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THIS IS JUST ONE LIFE CHANGING EVENT
As some of you maybe aware in February 2012 I went to South Africa for 11 days and to put it simply I had the time of my life out there. I want to do this review not to earn any dooyoo miles or Ciao points that doesn't matter to me in this review. I just want to tell you all about the life changing time I had while I was out there, I've been waiting for the right time to do this review and I feel that as it has nearly been two months since I went I thought I should do it now. First before I start I would like to thank everyone on here and Ciao who rated my reviews because the money I earned went on to fund my trip to go over there I couldn't have gone without you.
Are You Ready For The Challenge?
So here is a bit of back ground information on how I got the chance of a life time to go and help out over there. It started off at college as a college enrichment project called 'Challenge South Africa' where you had to apply to see if you fitted any of the qualities that the project staff were looking for. This was round one, this was the first life changing event for me as I have never filled in an application form or even had an interview so this was the first milestone in my life to do something amazing. After many long weeks of waiting I had found out that I had got onto the project with another 27 students who I didn't know as we were all from different courses I knew one other girl but not that well she was just doing the same course as me. From this moment on I wouldn't know how these 27 people would end up changing my life.
Every Wednesday we had meetings to discuss our trip, possible fund raising ideas and have time to get to know each other. Going to the first meeting was another life changing moment for me because I had never met these people before, I had never even seen them yet I was managing to talk to them and learn more about them each week. This was another life changing moment for me because I have really poor confidence and low self esteem but meeting these people who didn't judge me and respected everything everyone said was amazing just what everyone should be like. We went on team building weekends to learn more about each other and we became so close as a group we started to do things outside of college, we were like just one big family. Challenge South Africa bought 28 different students from different backgrounds all together to help the less fortunate and now I can truly say that these people have changed my life and I have made friendships that will last a life time.
As many of you know I had to fund raise money to go onto the trip. In total I had to raise about £900 and as a full time student I was finding it hard to manage. This is were Dooyoo and Ciao came in handy by writing quick reviews I was earning money towards my trip. Before the trip I had never really raised that much money and had only ever done a sponsored silence or swim and got about £60 for it. But this time I had raise a lot more how was I going to manage to even get £200? Well this was the next life changing event to happen for me. I went a weekend without any technology (which for me is really tough), I was up at 4am to do car boot sales, I was baking more cakes than a cake factory, I was walking dogs, cleaning houses, everything and finally I had raised all the money I needed to go onto the trip. For the first time in my life it really felt like I had achieved something, something that would change my life and not just change me for a few days until it was forgotten about. I now want to do a lot more fund raising for charities and groups that mean something to me.
Where The Real Changes Started To Happen
So that was the build up to the actual trip and I already felt different by this point. Every family member and friends said that I would come back from South Africa a changed person and I didn't believe anything they said, how can I be changed from a visit to a country for 11 days that surely wasn't possible. I was going with an open mind though that it might be possible. I landed at Cape Town International Airport and was greeted by two men and a few school pupils from one of the local high schools.
Mickey (Mohammed) gave us a welcome speech about how the next 11 days would change our life and we would go back to England with a different out look on life. I was intrigued what this man had to say he seemed to of spoke with so much passion for his country and for the people we were about to meet during our stay there. From his welcome speech one thing he said will stay with me forever and that is " You can't solve all the problems of the world but you can take note isn't that so". That statement was the hole point of the project yes we were going to help out over there but we weren't going to solve all those peoples problems because that just isn't possible but for one day to make see them smile and to make them forget about problems, that feeling is amazing. Mickey was an inspirational person to me and one night we were having a conversation about football or soccer as they like to call it and I told him about how I really didn't want to go home and wanted to stay for longer to get to know everyone even better. He began to tell me how it is great that I want to stay but I should remember the people of South Africa when I am at home to see how lucky I actually am, how I have running water and to tell my mum that I love her and I should be grateful for everything that she does for me. This man seemed to put life into perspective to me, he is a true inspiration and I have so much respect for him.
