2012 was the year that saw my lifetime dream become a reality, where I had the greatest experience of my life.
I had the chance to deliver Life Skills sessions to a high school named Sukuma Comprehensive High School. It was my first time working with high school students and I was worried about what the behaviour of grade ten students would be like as they are becoming adolescents. Working together with my partner Neli, she helped me to adapt to the high school’s environment and understand the behaviour of the pupils there.
Doing Life Skills at the same time as sending HIV & AIDS awareness messages to the kids and the youth of Edendale is one of the most important things to me. These days, youth die due to not using protection if they are sexually active and failing to go to Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT). The job I do is fun and also very useful for the community. It has taken me to faraway places I never thought I’d go to but had always wished and imagined myself spending a day or two there.
The UNOSDP gave out forms to apply to a camp in Switzerland. I applied and was one of the chosen participants to join the camp and get the chance to go out and represent WhizzKids United. I used the opportunity to learn about leadership skills and how to go about making the kids have fun and learn at the same time to help them understand the messages better. A number of different NGOs who run similar Life Skills programmes to ours that promote awareness to youth in communities were at the camp. Where WhizzKids use football as a tool to educate youth in Edendale, the other NGOs use sports such as Basketball, Table Tennis and Judo. The camp was very helpful for me because it showed me that if you want to be a good coach or a good Life Skills trainer then you should know that you will be faced with different kinds of kids and so it is important to recognise any behavioural changes when working with them.
The skills and knowledge the UNOSDP gave to me was invaluable and I have added some of my own ideas to accommodate everyone. If a child is disabled, I can use the skills I learnt to help that child adapt to any situation he/she is in and include them in our activities. The camp was good and I learnt how to work in a team and with young people much better. As a Mixed Gender League (MGL) coach, I have applied my skills when working with the kids and have found that it helped me to connect and understand them more. As it is said, ‘To be a good leader, Lead by example’. The MGL of 2012 wasn’t as good as I had hoped due to it being the holidays where kids go out to visit their relatives. However, I have personally planned for this year and have thought about how I could make it a success by recruiting more kids, giving them health education, gathering them together to educate and support them and help them to know their HIV status. This year I hope that the job I do will help the kids to make the right decisions at the right time.
I hope to target more youth this year and help them... All the best to the year 2013.
2013!! Had you asked me where I would be in five years time in 2008, I could never have envisaged that I would be working for a sport for development organisation like WhizzKids United in South Africa. However, since then, I have completed a Sports Development degree and spent a lot of time in Swaziland, so gaining more experience in the field of international development seemed like the next natural step for me.
I have been here for almost three months now and have really enjoyed my time in Durban so far. WhizzKids United is certainly one of the best organisations that I have come across that works with young people with a particular focus on tackling the HIV & AIDS epidemic in terms of the number of youth reached, the level of support and treatment available, the efficiency of using sport to attract its participants and the number of partners and funders that have been established and maintained to continue its work. I have often found that organisations always look better on paper than in practice, but WKU seems to have improved each year and I can only imagine the positive impact the new FIFA Football for Hope Centre will have when it is built later on in the year.
My second day at WKU saw me travel to Edendale to begin a two week workshop run by inFocus (a trilateral partnership) to provide specialist monitoring and evaluation training and support, as well as providing us with a new user- friendly database software. It was really interesting for me as I was able to immediately get a better understanding of all things ‘WhizzKids’. It also set me up for the task ahead of setting up and becoming the administrator of the inFocus software for WKU. My time since the workshop has been spent reviewing and amending all of our data collection tools and taking part in remote workshops via Skype to set up the software. I am looking to have it completed by the end of January so that it can be used by all members of staff as soon as possible. The software will then allow for more informative reports to capture and communicate the impact of our work which will be very helpful when liaising with our funders!
Aside from life in the office, I have enjoyed getting to know the rest of the team, spending Friday nights at Amsterdam, exploring the markets and spending as much time on the beach as possible! I have also just arrived back from Christmas and New Year spent in Kenya which was an incredible experience. It isn't your average Christmas Day when you watch a Cheetah chase and catch its breakfast and then share it with her three cubs! I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to be here and very much look forward to seeing what the rest of my year's internship has in store for me!
Working as a volunteer at WhizzKids United and especially at the Health Academy has left an everlasting impression on my memory. It's more than a teen clinic where underprivileged kids get access to health services. It's a place where kids get the feeling of being welcome. They can just come to play football or join in on one of the other activites that happen daily which offer a great possibility for the kids to discover new interests, to build up their skills or just to have fun!
And of course there is the OVC Programme which gives the most needy amongst the kids the opportunity to have a warm meal every day.
Working at the Health Academy was a great pleasure for me. Being around all those great people there was an amazing experience and I'll never forget it! Every time I stepped into the Health Academy, the first thing I saw was a warm smile from the people working at the reception. And many more should follow.
Although it was a bit chaotic at time, the staff still managed to find time to fulfill the needs of all the clients. Inbetween this, they even taught me some Zulu words :). I really enjoyed hanging out with them and experiencing the friendly, open and warm atmosphere. I can't thank the whole Health Academy Team enough for the great time I had at this place and for integrating me and making me feel so welcome!
6 1/2 month over now? Unbelievable!
So many new experiences, friends and a larger horizon for sure. But still it feels like a couple of weeks, which is a good sign I guess and shows how much I enjoyed my stay at WhizzKids United.
Being the only volunteer along with Lorendra for a month after Flo and Johanna left, 6(!) new ones (Alex, Jonny, Ben, Alice, Markus and Julia) arrived in October and filled the volunteer house as well as the office. That meant a lot more possibilities for WKU to realize projects and ideas and a lot more action in the volunteer house and the office. The atmosphere amongst the team was just great and made work so easy and enjoyable.
We had many fun and laughs together, which I consider as very important since we are dealing with a serious issue like HIV and AIDS, which can affect you quite strongly when you are in touch with it so close.
Focusing on the positive things, I can say that we already helped a large number of Kids having a better life, and the number is constantly growing. I'm proud that I could contribute something to this fact!
Regarding living in Durban, I enjoyed this city to the fullest! It offers so much and once you adapt to the Durban lifestyle,
life becomes much more easy and relaxed. If it were legendary nights in Amsterdam (our favorite bar), lazy beach days, weekly football games or just hanging out on the couch the whole day watching TV and wondering about Tabasco's (the house cat) strange body postures, it was such a memorable time!
All together, I am so happy that I joined WKU, which turned out to be a once in a lifetime experience! A lot of great memories and a lot of things I will miss...
To read about my impression of our Health Academy, check my separate Health Academy blog.