As I walk I hear only the sound of my footsteps in the road. The road is dirt and rocks and feels rough and uneven under my shoes. As I walk I pass the houses of the people of Malungeni. The people of those houses laugh as I butcher their language – “Molo” (Hello), I say. “Unjani?” (How are you?) Malungeni always seems to be full of laughter and joy and my impression is that people here are genuinely glad we are here. It’s hard for me to quiet the cynical voice in the back of my head that says, “You can’t change the world. You’re such a spoiled American. Your only hardship is that you don’t have the latest generation iPod.”

A small herd of cattle cross the road in front of me. I wait for them; they are on Africa Time. I admire Africa Time – it is time without time, a heartbeat without a measureable pulse. Time here does not stand still, but instead glides along and surprises me. The time taken for a smile and a wave of the hand takes an eternity while a lifetime flashes by in the blink of an eye.
I walk into the 4th Grade classroom and am greeted by the students standing to say, “Good Morning, Teacher. How are you today, Teacher?” And I blush.
After we are told that the teachers are leaving today because of a fee they must pay or traffic (I’m not sure which) and that we will be teaching the kids on our own, Linda, Molly and I are giving a lesson on pronouns: he, she, it, they. I am he; we are they; you are she. Comprehension is limited. We gently push one of the 4th graders to put an index card under the “they” category by saying, “Are students a girl? No!! Are students a boy? No!!” They seem to be under the weight of a scholastic burden to always be right. Or maybe they are just pre-pubescent kids who don’t want to look bad in front of their peers. So they smile blankly and say, “Yes.” Yesterday we spent a half hour trying to explain that pigs don’t say, “Woof, woof.” It seems that only ¼ of the students can really even understand English at all.

I have decided to stay with Wendy to teach what turns out to be a rather psychotic geography/astronomy lesson in which Wendy is the sun and I am the earth revolving around her. One of the students raises his hand to say “I don’t understand” and I feel so proud. It is the first time this week that any of the students has admitted to not comprehending what we say. I feel a rush of joy. And suddenly the bell has rung for school to end. “Are we having drama class today?” I’m asked, and I say that we don’t think we’re supposed to be at school after classes are over today. I’m a little sad because the kids all love drama and I actually feel like I have a purpose teaching drama.

At 3:00 we have a meeting with what seems to be the ladies social circle. The women leaders of the village really want to use their ability to do bead work and traditional dance to fund activities for the youth to keep them from drinking, drug and a general life of crime. The difficulties they face are enormous in a country that seems to be without hope. In my egcentric world it’s hard for me to imagine life without the internet, hot water, easy transportation. It’s hard for me not to say, “Here. Here is everything I have. Take it.” But that’s not why we are here. Thank God for Michael and her left brain. The meeting is over and we get ready to leave for East London for a weekend of comparative luxury.
We did a lesson earlier this week about needs vs. wants. I’m not sure I know the difference anymore.
-Chan Harris

Our First Week in South Africa

July 17, 2008
It's interesting for me to sit down and think about all that we did as a team today. I’ve always tried to keep a journal, but usually what I write seems insignificant and repetitive when I read it later. Interestingly enough, I have confidence that to sit down and write about a day in Malungeni will bring nothing but reflection upon challenges that have been faced, memories that have been made, lives that have been impacted and countless laughs in between.

After the now routine breakfast and morning gathering around the coffee pot like it is a watering hole, Erin and I embark on an adventure that we would have had no way for which to prepare. Providing day care was our team’s idea for the smaller children of the community and we knew it could have literally gone in any direction. Olga assured us that the mamas were all coming and that it would be a success. Armed with the plethora of supplies and goodies from Elsa, Mary Juan and Wendy, we head over to the community center with Michael to set up for the day. When the first two children arrive we try to encourage hopscotch but it seems that the only person interested in that game is our old and friendly toothless friend who came in from the road to see what was going on inside the center. Although we got a lot of blank stares and tears at first, it seemed that once more kids came and they warmed up to us a little bit, both the mamas and their children were really enjoying this break from their regimented lives. We used paint, crayons, chalk, colored pencils, little spiky balls, stickers and songs to entertain the children and when it was time, Michael saved the day and relieved the kids with a snack of PB sandwich-quarters and water. Ryan and Elsa also made cameo appearances to film, attempt the hokey-pokey and hold babies. It looks as if we will be doing this again with the children and I am definitely confident that it will be a lot easier the second or even third time around.

