By Niamh Fanthom
“Dumela”, meaning “hello”.
I have learned that this is the most significant and probably the most valuable word in my Tswetswana vocabulary. One may think that it lacks depth; but from one stranger (me) to another (a fellow South African), here in Rustenburg this one simple word creates conversation and friendships.
Throughout the week we travelled by van from one squatter camp to another, observing the shacks or houses built by the people living there. People were staring at you while you stared back at them. But a lot of them were smiling as they stared and waving at you as they strolled by. A simple thumbs-up or wave and you felt welcome by the community. The children wanted to touch thumbs and replied with a happy “dumela”.
On the other side of things, I have become great friends with the volunteer group here in Rustenburg. From day 1, the SERVE volunteer group have transformed swiftly from familiar faces to great friends. It was bizarre to me that we barely knew one another and we had a two day journey ahead of us. However, we soon realised that each one of us were determined to become a team.
At Tsholofelo, we are split into rooms. I am delighted to be bunking with Sarah from Waterford and Caroline from Limerick. We get on like a house on fire. Sarah wakes us up in the morning with her tin whistle practise which gets us out of bed and ready for work. Then after a long day of work, Caroline supplies the after sun and hand creams. Going to bed is a laugh – hearing about each of our days and the different trials and tribulations we experienced on each site.
Overall, each day starts with a “dumela” and you feel like you belong here just as much as you belong at home in Ireland.