Village Heights and Garden Rout

Sorry friends, I actually meant to post this blog over two weeks ago but half of it got deleted and I’ve had quite a bit of trouble with wifi. If you’re interested in hearing more about my South Africa trip, I’ll be posting more in the days to come. I’m actually on my way back to the states now. Hope you all are doing well and see you soon.

7/13/15 Blog start:

Hard to believe that I’m a little over half way through my time here in South Africa and it’s not going to be easy for my to leave. The project I volunteer with is called The Gift of Hope, which works as a community center in the township Village Heights located Lavender Hill.   

   
(This last picture is of the playground at the back of the community center)

For the past few weeks the kids have been on their winter break from school so we’ve had tons of them at the site, which is fun but a lot to handle at times. We’ve had our hands full trying to tutor, play games, and go on trips with them to the nature reserve located just outside of the community center. Some days I’ll bring my banjo and sing a few songs with them. I think music is a powerful tool to teach them something or give them a new perspective on the world, and the kids seem to really enjoy it. While we do have a lot of fun with the kids, we also dig a little deeper into some of the issues the townships face and attempt to think through ways to solve them.

Some of the volunteers focus on issues of health or nutrition for these communities, something that is sorely needs improvement in all the townships. I’ve been interested in understanding more about the issues of gangs that dominate much of the townships. It’s not uncommon for young teens to get caught up in these gangs and this often leads them to commit crimes, go to prison, and in some cases die at an early age. For many of these kids, there isn’t much other influence to prevent them from joining these gangs. Some of their parents have drug problems and often spend their money feeding their addiction instead of feeding their children. My hope is that we can show these kids that there are other paths their lives can take. One that doesn’t continue in this cycle of gangsterism and poverty that effects so many communities. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but from what I’ve seen, these kids need a more positive influence in there life. Friends who can play games with them, mentors who can teach them the importance of morals and kindness and respect, and people who can love them unconditionally. Unfortunately, the site is lacking a bit of support from the main office and while we can brainstorm all day about ways to solve some of these problems, as volunteers we aren’t here long enough to see these project through to their end. Still I feel blessed to be a part of such an incredible community and that I have been able to touch the lives of others as they have touched mine.

This past weekend I was privileged to go on a garden rout tour of the southern coast of Africa. We did some safari tours, went zip lining, stayed on an incredible beach, and much more. Below are a few photos of the trip.  

                 
This trip has been an absolute blast so far! The South African culture is incredible and a lot of fun to be in, but a lot of it has to do with the other volunteers I’ve gotten to know. People like Tatiana (US) and Will (Spain) and Elise (Scotland) and Jesse (Holland) and Caroline (US) have made this trip more fun than I could have imagine. And because the volunteers are all international it’s allowed me to peer into the insight of people from around the world. And you know what? We’re really not all that different.

Much love. Many blessings.

We are unstoppable; another world is possible.

BenUndertheBridge

As I begin this blog and reflect upon my experiences, I begin by quoting Mahatma Ghandi:

Recall the face of the poorest and most helpless person you have seen and ask yourself if the next step you contemplate is going to be of any use to that person.

Through this blog I aim to share my journey and what I learn along the way.  Tomorrow I board a flight to South Africa where I will spend 5 weeks in a country where Ghandi too lived and learned the importance of living for others.

I am so grateful for this opportunity and hope to share what I see and hear and experience with you.