The work on the community center, in other news, looks truly incredible. After a little more than two days of work, it seems that a little motivation and cement was all it took for some of the “soccer boys” to get working on the bleachers of the center. I was truly amazed to see this progress.

After a little break back at the guest house, Ryan, Erin and I went back for the “extra-mural” activities at school. Chan flaked on the drama class, so Erin would be joining us to help with “the sport.” From the start, Ryan made clear I was the coach and it was pretty funny to see the expression on the boys’ faces when they discovered that a girl would be the one directing them. Ryan led a quick warm-up and we divided up the 30-or-so young boys into teams and just started to play. I was so pleased to see the skill that they have and sincerely hope that someday it can be channeled and they can go as far as they want in the sport. With a little refinement and direction, these boys all seem to have the talent to go very far in the game. As Rebecca was explaining to me, they all wish so deeply for a coach to provide this for them in their after-school activities. It was incredible to even see the conditions that they played on: the field was scattered with huge rocks and at some points the grass was knee high. Most of the kids didn’t even have proper cleats and just played in their school uniforms and bare feet. It is clear that they all have a clear and unrelenting passion for the “greatest game.”

After a little sun shower experiment, Danice treated us all to another brilliant (but lamb-less) dinner and we were all able to recount our experiences from the day and unwind. Olga and Nkulie definitely got a kick out of seeing Ryan’s footage from the day care.

Everyday here is such an opportunity to learn more and more, not only about myself but also a culture so different from what I am used to. It will not be the showers, the school’s questionable teaching methods or what kind of ride we got into town that truly matter in the long run. I can only continue to hope that the work that I am doing with these children that I am so enjoying, is truly something that will leave a lasting and positive impact for them as well.

-Cara Daley

Day Four in Malungeni, South Africa

How to Build a Global Community

Think of no one as “them”
Don’t confuse your comfort with your safety
Talk to strangers
Imagine other cultures through their art, poetry and novels
Listen to music you don’t understand – dance to it
Act locally
Notice the workings of power and privilege in your culture
Question consumption
Know how your lettuce and coffee are grown: wake up and smell the exploitation
Look for fair trade and union labels
Help build economies from the bottom up
Acquire few needs
Learn a second (or third) language
Visit people, places, and cultures – not tourist attractions
Learn people’s history – re-define progress
Know physical and political geography
Play games from other cultures – Watch films with subtitles
Know your heritage
Honor everyone’s holidays
Look at the moon and imagine someone else, somewhere else, looking at it too
Read the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Understand the global economy in terms of people, land and water
Know where your bank banks
Never believe you have a right to anyone else’s resources
Refuse to wear corporate logos: defy corporate domination

July 16, 2008

We all woke to no running water. With this group, no problem. Some hauled water to meet basic needs and no one missed a beat – yeah team!

Ryan had a full day – he spent the morning at the school teaching math to grades 4 – 9. Since the children don’t have textbooks, he made sure they were copying what the teacher wrote correctly and stopped to help those who weren’t quite getting it. He also tagged team with the Math teacher and they filled in for each other if one missed anything. Nkuli said she talked to the kids and they told her how much they love Ryan and how it’s easier to ask him questions than the regular teacher. She also said all the kids were very happy to have the volunteer teachers because they are so friendly and it’s easy to ask questions. She said it motivates them. In the afternoon, Malungeni was treated to a new scene with Ryan displaying his white skin while hoisting rocks for the community center bleachers that were created today by the locals (though Erin and Michael stirred up some of the cement).

Several others have had great moments and learning experiences in the classroom. Chan and Molly helped grades 7-9 with “Kissing Whitney”. Not a book that would be used in the U.S., the book deals with teenage sex HIV/AIDS with a focus on abstinence until marriage. Chan and Molly had each child go around and read from the book with discussion in between. Chan focused on the slang in the book and explained the terms for them.

Wendy, when sharing a U.S. map with a teacher, was asked where are the natural disasters are. When Wendy pointed out all the various places disasters have recently occurred, the teacher said, “No place is safe.” One of the funnier moments of the day was Elsa and Mary Juan reliving how they were asked to help the young children with their book…in Xhosa. Rumor also has it Mary Juan does a mean hokey pokey.

Several commented Solomsi (Cromwell) the principal appears to be getting more comfortable with us and has said he thinks our presence is impacting the students and teachers. His gruff exterior is showing signs of cracking – he’s even joking with the students.

