Monday, 17 December 2012

Volunteering in Chintsa Through Sofia & Annika's Eyes

Moloweni! Kunjani?

We've been traveling around for almost 1 and a half months right now and during 2 weeks of this time we spent some lovely time in Chintsa. We started off our trip in Africa in Namibia and the capital Windhoek and moved south into South Africa. When we found ourselves in Cape Town we decided that we wanted to use the BazBus Hop-on-Hop-off ticket and when looking through our alternatives on their website we saw that they offered a package deal, which included a certain amount of week volunteering. This had been something that we had been very interested in already before and were therefore very intrigued when we discovered this option. So we bought ourselves a BazBus volunteering package and head off along the coast to experience the lovely Garden Route before reaching Chintsa where we would volunteer in schools.
During our travels up the coast we passed Hermanus, Wilderness, Jeffreys Bay, Port Elizabeth, Hogsback and finally ended up in West Chintsa at Buccaneers Backpackers. We stayed here over the weekend and spent some time at the beach and just relaxing. During the Monday Karen from Volunteer Africa 32 Degrees South (VA32) picked us up in their minibus to bring us on to the Eastern side of Chintsa and the Volunteer Africa office. Here we got ourselves a very accurate introduction to the project and learned a bit of history about how it all started. Mike greeted us with a PowerPoint presentation and updated us about what was expected from us while we were volunteering.

Us in the vollie house with Katie, Lais and Ian!
When finished with orientation we met our fellow volunteers Ian, Lais and our co-ordinator Katie. Together we drove to our "vollie"-house and settled our bags there. This was the start of our experience with VA32 and we were excited to continue.

Working as a volunteering teacher is very interesting and brings a lot of experiences. Our responsibilities included working with kids aged from grade R to 7, teaching them computer literacy and also doing valuations and planning out the coming week.

The next day we started for real, it was time to meet all of the kids and do everything in practice. The first day we all went to Chintsa East School, so that we could watch when the other volunteers teaching and get a feeling of what was expected of us. We used “The Big Green E-Machine”, which is a Land Rover that’s been remade into a mobile computer lab running on solar. It’s a great machine, built by a creative mind. With this they can reach out to children in various places letting the children have the opportunity to use computers with some guidance. During this day we were going through the Water Cycle and teaching them how to create a PowerPoint presentation using the function “Auto Shapes”. After a small introduction they started creating their own Water Cycle; searching for the shape of the sun, the cloud and being creative when creating water. Your job as a volunteer includes observing the children and seeing if any of them need any help or guidance, the tricky part is to see the difference between insecurity and actual lack of knowledge - you want the children to have the confidence to do things by themselves.

Hoorah for the space of Bulugha lab and the blackboard!
During the first week a lot of time was spent on getting the feeling of what the job is about, how to separate the different grades and deciding which level the lessons need to be taught. The second day at the project we went to Bulugha School with Katie as our supporter. Here we had an actual built in computer lab with a blackboard to use and lots of leg space (compared with the crowded E-Machine!). It took us the rest of the week to get a good feeling of how we were going with everything, but we had loads of fun and the kids were very disciplined and eager to learn more things about the computers!

Creative teaching when things don't
go to plan!
The second week we started actually getting into the feeling of being teachers and we started being more creative with planning out the lessons and trying to challenge them more, letting them excel. One thing that you have to include when your doing volunteering here in Chintsa though, is that you can’t really expect everything to work exactly as you have planned it out to, so be relaxed and don’t take everything for granted (always have a backup-plan for everything!). We've had days when we didn’t get much work on the computers done, sometimes depending on massive rainfall, power shortage or just a whole-school netball game. The important thing is to keep an open mind and always be ready to abandon your previous plans and use your imagination to do something new.

But despite the unexpected events the time here in Chintsa has been wonderful; the small set-backs are nothing in comparison to seeing the progress and happiness of the kids when they accomplish a new task at the computer. We’ve woken up with a smile on our face every morning at 7 o’clock, eager to arrive at the school and start the work and meet the students, staff and teachers at Bulugha. If you’re lucky you even get to meet some giraffes and zebras enjoying their breakfast at the game reserve behind the school premises!

We’re going to miss everything here in Chintsa when we now continue our journey through Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania; how are we going to survive without Kwezi’s food, movie-time in the vollie house and the joyful challenge of teaching the kids every day? We really don’t know, but what we do know is that we have great memories of an even greater time working with the Wild Coast Schools Project here in Chintsa with wonderful people, places and schools.

Salani kahkule to everyone and thank you for a great experience!
Sofia & Annika

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