Wow. I am back in Germany for a month already. Back home after 11 months in South Africa, working for WhizzKids United. My journey back was very strange. Even on my last day in SA, the 10th of September, I still could not believe that I had to go. That place was home for me. I had so many great, sad, interesting, exciting, funny and happy moments there and I also had my daily routine. To leave WhizzKids and to leave the life behind me which I built up for one year just felt unreal. It broke my heard to say goodbye to all my friends and colleagues.
And then I came home to Germany and expected me to feel like a stranger, who probably changed its personality and attitude. But nothing like this happened so far. My family, friends and boyfriend welcomed me straight away and as soon as I was surrounded by so many familiar people, I just felt like I have never been gone. However, it took some days to actually realize, that I left SA for good and that my life continues in Germany now. And I enjoyed things I missed too much during this year: Talking in my mother tongue “franconian”, having loooong days with sunset at about 9 o´clock, chatting with my best friends while sitting right next to them, sleeping as long as I want to without stressing that I will miss out something very exciting, eating German bread and walking around at night on my own. Everything was so familiar and easy that I had no problems to fall back in my old routines. The easy adjustments also lead to the fact, that my time in Africa lost credibility. My stay abroad felt like a big dream, unreal and too good to be true. Strange, hey? I just came back but still cannot believe that I have been there.
Anyway, time went on and I had a great time with Nana, a South African girl who spends one year in Bremen. She came down to the south of Germany to visit me for five days. Together we went out, did some tourist-stuff and spent a lot of time to do some preparations and to participate at a traditional harvest festival. It was so much fun for me to change sides and make her to experience our traditions, make her wear a “dirndl” and show her around in the area. It was amazing as Nana is open to everything new and a very kind and cute person. As a tradition we carved and hollowed out pumpkins to light them in the dark with candles. I wrote “Ngisekhaya” on mine. It’s the Zulu word for “I am home”. Which is true: I feel like home. But on the other side I miss Africa now. I miss all my friends and colleagues: Sli singing her songs all day long, Nobuhle asking about home visits, Sanele laughing out loud, Khe joking with the kids, Caroline telling Durban news, Siya calming me down, Clyde talking about gym… It was amazing to be abroad and to work at WhizzKids. They make it so easy for volunteers to feel home and welcome, even for me as a (in the beginning) shy and quiet person. Part of my heart will always stay in Africa. And I think this is how it should be. I am happy that I got the chance to experience all of this and learned to think outside the box. I hope that I can use all the developed skills and my knowledge in my further studies.
In conclusion, I never regret for a second that I went abroad. It helped me to become a stronger, more educated and more independent person. I see things with different eyes and appreciate some things much more than before. During the next months I will probably realize in random situations what I have learned and how my behavior changed. I am looking forward to this. But above all I won a family abroad – people who like me and miss me too. And I hope to get the chance to get back to meet my brothers and sisters soon.
I know every one is curious to know about what I have been up to this month. Well, everything is going quite, but as they always say there is no place like home. You can have all the fun in the world, but there is always that space in my heart that misses home, my family, friends and my boyfriend, or how can I forget WhizzKids Family.
But yet I am still learning and having fun this side. The weather is starting to get really cold in this country. I have already started wearing layers of clothes. I don’t even care about looking good anymore, but it’s funny because it not even winter, yet. I am so not looking forward to German winter, but anyway my skin is beautiful now, that’s what I like.
Want to know what I did this month? I participated in the seminar of the outgoing volunteers for two weeks. It was really nice to spend some time with them. I learned a lot from them, even though sometimes they spoke deep Deutsch that I couldn’t understand. That is still a challenge to me, it is not easy to learn this language. I can understand what they say but talking is not easy. I find myself saying “Ich sprech nicht Deutch” (I don’t speak German) or “Keine Ahnung” (I don’t know). I use these lines to avoid speaking German. It’s not because I don’t want to, but because it is hard for me to talk to some people.
Then I worked at the office, assisting my manager in some event planning. I have learned a lot from her in two weeks. She is an inspiration to me. It is nice to work with someone who appreciates your effort. I have been working a lot with excel and translating some documents from German to English (without Google it wasn’t easy), sitting in meetings taking notes, sharing ideas I have on event planning - that felt so good. Thanks to WhizzKids United’s Game Changers Programme because I learned all these ideas from it.
There was trade fair open day in the city center and I participated by playing the quizzes. I went to all the stations and won a lot of chocolate. Fair trade staff cost a lot hey, but I had all those costly chocolate for free on that day and I also won a voucher to buy anything I want in a fair trade shop just for guessing how many beans of coffee were there in a container.