There is a new drama club in Malungeni! Forty-three sixth through ninth graders showed up to be coached by Chan and Erin who kicked things off by sharing childhood stories and then having the kids share familiar stories, which were in Xhosa. The club was such as hit that they want to have it every day!

Molly and Michael had a meeting with the bakery members and got them started on creating a realistic budget for reopening the bakery as well as discussed possible resources they could pursue to get the needed funds. They will provide us pricing by Monday so we can help them develop a budget and create next steps.

All in all it was another great day, capped off with a gourmet meal by Danice – butternut squash, a traditional South African beef dish and chocolate cake with Wendy’s yummy buttercream frosting – what a way to end!

South African National Anthem

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo,
Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.

Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa la matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa South Afrika – South Afrika.

Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom,
In South Africa our land.

Lord, bless Africa
May her spirit rise high up
Hear thou our prayers
Lord bless us.

Lord, bless Africa
Banish wars and strife
Lord, bless our nation
Of South Africa.

Ringing out from our blue heavens
From our deep seas breaking round
Over everlasting mountains
Where the echoing crags resound…

Day Three in Malungeni, South Africa

“They might forget what we said but they’ll never forget the way we made them feel.”

As we wait to start the work on the community center, Rebecca explains to me how government-contracted controllers will be coming in trucks to distribute money to the ‘grannies’ and to the pregnant teens. The controllers travel throughout Malugeni and surrounding villages all month. It takes them to the 25th of every month to make one stop in each given area. After talking with Rebecca and one of the controllers, Michael and I were informed somewhat of what this process entails.

You must meet with a social worker first and then apply for the money. Examples of how to get approved to receive the money woman must be 60, men 65 and out of work, pregnant girls 14 and younger also qualify, among other special circumstances. Rebecca finds that the girls intentionally will get pregnant just to qualify to receive the govt issued funds. It seems the money given to the girls goes towards their “selfish wants” for better or “smart clothes” as Rebecca refers to them. This could lead to more boyfriends and more pregnancies, more money in a repetitious process. It’s questioned whether the young mothers use the money to feed and care for the babies. Rebecca says that unfortunately, this irresponsible behavior is too common here.

While cleaning out the pit (aka cell) in the community center, Michael, Rebecca and I were surprised by a policeman who peeked in….curious as to what we were doing in this storage area. He joked that we were looking for money! His purpose for being at the community center at this time is to protect the elders in line waiting for their money because men have been known to rob the elders of their monthly payments. While cleaning out tires, shoes, beer cans and bottles and much other debris and waste, I am again impressed with how mature and well spoken Rebecca is. She agreed to do an interview for the documentary my brother and I are working on. I am confident that her point of view on her community and South Africa in general will resonate with the young adults in the USA, which thrills me.

My brother Ryan tells us of how things went at school with his math teachings. He never thought he would be doing this, but is delighted and made a positive and effective influence on the children. He especially enjoyed helping the children who needed special attention.

In the afternoon, some of us went on quite the adventure with Vuyo into Umtata for groceries. We trekked down the dirt road hoping to hitch a ride to the main road to then get another ride into town. The first ride was “interesting” because there were holes in the floor -- apparently eroding -- where we were sitting, and the roof of the car was so low we all were scrunched and hunched together like sardines. We laugh the whole way though wondering if this is what Michele meant when she had suggested “waiting for the better ride to come along….” Vuyo took us to the mall to use the bank and bumped into old friends, enjoying being our tour guide.

Later, we discussed options for transportation to get to the ‘Pick and Pay’. It does not look hopeful. As we begin to feel discouraged by Vuyo’s negotiations, out of no where Mazwai appears!!! He saves us! A familiar face in a crowd of so many! We all are so grateful and relieved.
We all are fully taking notice to the pace we must adjust to. Now we must find and meet with Chan who has successfully rented a car for the weekend.. A new, safe, comfy VW, yay! We have now named him our “chief.”

After all the groceries are collected, an executive decision was made that we must get the exact bread we had from “day one,” yet we don’t even know what that is! What we do know is that we must get it at another yet another grocery store on the way back. This is when traffic has completely jammed up and the people are everywhere in the streets. It’s utter chaos. Chan and Vuyo are elected to ‘run in’ and grab the bread. HA HA ….an hour later they return. While we had been waiting in the car, all white woman loaded in a van, hysterical laughing from being tired… alongside Ryan listening to an IPOD. The ride back was even better as we missed one of the turns due to distracting chatting taking place in the van. We do have a moment of silence as we all take in the vast land and gorgeous sunset. It was an experience all of us won’t forget!