Rizaan was the other man that was there when we arrived at the airport. This man has to be one of the kindest and happiest man I have ever met know matter what he always had a smile on his face. He is a brilliant man he remembered my name out of 35 people all together he knew who I was and he would never fail to make me smile when I was missing home. I refer to him as my African dad and still to this day keep in regular contact with him.
As part of this life changing experience we got to visit the District 6 museum and had a tour around Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned). Here I met two people who were our tour guides for our visit to both places. One was a man who was a prisoner on Robben Island who gave us a first hand stories of what life was like on the island at the time of apartheid and how he suffered while he was over there. He was an inspirational person to me as he lives on the island now and he is neighbours with the prison officer who used to lock him up every night. I find it almost unbelievable that he could forgive someone who was putting
his life through hell. It just proves to me that when I fall out with somebody over something ridiculous that I should just forget about it and move on with life if this man could then surely I can forget about a silly argument. When we went to the District 6 museum our tour guide was one of the people that got forced out their homes. His heart felt guide gave us a true in site to how his life was during the tough times of apartheid and how him and his family suffered. You could see it in his eyes the pain and suffering he went through. I have so much respect for this man to re-live the hard times of his life to the public. He made me realise that know matter what skin colour, race, religion,age, gender we are all human beings and we all have feelings!
Today This Could Be The Greatest Day Of Our Lives
On the first night we visited the Manenburg Community Centre, this was the first chance we got to meet the people of South Africa and witness what their lives are like. Before I went to South Africa I told people that I would be visiting Manenburg and they were cautious because this is known as a red zone, an area which is high in crime, drug use and gang culture. At first while driving through I was wary myself. I saw things that night that I will remember for the rest of my life, as we drove to the community centre I looked out of the coach window and saw a man say about early 30's being beaten up by two men and this man was then left there all cut and bleeding. At this point I thought what am I doing in this place I am risking my life to meet people from South Africa who might not even like me. I even got told to keep hold tight of my bag, I was really wanting to go back home at this point and was dreading the next 5 hours spent with the community. However, I couldn't of been so wrong I walked into the community hall and what a reception they had laid out a great buffet they had music playing and a table tennis and pool table that we had previously raised the money for them to have. I couldn't help but notice to the left of the hall that there was a great big port vale flag, I felt right at home! I began to speak to some of the people there and a few people my age. My opinion quickly changed of them that they aren't some gangsters who wanted to beat me up or even kill me. These people were just the same as you and me but they just have an extremely different background and way of life. The people I met that night gave me a true in sight to what their life was like I was amazed at how little they had yet made the most of everything. That night as I sat down on the coach I had time to reflect on what I had learned and began to appreciate my life a lot more. I met some fantastic people and couldn't wait to see them again. As the coach pulled away the coach driver put the CD we made on and Take That- Greatest Day started to play. That song fitted perfectly and seemed to sum up our first day. Everybody was singing along and that had to be the starting point of when my life began to change.As part as our time over there we delivered sports coaching and play ground games to 2 primary schools, Talfalah and Jamaica and then had the chance to interact with the younger children of South Africa. Delivering the sports activities in this heat was unbearable but it was what we set out to do and it was the least I could of done for these children who lived for their education. We had the first group of 7-8 years olds and this was the time to show what all our hard work and effort was for. So the group of about 12 lined up so we could tell them what they could do. I will never forget what I saw this little boy much smaller than the rest was at the end he seemed very shy and couldn't make eye contact with us. He was standing their looking at the floor in a ripped stained vest and a pair shorts no shoes, nothing on his feet. This is what this little boy turned up to school in. From just seeing him standing there I wanted to do absolutely everything I could possible to give him the best time of his life lift his head up and put a smile on his face. At this point while one of the other students was discussing what we wanted them to do I decided to take him to one side and to talk to him. While I was talking to him he told me how he lives with his mum and dad and 14 other siblings I was taken back by this as he told me he lived in the shanty towns. So I tried to make him smile by giving him the encouragement to make him believe he was doing brilliantly. He had such a great talent for sport and it was great seeing him smile, it's something money just can't buy. Then it was break time for the children we stood at the side of the a huge gravel area then all of a sudden hundreds of children come running out of their classrooms and we were all crowded by them. They had never seen white people before in their lives so they thought that we were incredible, they made us sign their arms books and treated us like we were celebrities. I found this rather uncomfortable because they are the exact same as me and you but because we have a better lifestyle and a different colour skin they thought we were amazing. Me and a few other students felt the same way so we went around with pens and asked them to sign our arms and hands just to make them feel just as important as us. After break time we had the chance to go around to visit the children in their classrooms to see how education is different over there compared to here.