Now, I am planning to go on holiday but you will here tell you more about that next month next month.
The first of week of this month (August) I was helping in a holiday program called WUUP,it teaches kids of 7 to 13 years of age about the environment and nature. They also play some fun educational games. I enjoyed myself there and I also learned new games from the kids.
On the second week I was helping in another holiday program (kinder wilderness) where kids are being taught to do sculptures using stones,wire and wood. This was part of learning for me as well ,I made a hippo and fish using a special stone. I sculptured a woman with wire. I also learned to polish a stone and to make a necklace out of it. The third week We had a seminar as the incoming volunteers to talk about our stay in Bremen so far, our personal, profetional and gerneral experiences, intercultural exchange and our expectations. I also learned to draft a proper business proposal in this seminar.
We went to Klimahaus (Climate house) with my Bremen family on Friday in Bremerhaven. It was my second time going their but I was still amazed by the different stations of different countries and shocked to see how climate change destroy the enviroment. And we went to Oldenburg to have a lunch at Sylvia and Fritz house (our bosses). They prepared lot of mouth watering food it was really great.
Even though I am having so much fun in this country, but I always find myself missing home, especially in this month of August. I wouldn´t say I am homesick, because to me it is not a sickness; it is simply about missing a place that is filled with loved ones.
This month I have had lot of fun here in Germany. I would first like to tell you about my participation in the Bremen Global Championship, which was at the Sportgarten. There were different schools participating in differnt stations and in our station we were playing South African indigenous games (Umlabalaba and three teen) with the Kids. It was amazing, the kids loved our games.
There were a few hot days in Bremen and we went to swim in a lake (a man made beach). It was nice, I really enjoyed those two sunny days in Bremen. Then there was a huge Bremen ferstival (Bremenale). I must say Bremen rocks. I have never seen an event with so many people in my whole entire life. It was amazing and the perfomance I liked most was the regay music perfomance by a Mexican group.
We were invited by Sylvia to Oldenburg for concert of Nomfusi, a South African Afrofussion singer, which was great. On that day it was raining hard, but because we were dancing and having fun we did not pay attention to the rain. Only after the concert was over I realised that I was soaked in water and I felt cold, but I could not do anything about it, because Bremen was far away from where we were. Sylvia took us to a restaurant where we had a nice coffee with a smile and that smile in the coffee made me forget that I was cold and my house is far from where Oldenburg is.
Then we went to visit different Organizations to see their work and to also try and get placements in the summer holidays programms that they have. Lucky enough we can partcipate for a week in each Organization and I have started my first week in Marßel - a youth sport club - this last week of July. It was amazing. I liked working with kids even though sometimes I struggled to understand them, but kids make sure that you get to understand what they want and that helped me to learn few new words from them. And I got lot of chocolate as a gift on my last day, and flowers and a drum.
Now I am living in a student Wohnhaus (residence), in a place called Fahr. I moved on thursday and I love my new room. It is nice and bright.
That all for now, I will give you guys more information at end of next month. Love you all.
June was basically the language course month. I spent four weeks in a language course which was a great experience and an opportunity to meet people from other countries like Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Lebanon, Libya, India, Mexico, South Korea etc. This gave me a chance to get to know other countries by having a chat with those guys. It was amazing. We were like a big family from different countries, because we all got along with each other so well. It was not easy at all to say goodbye on the last day of the language course (25 June).
About the German language itself - I can now have a conversation, but I don´t want to lie; sometimes I know what to say but it´s hard to put it in the right words. Especially when someone only wants to speak deutsch. I then just freeze and go: Ich spreche ein bisschen Deutsch (I speak a little German). But I try to get better.
On the morning of the 25th we did presentations about the organisations that we have been working with back home to some German school kids and their teachers. I really enjoy talking about WhizzKids United. There was one teacher who asked me if it is possible that we could do our presentations in schools and the kids liked the fact that there are organisations that work closely with communities. I think that it was a great thing to do and I noticed that German kids don´t know that some countries are not developed as Germany.
We had a nice trip to Kletterwald Kraxelmaxel in Oldenburg. It was a great experience. I always thought that I am afraid of height, but I think I was fooling myself. It was simply because I have never got a chance to test myself before. I am saying this because when I got there, I got too excited. I kept trying and trying different levels and it was an amazing experience. I would like to get a chance to do it again I wouldn´t let it pass me by.
