Monday, 29 April 2013

The Adventures of Ali: A Fair Trade Volunteer

Ali, a young Israeli come Cape Townian, recently joined the Fair Trade Travel Pass to explore the country that she now calls home. Travelling from Cape Town to Jo'burg on the BazBus, Ali enjoyed a 21 day adventure and had a very eye opening experience!
During the pass she spent a week in Chintsa, a night at Buccaneers Backpackers followed by a week on the Wild Coast Schools Project. She documented her time here with some stunning blogs and photos highlighting the volunteers experiences and day-to-day life on this Fair Trade volunteer project. 

Below you will find excerpts of Ali's blog and some of our favorite photos. Click on the link at the end of each section to read the original blog in full and see more of Ali's stunning photos.

The First Day on Project

The kids lining up outside the mobile
computer lab "being birds" with
Ash - the volunteer co-ordinator
"Today we were teaching grades 0 - 2; children between the ages of 3 to 8 years old. 

...I have never been crazy about kids. I was never one of those females that melted when they saw a baby come past... 
This was the first time I had interacted with children with a sense of 'conviction'. These kids from a little village in the middle of no where. Snot and food everywhere, climbing on top of you, desperately pushing for their turn to touch your umlungu (Xhosa for white person) hair.

We were teaching 13 kindergartners how to fiddle around on Microsoft Paint. Ah readers, try bare in mind that we only have 10 computers, as well as the fact that toddlers as they are struggle to communicate with adults and have minimum attention span. Try adding a language barrier in on top of those factors and that is when my throat closes in...It is hard in the beginning. You begin to doubt whether you being here is worth anything. You feel as if no amount of hand signals or examples that you give them are being recognizedBut Ash [the volunteer co-ordinator] is super supportive, and he is so patient with the kids. 

One of the older kids working at her task in the lab
...With each grade that we taught today, I could see the difference in progress levels. The younger kids would fiddle on Paint and lose concentration along the way. The higher the grade, the more work they were able to cover in the 30 minutes each class was allocated. They had moved on to making Tally Charts and Spreadsheets on Microsoft Excel...and you know what the best part was? Knowing that they had all started off fiddling on Paint  and losing focus.

But the most important thing is that one day, these children might graduate from school - and if they are lucky - they will apply for their turn in a tertiary level institution. And for those children living in Chintsa East village, maybe one day, they will think back to their computer lessons; they might think back to Ash and I, and the other volunteers who gave up their time to simply try; and they will be able to open up Internet Explorer, download a University application form, fill it out online, and with the greater hopes of humanity - become a university graduate."

Ash high fiving one of the kids for his achievement

Life as A Volunteer and Chintsa Sports Development

The Big Green eMachine - solar powered computer
lab. And Chintsa East School in the background
"...I stood just in front of the Land Rover as they all came running - this swarm of midgets - hugging and pulling at my clothes. I was back in the village to teach more computer literacy, and it was a lot less taxing on the emotions than it had been the day before. Today Ash and I were managing a group between the ages of 9 and 12 years old.

...Yesterday afternoon I returned back to the commune where I would be living until Friday with Ash and three Brazilian volunteers: Paula, Ilana and Bianca. The house and the volunteers are cared for by a woman named Kwesi who will mother you to the end of the Earth and back, regardless of your background, skin colour, religious affiliation or age. On my return to the volunteer house that afternoon, I spotted two gourmet sandwiches cling-wrapped to a plate with my name neatly scribbled over the wrap in black koki.
Kwesi had made us all lunch.

[In the afternoon] Ash, Tobs (a local and permanent employee of VA32'South) and Mike ( VA32'South director) decided to take the volunteers for a ride on the rubber duck boat- [a fun free activity and] a break from the responsibility we had over the children.

Volunteer warming up
for sports with the
kids in the village
One of the smaller
kids during sports
After the boat ride we head off to the sports field which was built in the village, not far off from the junior school. Here the volunteers coach sports twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday afternoons). It is a good opportunity to teach the kids how to maintain positive attitudes, support self-empowerment and introduce aesthetic upliftment."
Sports development in full swing on Tuesday afternoon

The Orphanage Initiative

'It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon, and I found myself here, in the GreenSleeves Children's Home (orphanage) staring down into a set of big brown eyes on this gorgeous little brown face, falling in love with a little brown boy who is roughly around the age of 2.5/3 years old. His name? Buhle. 

