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Published: June 14th 2008
this is our offices/resource building on the grounds of the Sacred Heart Children's Home.
Hi folks.... here's some notes from one day at Thanda. Our internet is very slow here so i am unable to upload photos. I will do so in a few weeks when i spend time in Poland (our dance show will perform there on July 7), but for now, just stories......hope they will generate images in your head of what it is like.
We left the house early today, earlier than normal. Viktorija and I left with the early car with Tyler who had to arrive early to Sacred Heart Children's Home. The head sister at the convent had planned a meeting with the ‘Queen’ of the district, or, Chiefdom. It was to her that all concerns in the region were to be brought. We were going to meet with her to ask permission to go out into the community, in her district, to speak with families. Sometimes this is necessary when one of the students seem to be having a problem at home.
Sister Cele, the head nun at the children's home, of the school invited us to come along with her and Tyler to the meeting. We all piled into her 4X4 vehicle, myself sitting in the
the water pump
Most days, this pump is functional. The faucet inside our office rarely runs, and when it does it is usually just a trickle. This is one of the major problems here at the Children's Home is a lack of regular/reliable drinking water. The project of fixing the water tower, having a new well and water treatment system built has by default become one of Thanda's projects.
area between the two middle seats. We headed up the gravel road over the rolling hills. Past a few hills we began to climb again. Reaching the top we arrived at a flattened out area. On one side there was a school, on the other side was the Chief’s office. In the middle was a grassy area that was filled with folks who had brought their goods to market.
The ‘Queen’ lives in Durban, which is about an hours’ drive or more from here. She comes once per week, every Thursday, to deal with matters in the region near the Thanda Project. This makes for a very busy chief’s headquarters every Thursday, and is the reason so many merchants and farmers set up shop outside the gates to sell their goods.
We drove through the gate past the barbed wire fence and parked the truck. The yard was filled with elderly folks seated in plastic lawn chairs and on the grass. I learned that they were here to collect their pension checks—they are all retirees. Soon plastic chairs were brought out to us, and we sat and waited.
As we waited the Sister made the rounds greeting
Washing the car
Often you see the kids outside the school washing their teacher's cars. Here they are washing the Thanda Van. They love getting to wash the cars.......
various people she knew. One woman walked up and greeted us, identifying herself as the mother of one child in the program and the sister of one of our staff. She was very warm and friendly with us, saying the word 'siyabonga’ over and over, which means 'thank you' in Zulu (one of the few phrases I have learned).
After 20 minutes we were welcomed in to the Queen’s office. It was a modest room with more plastic chairs lining the walls, a big wooden desk in the middle. The Queen was seated there. She was wearing a yellow scarf and grey sweater, stylish glasses with her hair pulled back. The chairs surrounding her were filled with the elders of the community. Occaisonally throughout our conversation they would add their insight and opinion to the conversation.
We had a long and interesting discussion with the Queen. She was pleased with the work we were and are doing, though had her concerns for how the work would translate into results and better outlooks for the children, about the sustainability of the project, and about the community’s ability to get behind the project. In the end she accepted our request
to work in her area, and gave her blessings to the project. The agreement was made that we could make house visits in her domain provided that we contact her first about it.
We returned to Sacred Heart by 11:30 AM. Other volunteers were already in full swing doing their work to prepare for the afternoon sessions with the kids, the cooking staff were preparing the kids’ lunches of egg salad on wheat bread…..there were kids running around outside the Thanda office who normally should be in school but who had been let out early for no certain reason……there are always kids running around and it is always unclear which of them are children living at the children’s home, which are students in the school, which are just kids running around….there are several stray dogs who linger as well that you must take caution around. One volunteer has already spent a night in the hospital from being bit by one of them (though there have been no other incidents).
It has taken some adjustment figuring out how I/we fit into the project. Everyone sort of has their project, their group, their ‘thing’ that they are working on and,
as I learned today, we are the first folks who have arrived since the beginning, the first volunteers entering into this system that is already in place.
Today I began thinking more about how the baseball program may run. I found a bucket (that originally was a 5 gallon bucket of grape jelly), washed it out, and wrote ‘Thanda Baseball” on it. Then I began making baseball-size balls out of used bread plastic bags, which was inspired by the kids at the home who do the same to make soccer balls. These balls are heavy enough, they are a great size, and I am thinking will serve the baseball program well because we can play without gloves.
We suited up in uniforms for basketball class today. The uniforms are donated women’s jerseys from the US. The kids love to wear them. They seem to have lots of fun playing basketball. I am still learning from them and from Reed--observing and sort of easing my way into the group.
We leave the site by 4:30 every day because the sun sets so early. It is paramount that we get home before dark, and that we give the kids
ample time to walk home in daylight as well. It is not safe after dark.
I already have grown to love the drive home back to our house by the ocean--the drive is so beautiful and to make the trip at sunset makes it even more picturesque. Driving along through the countryside it is so easy to for a moment forget that these hills contain some of the poorest and underprivileged communities in South Africa.
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