We also went to see the beautiful Sportgarten. It is a unique place for people to come and play. It has a skating court, basketball field, two soccer fields and beach volleyball. It is awesome place. I liked it from the first sight. It is a wonderful place. I know skating is not a popular thing in S.A, but here you can find a 6 year old skating and you can see that kids enjoy this. What I liked the most is that parents are also part of it. Some come and play with their kids and even if they are not playing, they can just stay around. It is not like they are being forced to do it, because they can just drop their kids and fetch them later, and some come on their own, but most parents are involved and they are responsible for their kids.
Ich mag Deutschland und Ich find Deutschland sehr schön. (I like Germany and I find Germany very beautiful)
What an exciting journey we had in this first season of the Mixed Gender League. The league uses the football3 methodology, which was a new thing for our youth. I believe the 2014 Football for Hope Festival in Brazil, where I represented my country as a Young Leader and mediator and where I had to lead integration together with the mediators from around the world, taught me to bring home and implement what I learnt. It created a big change and a wonderful break for a lot of countries around the world.
The recruitment started and there was no turning back for me from being the coordinator of such a big programme. I was working with an awesome team - Game Changers and Sanele Nsele, the Homework Coordinator. The first season started, we were working with 8 schools, 8 teams, 4 boys and 4 girls each, and a total number of 64 participants for the season. It was difficult at first having to go to each school explaining to them the concept and the aims of the Mixed Gender League. Some schools wanted to be part of the league but couldn’t because of transport issues and the distance, so we had to keep pushing and find other schools. One school told us they would be part of the league but when the date came for them to play they didn’t show up, but that didn’t stop us we had to keep going and we did until we completed it and we had 8 schools.
Once the ball was kicked for the first match, the teams started understanding the rules and the ways of football3, teaching them about gender equity, fair play rules, and working as a team to achieve a common goal. Every Tuesday and Thursday the teams showed up. Even the teachers came to watch their particular teams perform. This was encouraging to see that there was support from the school body as well.
The final day of the Mixed Gender League was on the 12th of June. It was amazingly positive how the players reflected the spirit of teamwork and respect. At the end, it was amazing to hear the participants’ overall feedback on what they learnt from our Mixed Gender League.
We did our work perfectly well. I was an amazing development from the challenges to the achievements of the whole idea of Mixed Gender League. The excitement still hasn’t gone down on us. It has been really amazing. The two teams from the final had the same amount of points after the league matches and the game went penalties after a 1-1 draw after regular time. The heroics of the Edendale Tech goalkeeper won it for his team. He saved 3 consecutive penalties. He even had to step up for his team and scored his penalty. The sport teachers of both schools were there in the action to support their teams.
After the match the teams were both awarded gold medals and a beautiful orange football for the school. The team from Mehlokazulu finished the league in 3rd place and received silver medals. There was a lot of singing and celebrations in the stands from the supporters, singing traditional Zulu songs of victory. It created a very positive vibe to the match and the Health Academy as a whole. The teachers of the two finalists also received medals as a token of appreciation to their interest and support!
I am ready for the next season.
My name is Franziska Distler and I am a German volunteer at WKU. I am very lucky to get the opportunity to spend almost one year in South Africa. The longer I am here, the more I have gotten involved in the WhizzKids United programs and the more I am learning.
As a 23-year old girl who just came out of university without much work-experience, I get the chance to explore my strengths and weaknesses in a nice working environment. Most of my time I spend on organizing our life-skill program for students “On The Ball” and our weekly “School Shuttle Service” we just introduced. These tasks make me stay in close contact with principals and teachers around our Health Academy so I am quite often busy driving with colleagues to schools to promote our programs, bring invitations and organize ongoing procedures. Once a week our counselors visit some clients at their homes for ongoing care. I go with them pretty often. Together with the school visits it makes me spend a lot of time outside the office and in the community, which I really appreciate. It allows me to get a deeper insight in the living conditions and people´s life in the Township outside our safe and beautiful WhizzKids United area.
It also shows me directly which problems, fears and worries especially young kids have to face and how they sometimes struggle with their lives. I have never been so close to so much sorrow and poverty. It makes me infinitely sad to sit next to some kids and see them smiling while I know exactly that they are just pretending to be happy. They are suffering from violence, rape, abuse and serious diseases like HIV and TB. But at the same moment I am also very happy and proud to work for our organization which provides kids help and support. I`m convinced that our staff and especially the counselors are doing an awesome job and it calms me a lot to know that they take care of these kids with all their heart.
