Friday, April 20, 2012

Team Zoomer Takes Durban

Team Zoomer?

During the months of March and April, the old white Corsa has taken on the identity of "Zoomer," and has been busy transporting the team of Rachel, Abi, and Lauren to various projects in the Durban area.  Here's what we've been up to:

Clermont After-School Program

We've partnered with an NGO called NOAH that is already based at the Christianenburg Primary School in the Clermont township, headed by a spectacular woman named Thabiso Hatshatsi.  The focus of NOAH's "arks" in various townships around KZN and Gauteng is to provide a safe after-school environment for orphans, vulnerable children, and children affected by HIV/AIDS.  In addition to games and educational programming, the students are also fed a full meal every weekday afternoon.  Thabiso wanted someone to come in and help run some of the programming, so that's where we came in.

Each Thursday, we work with an energetic group of about 50 students from nearby schools that have been identified as vulnerable.  They range in ages from about 7-15, and represent a broad range of abilities, engagement, and English skills.  We've tried to pair life skills lessons with fun activities, and have covered topics such as basic first aid, sewing, swimming (there's a community pool just down the road, but many of them have never learned to swim!), team sports, origami, and how to follow a recipe.

We really wanted to teach the students some basic cooking skills, but were faced with the obstacle of not having any source of heat or accessible electricity.  So, we decided we could still teach them how to follow a recipe and use measuring tools-- while making play doh.

Everyone wanted bright colours, so a lot of food colouring was used.  Some of it ended up staining our hands... 

The students had to combine forces and work in groups to sculpt monsters with their finished product.  (Apparently the group on the far right interpreted this as "make a birthday cake.")

Thabiso chose the winning group, who demonstrated a lot of advanced technique.  Ferocious-looking.

Basic first aid was also a big hit, and we hope some of what they learned will serve them well in future situations.  We covered how to deal with burns, cuts, seizures, choking, and what they should do if they find someone unconscious.  Ambulance service in South Africa is notoriously slow, so any basic knowledge they can apply can help to keep a situation under control until professional help (eventually) arrives.

Lamontville English Class/ Homework Club

On Wednesday afternoons we run an English class with the Lamontville youth.  They're also encouraged to bring homework with them, so that we can help them understand assignments, or tutor them in math or science concepts.  We've been using a curriculum that Jude kindly developed and left behind (thanks, Jude!), and the kids are loving it.  The class is aimed at ages 10-15, but we have a lot of little ones who come along for a good time.  They sit down and colour while the others participate in the lesson, (at least, that's what is supposed to happen...)

It's incredibly impressive how after a full day of school, these kids are so keen to come and learn more.  When they've completed a task, they'll run up to get their work checked over, and beam with pride at the slightest reinforcement.  

 They're quite a tenacious group, and readily ask questions when they don't understand something.  They're also a good time:  after a rhyming activity that resulted in them presenting raps to the class, one student instructed us "now you can call me 'Smooth.'"  Naturally, we've complied.


A classic volunteer favourite, we've taken up running Bible classes on Friday afternoons for the student's at Happy's (The Mason Lincoln Special School for Students with Physical Impairments).  It's always an interesting challenge planning the crafts to go along with the lessons, because their is such a broad range of physical abilities, and some students really struggle with fine motor skills.  It always seems to result in big smiles, though.

These kids are an amazing testament to perseverance in the face of adversity.  
 So many smiles.

Clermont Good News Centre and Sunday School

We've ended up teaching several  Sunday school classes at the Clermont ecclesia, and love the atmosphere of the Sunday service.  Our introduction to the ecclesia was on the Sunday that Durban caught the edges of a tropical storm, and the rain poured down, both inside and out (note the bucket in the middle of the circle to catch the drips coming through the roof).
Despite the wet introduction, Clermont has definitely grown in our hearts, and one of the Sunday school students also attends the after-school club at Christenenburg, so we get to see her multiple times a week.

 Note to future volunteers:  this is Wanda, he is the naughtiest boy at Clermont Sunday school.  He is also irresistibly cute.  You have been warned.

Sometimes Clermont gets so much sunshine. 

Creche Theme Workshops:  Lamontville and Mariannhill

Another one of our projects is running theme workshops at the Lamontville and Mariannhill Good News Centre creches, modeling teaching skills and strategies for the teachers that work there.  Conveniently, this task also includes spending lots of time with all the babies.

Rachel works in a nursery in the UK, so she brings a good deal of expertise to our creche work.  She also has secret baby-whispering skills.  They all want to be as close as possible to her at all times.

Abi is in the midst of a degree in child psychology, so she's also in her element in the creches.

Pile-up (on Rachel, of course), during story time.  The Zulu/English language barrier can be challenging at times, but we quickly learned "hlala phansi!" ("sit down!")

Only one month left?
We've been having a fantastic time sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God with so many children in the Durban community.  And of course, along the way, they've taught us so much about why Jesus said it belongs to such as these.  Good news indeed.

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