One thing I found out about every single school I visited is education is all these children are bothered about as it is their way out of the lifestyle they live now. I was speaking to 5 and 6 year olds who wanted to be lawyers and doctors who knew exactly what they had to do to achieve that. I found this astonishing if I asked a child of that age while working in a school over here what they wanted to do when they were older they wouldn't have such high goals. When we visited Talfalah Primary School they had and assembly in the playground. They started off by playing their school song then all of a sudden Whitney Houston- Greatest Love Of All started to play. Every child and staff sung a long, it was one of those moments where your hairs stand up on the back of your neck and arms and when you get a lump in your throat. It was unbelievable. I thought about why that song was their school song then I realised, " I believe children are the future teach them well and let them lead the way". That lyric says it all to be honest. If they teach the children well for them to achieve their dreams of becoming a doctor, lawyer, athlete, fashion designer or whatever high ambition they have then that is their way out of poverty.
We visited the Shanty Townships and had to have a police escort through as we were seen as extremely wealthy people going through the poorest area. Mickey came with us because this was where he grew up and knew the area well to tell us about it. Mickey told us that if we looked to the left this was one of the best houses in the area as I looked over I saw about a 6ft brick wall with metal sides and the roof was made out of what seemed to be anything possible, cardboard, wood, bits of scrap then the odd brick to stop it from blowing away. So this was one of the better houses? And I moan about the house that I live in that it isn't big enough. How selfish of me to think this when these people have made their homes from anything they could find and are more than happy with it as it is their safety and security. Now we were going further into the town ships and all around all I could see for miles were these small homes. The eye opener for me was when Mickey told us that there were 100,000 of these in this part of the Shanty Towns and at least 2 million people were living here. How on earth could this be healthy for these lovely people, they are like the size of my living room and they have all those people living there. It was the biggest eye opener of my life, who am I to moan about not having enough room when I have so much more than those. After every 50 houses there was a water pump which was good to see that they have some fresh water and then after about 300 houses they had about 4 portable toilets. It was nice to see something was being done to help these people have better personal hygiene. I just wish more could be done.
One place we visited while we were there was Busy Bees Day Nursery and as a childcare student I couldn't wait to go and interact with the younger children. We pulled up outside of the nursery and got reminded that it will be extremely different to what we see over here but to me the next few hours I spent with these children I wanted to make the most of and give them the time of their lives! Me and the 3 other childcare students were allowed to go into the baby room first, we knew before hand they didn't have much to play with so we had taken new toys that they could keep at the nursery. We walked into the baby room and there in front of us were 20 babies all just sitting and looking at us some sitting and crying. Looking after these children were 2 ladies, yes 2! For anyone who knows childcare well in the UK children aged 0-1 should have the ratio of one adult to every three children but this was one to every 10. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and felt sorry for these ladies as looking after three at a time can be a challenge at times. So we told them that they could sit back for the next hour and we took care of the babies we changed them, fed them, played with them and most importantly of all put a smile on their faces. The children have never had toys in the nursery to play with before they just had a concrete floor and about 3 cuddly toys to play with between them all. They really enjoyed having some stimulation.