Besides that I am learning a lot about the Zulu-culture here in Edendale. Especially when we are organizing events you can see the differences in the working practices which makes me aware of characteristics of myself, I never thought about. Before I came to South Africa 8 months ago I strongly disagreed to be a “typical German” – but the longer I am here I have to confess that it is challenging me a lot not to have the same understanding about timing, planning and responsibilities. I don´t condemn the way people are working here, I rather try to see everything as a chance to learn. And I´m sure that it can only benefit me even in Germany to be more flexible, less stressed and optimistic that everything will go like planned – if it´s not plan A: Who cares?
The best parts of WKU are definitely the staff-members and I like all of them. In the mornings I am looking forward to go to work and it´s very nice to spend time with these guys, no matter if they are management-members, counselors, nurses or football coaches. They are the ones who make our organization such a nice place and motivate the youth to spend time here. I´m also living with international volunteers from WhizzKids United which gives allows me to be part of an awesome team even in our leisure time.
About my stay here in South Africa and especially about my time at WhizzKids United I can basically say, that it was the best decision I could have made after my studies. Of course like everybody else I have good and bad times and face some challenges. But I see myself growing a lot and it makes me unbelievably proud. I wanted to challenge myself to see what I am able to do and I don´t want to miss one single second or experience.
Having heard of WhizzKids United for some time it was now time to see it for real, “Tim” said Marcus “I’d like you to work with the Game Changers.”
Well time came to visit the academy for the first time, after the hour journey we have all got to know and love Marcus gave me a swift look round before moving on to the blue container which was going to be a major part of my life for the next few months. My first encounter with the Game Changers and Dennis was a quiet one, All ten of them came out of the container they told me a bit about themselves and their names, the names of course went in one ear and out the other, but I would get to know them and love each of the Game Changers over time.
I spent the next few weeks sitting in the container with the Game Changers and Dennis while they planned an event, “women’s day” and probably the first time I to chance to interact with the Game Changers , I remember been taken round Edendale hospital collecting donations to finance the event. It was also the time I was told that they were not allowed to speak Zulu, and that Dennis was a ghost who could appear round any corner and check to see if they were or were not.
The event came on a Saturday and I drove up with Marcus, well talk about been thrown n at the deep end, “ so we need someone to introduce the academy and open the event” ( something I have now made sure they have planned in the their next events ! ) it was good to see them all at work, and also know how far they have come since then. Oh I must talk about been introduced to the amazing icebreaker about the banana. Starting off with the line “peel banana – peel, peel banana” and finishing with the line “out banana – out, out banana” all the parts of the digestion of said banana are described in between including actions showing which stage we had got to.
It was good to get to know the gamechangers over the next few weeks, there different characteristics, there likes and dislikes. I began starting to take over more and more of the classes, but at this stage it was hard to see where we were going with the programme, there was a curriculum which made life a bit easier, but it seemed no way of marking their progress, to see what their strengths and weaknesses were.
So the task was set to write worksheets for maths and English, weekly tests, and all kind of things that in some cases I hadn’t done at all, and if I had it had been many years since I had. It took a lot of trawling through google teaching pages to remind me of how to do things. It was useful to find a book that we could all have a copy of, this helped greatly with comprehension and with reading out loud. It was strange to me how they could speak words that when seen on paper they struggled with. It also helped with getting them to question a teacher, which seemed to be something they were not used to. So by getting them to ask about words and there meanings the Game Changers got used to speaking out in lessons.
The next event to come along was the Gogos (Zulu grandmother) tea party, the organisation for this seemed to of improved from the last event, though there was a problem on how people were invited, resulting in Hans going to the clinic next door and inviting Gogos from there.
It turned out to be quite a fun day, the Gogos as sprightly as ever entered into the spirit of all the games, loving the football game, especially the penalty shootout at the end laughing and cheering every goal and save.
Next up was the school holidays and the on the ball tournament. The Game Changers came in everyday to cook and do icebreakers, and probably the time when I felt I was becoming a part of the group, and I was referred to as a Game Changer. Though this did involve dancing with Mlilo in the middle of a large circle of laughing onlookers.
So how long could I go on with this blog? Well truth is for many pages, other events, tests, worksheets, laughter, and tears. Oh and garden building!!
The academy had been donated a lot of vegetable plants in small boxes the plan was to build gardens to plant them in. After a donation was given we ordered wood, nails and soil to make large boxes to plant the young plants. The whole task was taken on enthusiastically, sawing, hammering, and planting, seemed like everyone wanted to join in, especially the planting. It’s good to see a few months later that the first pick of spinach has taken place, there are tomatoes ripening, and another new box has been made and planted with seeds.
