-By Karina McGinley
The second week has finished and the dust (or in South Africa’s case the beautiful, vibrant, orange clay) has well and truly settled. We are now well acquainted with the Tsholofelo and Tapalogo communities. The following is a brief summary of a week in the (very busy) life of a SERVE volunteer.
Saturday: We travelled with the ‘Step Up and Serve’ Volunteers to Pilanesburg Game Reserve where we went on a safari and seen the majority of the ‘Big Five’, including lions, elephants and rhinos. It was an incredible and authentic experience. Sunday: On Sunday we attended our first African Liturgy in Mabiskra. It was an awe inspiring ceremony that is forever embedded in my mind. The ceremony was conducted was Fr. Ken Cooney, a charismatic priest in the Tswana language. Fr Cooney is a native of Cork but has been living in South Africa for 25 years; he is a fountain of knowledge on African culture and gave a development education talk on Friday to our group. At the mass, which was dedicated to grandmother’s gifts including bread, oranges, slippers and bed clothes were distributed. His development education talk, an important facet of the SERVE experience, was fascinating he talked at great length about witch doctors and burial practices.
Monday- Friday: Work had finished in Kroondal and now a large group of volunteers travelled to Nkaneng to commence work on a new crèche. This crèche is necessary as a tavern has opened up beside the existing facility. The new site will incorporate a play park, a crèche and a vegetable garden. Work performed on this site included fencing, raking, digging, levelling, grass-cutting, painting and general building work. All this was performed by hand as it is deemed disrespectful to hire machinery when manual labour is available. This work is a collaborative effort between SERVE and ‘Step Up and Serve’ Volunteers. These volunteers are a fantastic bunch of young men and women whose motto is ‘Stepping Towards Excellence’. These young people juggle education and work with the mammoth amount of volunteer work they carry out on an all year round basis and not just when the SERVE Ireland volunteers are staying within their tight knit community.
Tuesday Evening: We had a development education session with Sister Georgina Boswell, a member of the Tsholofelo community where we are residing, on HIV/ AIDS. This was a concise but enlightening talk on how to prevent, treat and the prevalence of HIV/ AIDS. This is a problem of endemic proportions in South Africa where rates are said to be over 50% in some of the squatter camps we have been working in. Sr Georgina is a nurse and has founded and sustained clinics for HIV/ AIDS and OVC’s (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) in large camps such as Cisa, Freedom Park and Boitekong.
Friday: This was Madiba Day and the highlight of my time in South Africa so far. Mandela Day is celebrated on the 18th July as it is Mandela’s birthday. For this special day we attended the Tsholofelo Community Cultural Youth Day. This was organised by Brother Moalusi Ramaoka, a resident in the Tsholofelo community who is exceptionally passionate about youth work and adult education. This day was so wonderful because of the talent on display and the fact that all the participants were from nearby squatter camps. The theme of the day was peer pressure and the participants presented poems, traditional dancing, drama and gospel singing. The majority of the drama and poetry pertained to HIV and was highly emotive. This weekend we are travelling to Maropeng The Cradle of Human Kind and the Haartebeespoort Dam. On Sunday we will go to our second African liturgy in St Peter’s Church Tlhabane and then proceed to a traditional Braii (similar to a Barbeque but with made with wood) at Simon Hartley’s home, the manager for physical infrastructure and maintenance for Tapalogo, one of two partners of SERVE in South Africa.