All of this confirming that I am in the right place at the right time!

- Erin O’Connell

Our New Partnership in South Africa

Our first team in South Africa was an amazing success by all measurements! We had so much fun, and made such a significant difference in the wonderful, warm host community of Malungeni on the Eastern Cape. We invite you on our journey....and to learn about some of the most resiliant, resourceful people in the world!

Quote: “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” - Rumi

July 13, 2008 – Elsa Singh

After 19 to 23 long, grueling hours on various planes, we were met by an enthusiastic and relieved Michele at East London airport. Packed with luggage into a comfortable mini van, we embarked on our personal journey to Malungeni. Stunned by the beauty of the veld, we marveled at the vastness of the countryside, the villages around were octagonal homes, and the blue clarity of the sky which eventually darkened to produce a canopy of stars and full moon.

Arriving at the conference center, we were warmly welcomed and embraced by some of the local women who were all dressed in abundant layers. Dinner was displayed and enthusiastically explained by Vuyo whose delivery was every bit as entertaining as Emmerol.

To bed, to bed, perchance to sleep? The cold was our bed fellow. By the end of the week we too will be walking around in short sleeves and flip flops like the natives. The morning dawned…sunny, cold and soon. After breakfast Michele helped us to collaborate on the 15 characteristics of an effective team and then went on to setting personal team goals for our time here which ranged from experiencing the culture, being of service to the community and sharing the legacy.

By noon we noticed community people arriving for the welcoming celebration. Inside we sat with the community leaders, including the tribal chiefs, an endeavor to formulate plans to live up to the community’s expectations. The Global Volunteer philosophy was verbalized over and over that we were there to support their plans – not impose ours.

One of the tribal leaders put up and action plan chart with projects, who would work on them, expected outcome and timeframe. This was a bit frustrating for us all for the community did not seem to have clear projects to support and Michele did not want the ideas to come from us. But the spirit of working together as a team came across and being the first team here, groundwork will be established for the future. Many of us were impressed by the experience and exchange of this meeting and how diplomatic Michele was with the tribal leaders. For those of us who have been on other established trips, this experience greatly enhanced our appreciation for those who laid the groundwork on those trips for us.

Moving outside, the welcoming committee began with men, women and children gathered in a circle with us – the honored guests – and leaders seated in the front. The festivities were awesome, beginning with a prayer followed by speeches from the elders, the police chief, and introductions of the Global Volunteers. Several spoke of the lack of crime in Malungeni, although recognizing it’s endemic in the country. We were assured we were safe and welcomed. We were welcomed everywhere in the community and having us here and an honor to all.

There was singing with melodic harmonies, raucous dancing by the women and humorous skits by the children. The children were extremely well behaved throughout the afternoon and very patient. The women were so excited to share their dancing and performances with us and we were all thankful to have such a cultural experience. After awhile, delicious food was served inside and out and then more entertainment outside with drums and music providing the festive background. I have never welcomed more eloquently or with more exuberance by a people whose joie de vivre is a staple of their everyday diet.

The bitter cold of late afternoon drove the people home and us inside. But the warmth of the welcome was a soothing balm to our chilled beings.
Day 2
Right! This place is amazing and all, but when are we going to start working with these people? All of the volunteers got a guided tour of all of the facilities that need development, and. I realized they all need a lot of attention! Many steps would have to be taken to start the developing.

So the meeting was set for 3:00 for all of the volunteers and the project heads of the village to plan how to get things started. And it isn’t just developing facilities, it’s also types of activities. I was getting very curious how this meeting would go.
Oh my, did we start to plan! We got down to specifics on what supplies were needed, when to begin certain aspects of the various projects, who would be assisting in the various projects and how much time was needed for them. I was pleasantly surprised how well the communication seemed to be going. We all got off to a very organized start and I now believe that the leaders of Malungeni and the Global volunteers are on the same page. Or, at least, I really hope!

Ryan B. O’Connell

Monday, July 14, 2008

Global Volunteers Romania Program

Our wonderful volunteers are more than just hard workers. They are very talented as well. Please enjoy this video from former volunteers on our Romania program

To learn more about our Global Volunteers Romania Service Program, Click Here!