Then there was the trip to the Mandela capture site, a day out for us all! Starting early…ish, we drove to the capture site; apparently I went the wrong way, but hey! We got there. Seeing them see the sculpture for the first time was an experience, and photographs were taken from every angle. Moving on from there to the Howick falls we had our only disappointment, we were told that we could not braai near the falls, but a new place was suggested Karkloof falls, unfortunately the directions were not the best, but after a bit of a detour we arrived. A braai site was invaded and the afternoon was spent with music, laughter, and good food cooked by Dennis. To see the actual falls you had to climb through a fence and down a path, it’s there I realised perhaps flip flops were not the best footwear! But the view of the falls was worth it, the water falling into a large wooded gorge.
So now I am reaching the end of my time here at WhizzKids, and it’s with a great deal of sadness. It’s perhaps hard to describe all my feelings, the people I have met here I now regard as good friends, Dennis and the Game Changers themselves I will miss so much. But perhaps this quote sums it up.
"Don`t cry because you are leaving, smile because you were there."
I was too excited but as soon as I was being told that I have to take this journey all by myself I began to be worried, but knowing that there is a first time for everything I made it to Germany all by myself. But when I arrived at the immigration I had to answer some few questions because my visa photo and passport photo looked differently and I was also looking different because of my hairstyle. I spent about 20 minutes answering questions; that’s how I was welcomed in Germany.
I had faced some challenges in the first few days: flu, extremely cold weather and late sunsets, but that didn’t stop me from going out and seeing Bremen’s beautiful old buildings and taking pictures next to the famous Bremen Stadt musicians from the fictional story, trying some different German dishes, or going around Bremen seeing a whole lot of different things.
We even went to the town hall to be welcomed officially in Bremen and took a tour inside the town hall. We took part in an econtur seminar. It was a great experience for me, doing a presentation about myself and WhizzKids at the Borda offices.
There is one thing that worries me a lot. People here don’t know anything about Pietermaritzburg and people from Durban are making fun of me. So please people, talk about our city everywhere you go, because now it is all about Durban and I don’t like that, so that is why I stand up for PMB. I don’t want to lie. Sometimes I feel a bit ashamed because of the fact that I only have finished high school while people I’m with here they have tertiary education. So sometimes I don’t have much to say about my educational background but I believe that this won’t be a barrier to me. I will do what I came here to do and I want to make sure that I perform my work in a way that they don’t even notice any difference.
I am enjoying my stay so far even though I live in a rich people, boring area where I hardly see people. But so far so good.
My first impressions of WhizzKids United was that it was heaving to do with kids! All over everywhere, the football pitch, the walk ways , the rooms, and the Health Academy.
We had come to look around the place to see if we felt that we could offer anything to this NGO who rely on volunteers to assist in the work that needs to be done.
As I am a RGN (registered general nurse) from the UK, currently working as a Sr Practice Nurse in a GP surgery, I was particularly interested in the work that was carried out in the Health Academy. The whole service provided is aimed at kids aged from 11-20, which accounted for the vast numbers of kids in the grounds. After introductions I have been allowed to wander through looking at what I could offer to these already amazing services.
As I said because I am a nurse my inclination was towards the medical side, but my registration doesn’t stand here in South Africa so was frustrated at not being able to use any of my clinical skills. This is my challenge then to find my “slot.”
So after “the wander” I sit in the waiting room with the kids that are obviously just waiting for their turn to see the Doctor, Nurse or Councellor. Some of them were chatting but the rest were just staring blankly ahead of them just waiting.
This is a drop in facility so there is an expectation to wait, but waiting is boring. I always take a book or my knitting to the hospital if I had to wait. After conducting a survey with the assistance of the lead councellor, Nobuhle, the over whelming answer from the kids was that they would appreciate Maths and English support. So there was the challenge to give the kids something interesting to do while waiting. So the plan was made to design puzzles, work sheets and activities that tested Maths and English with a view to making them fun and also educational. And to include relevant topics for the comprehension, relating to STI/HIV .
Football is used as the tool to teach life skills so a few football related word searches were added. To encourage completion of the activities and to gain top marks, sweets were offered as a reward. Kid will do anything to get a sweet, as will the adult staff it seems who were just as keen to complete the sheets!!
With the assistance of Sanele, a volunteer who will continue this idea when I have returned to the UK, we have given the kids “something to do” and they do seem to have fun. Making use of the time that they have to wait, making it profitable as they are missing school to attend the academy.
An extension to this project was to contact “Mind set” who have offered to donate educational DVDs to play on the solar TV that was donated during the 2010 World Cup, when these arrive this will provide even more educational material.
This project has also had extended use into the school shuttle service and I hope will continue long after we have returned to England.