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.
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.