After this we moved on to a 1-2 year old room. How little did I know about what the next hour would do to me. I went in the room again with hardly any toys and just a concrete floor and sat down with the children to sing nursery rhymes. A little girl in a pink jacket, jeans and black boots sat next to me and put her hand on my leg so I put my arm around her and the sad look on her face turned into the cheekiest smile I have ever seen she was beautiful. She was much more quieter than the rest of the children as they were all singing and dancing she just sat down with her hand on my leg. I started talking to the girl who had very little English and asked her if she wanted a cuddle, she just looked at me so I put my arms out and she jumped up and wrapped her arms around me and put and held on tightly so I stood up with her just then my tutor told me that it was time to visit another room, how could I leave this little girl, your not to meant have favourites but she was mine. I told her I had to go and still wouldn't let go from cuddling me. One of the staff at the nursery asked her where she was going she pointed to me and then the door, she wanted to come home with me. At this point every single emotion come flooding to me and I couldn't help but become emotional so started to get tears in my eye and a lump in my throat. I told her I would come back and give her a cuddle before I went so she smiled then waved and blew kisses to me. Well that was it I couldn't help but cry then. This was the first time I had become emotional on the trip and couldn't help it one bit. I played with the older children 3+ outside with tyres and balls I've never seen so many happy children in all my life it was over whelming at how lovely and well mannered they all were. After an hour of playing it was time to go, it was time to go and say goodbye to my favourite little girl so I went in the room and she come running up to me and wrapped her arms around me so I picked her up and told her that I had to go. After a quick photo (which is currently my picture on dooyoo) she kissed me on the cheek and said 'Love You'. I started to get all upset again and couldn't help but cry again. I didn't want her to see I was upset though but I spent at least another 5 minutes at the door waving while she was blowing me kisses, she gave me a smile and I knew that then it was time to go so walked away. Still to this day I feel emotional when I think about her and how beautiful she was, she's changed my life I always think about her.
While over in Cape Town we visited an AIDS orphanage and after how emotional I was at the day nursery I already had the tissues ready. We got off the coach and all the children were waiting at the gate, there are about 50 children this one lady looks after in what only can be best described as is two porta cabins. The children were aged between 5 months- 8 years old who all had AIDS and their parents had either died or left them. I walked in to one of the cabins where there were about 25 children in there sitting on plastic seats or on the floor. This was time that we could give them the gifts we had bought them they had cars, balls, trucks, stickers, fairy wings musical toys everything possible. They loved having their photos taken with stickers on their faces because most of the children had never seen what they looked like before and to see them smiling at something simple was great. I glanced over to my left and saw a room where none of the children were going and couldn't help but wonder what was in there however, I carried on playing with the children. A member of staff that came on the trip with us called me into this room I could here a baby crying and in this room
Pictures of 5 Life Changing Events in my Life
The Girl Who Changed My Life
there were 6 cots with 3 babies in each one. One of the little girls had just woken up and began to cry so I went to pick her up as soon as I did she stopped crying and began to giggle she was lovely. I couldn't believe that there were 3 babies in each cot, they all had flies around them it was just a real eye opener. I passed the little girl to another student and began to speak to play with a little boy sat in the corner with some cars and trucks. This little boy was very pleasant to me then he said to me 'Mummy you have this car'. This little boy thought I was his mummy, I just smiled and said thank you and swapped it for one of the trucks. Later I was speaking to the lady and mentioned that the little boy called me mummy, she began to tell me that this little boys mum had died as she had AIDS. I had to take a few minutes out as this was just heart breaking. You see it on the TV all the time but I was actually witnessing this first hand. I will never forget my time at the orphanage and will remember those children's smiles every time I'm not having a good day.