Paula teaching basic computer
skills at the orphanage

...The other volunteers spent the afternoon teaching the older children of the orphanage computer literacy on the laptops from the Big Green E-Machine, while I ran after four very energetic toddlers by the names of David, Thando, Amosa and Buhle.

...Things are tough this side. They are definitely not as easy as I thought they would be, and here I am on a little farm in the middle of the Eastern Cape just trying to work through the motions of the emotions, beside these little children who have either been orphaned, abandoned or abused.

Me playing with my new friends at the orphanage :)

...I stood there clutching at the ends of my shirt. It broke my chest to see these children so hungry for the small pocket of affection that I had to give. I was a stranger to them. I was there for 3 short hours, and yet they embraced me as one of their own, proud to show me what they now call home.

As the afternoon came to an end, we drove away back down the dirt road from which we had come, back to Chintsa East in silence. I can't explain it, but the tears came on hot and thick - and then they were promptly blasted off my face by the open windows which were responsible for the hot air gushing through the old Citi Golf VW.

I sit here with a heavy heart and think back on the day, and I realize how thankful I am to have had Ash and the other volunteers with me. They have all been here approximately 5 weeks already and have had the time to work through these experiences, together. It is good to have other people here who are doing the same thing that I am doing. In a sense, it means I have someone to talk through how I am feeling about these experiences the past few days have had to offer. I am beginning to understand how much people can really mean to me. I am beginning to understand how much people can really need each other too. I suppose we are all a source of comfort for one another in the end. Us to the children. The children to us. Us to one another."

Me, Milton (VA32 staff), Paula and Ilana - it really is important
to have people to share your experiences with

Reflections, Chintsa Feeding Scheme and Moving On...

"I put my feet up on the dashboard and sunk low into my seat, snapping the last of my pictures, as I made my final drive back into the village. Today was my last day with the children. I knew from the start that this day would come, but my heart was still suffocated with the idea of ‘goodbyes’.

...I decided to spend the day with the pre-schoolers and their teacher (and caretaker) Mama Phumla. When Mama Phumla is not busy with this pre-school, she runs a safe-house for children who are abused, neglected, or victims of alcoholic guardians. She will have anything from 10 to 30 children in her small home in the rural village per/night whom she does her best to feed, cloth and house. All on her own.

Only 17 of the 44 pre-schoolers that she cares for are registered to be [at the preschool]. When I asked Phumla how much it costs to register a child, she replied R20 per/month. That is R240 a year which only 17 of the children's families can afford to cover. Often these children are dropped off at the pre-school really early in the morning, before 8am, as their parents are working far from home in different towns such as East London. As a result they often return late in the evening after school has finished. Mama Phumla watches over these children for this entire time, before returning home to care for those who form a part of her safe-house. This expense also covers one wholesome, nutritious meal per day, which in the majority of cases is the only meal which these children will see in a day. 

When I heard this truth, I came to the realization that I had been spending over R35 on a box of Camel Light cigarettes a day (if I was only smoking a pack a day). This meant that I could almost send 2 children to school for one month in a SINGLE day with the money that I had been spending on smokes. I figure that if I am not sponsoring children with this money, I could be doing something a lot better and productive with it than buying cigarettes."

"Chow-down: This is probably the most festive part of the school day for a volunteer - the act of watching the children eat their food. Hungry and eager to shove as much as they can into their mouths as fast as possible. A different culture, the children eat with their hands, smiles painted with bits of food"


**Ali's blog is a great example of what VA32 education volunteers experience and the initiatives that they take part in in Chintsa. To find out more about the Wild Coast Schools or other education projects visit our website at or email

Thanks for sharing Ali! :) 

1 comment:

  1. Much obliged to have this post read. I love the things you've done and provided upon visiting the place. It's a heart whelming experience within you. The organization really done a good job. Thanks for sharing. :) where to buy soundcloud reposts