A Friendship Formed From The Other Side Of The World
On the last day we visited Manenburg High School, this was children more my age and this was the time where we told them about us and they told us about them. We visited a number of classes and learned a lot about the pupils of the school they all gave us such a warm welcome. The last class we were to visit in the morning was the oldest pupils of school they were in humanities. We delivered the presentation about ourselves and saw that there was one white boy at the front of the classroom the only white person in the school in fact. He just smiled at me so I smiled back. After we delivered the presentation we had chance to go and talk to them so I went and sat next to the white boy. His name was Frank and he was 19. we started talking about each others lives and he tried to tell me that he was from America but he wasn't he was actually Afrikaans and he wasn't too sure about why he was white. He began to tell me about his family and how he cares for his sick mum , I could relate to him really well as we have similar interests and similar things happen to us in our lives. We laughed and joked for the next half an hour before I had to go as it was lunch time. I knew that this was the last time I was probably going to ever see him which hurt a little as I had just began to got to know him. We had 2 hours for lunch once we had ours we had chance to talk play sport with them and sit with them while they had their break.
Mickey called me over to go into this one classroom to see what was happening, he said to me I'm not telling you what is happening in here go and interact with the students and you will learn a lot then he left. This time I had to find the confidence to speak to these people. There were two ladies in there serving a small portion of food ( a fist full) to each student in there. These children couldn't eat the food quick enough. After one boy had finished eating I went over to him and began to talk to him. I asked him if he liked the food and if he has similar at home. He started to tell me about how the children in this room don't get any other food they only have this one meal a day because they don't have the money to have food at home. I was amazed at how these children didn't have any food other than the small meal that they have when they are at school. I just couldn't imagine what they would do at the weekend. After a while Mickey came to talk to me and asked me if I found out what was happening so I told him what the little boy had told me and he said that the government fund them to do this as these children won't get any meals at home. It made me realise at how lucky I am to have food in the cupboards and can go and buy any at any time. I left the room to reflect on the what I have just witnessed. Just when someone tapped me on the shoulder I turned around and it was Frank. He was there, finally I got to speak to him again and for much longer this time. I learned a lot more about him and he was very kind to me. He gave me his Facebook so that once I got back to the England we could still keep in touch with each other. The bell rang and it was time for him to go back to his lesson and time for us to leave. We smiled at each other gave each other a hug and said that we would speak soon. I have made a true friendship with Frank I speak to him at least once a week on Facebook and we have regular contact with each other.
That night was our last night so we had organised a party at the community centre to give something back to the people of Manenburg we spent lots of money on food and all the local people enjoyed it very much we had the chance to talk to the friends that we made over the past 10 days. It was a brilliant and emotional night. That was the greatest day of my life and it will take a lot to change that. Once we had got back the hotel that night we had a meeting which gave us time to reflect on our time there. It was very emotional and most people cried as we were discussing how its changed our lives and how amazing the people we are that we have met.
My Life Will Never Be The Same
I have learned so much during my time in South Africa, I have learned never to make judgements about people because of their skin colour. I have also learned that my education is important, before the trip I was ready to quit college and not do anything but South Africa opened my eyes at how important it is to go to college and to get the qualifications I need to get a good job in the future. I have learned not to take the simple things of running water, food and my house for granted and to cherish everything I have. I have realised I am the luckiest person alive to have what I have and I have learned that I don't need the things like another pair of shoes or unnecessary things. South Africa has changed my life to put it simple. I have seen things that I have never even thought I would ever see. I always wanted to do a trip like this but at such a young age and an early stage in my life I never even dreamed of being able to do it. My life has changed so much I tell my mum everyday that I love her as I hardly ever used to do this. I am a much happier person now that I am back I had to change some things in my personal life and since I ave done this I am such a happier person. I went to Africa as a child and I have come back an adult it has matured me into a better caring person who is more ambitious and I now know what I want to do with my life. I now believe the people who told me it will be a life changing event. My hopes for the future since South Africa is to one day soon go back and visit all those lovely people and all the friends I have made. I want to go and do more work with the children and work in a school over there. I also hope to raise more money for the nursery and orphanage ( I have raised £300 since I have come back). South Africa changed my life.
Thank you for reading This is just an insight to my 11 days of the trip Louise