They say that as you get older time goes more quickly. That may be true, but really, this is getting ridiculous now! As I reach the end of my time in South Africa it seems like just yesterday that I arrived open-minded and pasty-faced in April, full of anticipation for my time with WhizzKids United. Over the last six months I have spent valuable time with some great children in Edendale; made small-talk with an Oscar-winner; and been fortunate enough to be involved in the day-to-day running of some great projects.
With all this in mind, it seems a fitting time to share with everyone a new project which WhizzKids United has recently embarked upon. Soon after I started working here, the opportunity arose for us to apply for funding with FIFA and Sony for a project focused around digital media. Always looking for opportunities to diversify the services which we offer at our Health Academy, and harbouring a passion for photography myself, we put together an engaging programme for 14 local youth to take part in an innovative 10 month training project.
Several months down the line, I am pleased to say that funding was approved and we are now deep into our project ‘Through the Looking Glass’. We have recruited an enthusiastic group of youngsters all with an interest in furthering their skills and enhancing their career opportunities in areas such as journalism. In partnership with local company Full Circle Communications, our team has been developing their knowledge of digital media equipment, storytelling and design through the production of bi-weekly news boards displayed at the Health Academy. These will inform readers about recent activities within the community, but the team will also be working on producing health promotion information based around themes which have been agreed in-line with the Department for Health.
Whilst our team will clearly benefit from the skills and experience which they will gain during this programme, the project will reach wider than this. The materials produced will not only give them practice in what they have learnt but serve as a fun and interesting way of communicating with the local community. This incentive looks to encourage people to visit the Health Academy and increase the uptake of its services, something that is a central objective behind all of our extra-curricular activities.
My time with WhizzKids United has bought many great moments, but developing Through the Looking Glass has been one of my most satisfying achievements. Being able to see a project through to fruition from initial conception and planning to delivery and workshop facilitation is hugely rewarding, and the children have been great to work with. Keep your eye on the WhizzKids United website, Facebook page and blog to be up to date with the children’s progress – who knows, we may have some future Pulitzer Prize winners in the making!
Thanks to the WhizzKids United team and children for giving me an unforgettable experience in South Africa. May they reach higher heights than before and create a positive impact so that the organisation may continue to grow, whilst the need for it possibly diminishes.
Not so long ago, I’m not going to give away my age that easily, I was born in Sleepy Hollow city also known as the City of Choice or more officially Pietermaritzburg.
I lived in Pietermaritzburg for most of my life but I’d never ventured into Edendale. I arrived at the main hospital building to meet my head supervisor. The hospital was filled with patients who looked like they had lost their patience. So many people needed care. Many people sat in queues with blankets wrapped around them. The wards looked overfilled and the severity of cases was apparent.
WhizzKids United Health Academy Clinic was a more pleasant site. The atmosphere was more cheerful and the staff wore a soccer kit making the setting less dull and clinical. I thought to myself, ‘what a liberating feeling this must be for the children to have their own space’.
Whizzkids United Health Academy is one of the main recruitment sites for the risk compensation behaviour study focusing on young males between the ages of 14- 24 years who are undergoing the medical circumcision procedure.
As an undergraduate student, I visualized the life of a researcher as an isolated individual in a laboratory. Someone surrounded by test tubes and caged rodents. In my post- graduate years, I thought of researchers as experts who presented their findings to an audience.
Social science researchers often make a concerted effort to understand the social dynamics of the context before the research begins. Working with the WhizzKids United Team has exceeded my expectations of the research site. The findings from the study will be released early in 2014.
The staff at the Health Academy is truly dedicated and made me feel like I was part of the team immediately. I have reminisced about my Primary School assemblies each team I have joined the life skills coaches during school visits. I’m one of those who found Maths and Physics tough during High School. It was a special moment when a patient at the clinic brought along Trigonometry homework. I smiled and agreed to assist. Children are an amazing gift. They remind us of the struggles we faced at some stage and found the courage to overcome them.
Winston Churchill said: "A Person Becomes a Person through Other People". I have been blessed to meet many inspirational at the Health Academy.
WhizzKids is a dynamic environment which is setting the pace for the future generation of globe trotters. WhizzKids invests in global networking to its advantage both internally and externally. The OVC’s (orphaned and vulnerable children) are exposed to volunteers who share their global experiences very willingly with the children in various fields of activities.
I’m glad to be a part of a cutting-edge study that is taking place in my hometown and to be a part of the vibrant team at WhizzKids United Health Academy.
Nelson Mandela once said that the credible demonstration of the commitment of African leaders is to place the rights of children at the forefront. These words still echo in my head as though they had been whispered upon my ear by the struggle icon himself and are as fresh as yesterday’s daisy.
“Yesterday” my faith in humanity was renewed. “Yesterday” I began to believe in the expansion of the vision that began 3 years ago, the building of the WhizzKids United Health Academy. Why yesterday though? I don’t have a definite answer, but venturing deeper in thought, I do recall a chain of events that stirred this sudden embroilment of emotions within me. Well, it was around lunch time when a train of ants decided to feast upon my fries when I had abandoned them for five minutes or so. But surely I could not bore you in telling what happened next. However a summary will do no harm; due to such a large number of ants I lost interest on the fries that I had craved throughout the morning until lunchtime; much to the approval of the ants I abandoned my fries completely, mind you I had eaten a quarter of the fries.
After that little ordeal of giving back to Mother Nature and feeding one of her most annoying of creatures, don’t tell me you like ants, or you do? Anyway, for some odd reason I felt dreary as I starred upon the horizon of Edendale, patiently waiting for those tedious moments of no self worth to dissipate. What a queer time to feel depressingly empty and soul barren, who feels like that after lunch? Then whilst gulping away my poison of sorrow something hit me! Not physically, but something caught my attention. As I looked across my shoulder I noticed a group of kids laughing, which soon grew to singing and dancing. I watched them with immense interest; were they enjoying each other’s company I thought to myself, partly yes. They had this brightness in them, a sense of self worth, their smiles gleamed with hope and their singing simply translated to a “brighter future”. The WhizzKids United Health Academy had yet again proved why Nelson Mandela seeks for the establishment of a children’s hospital- not for self glorification but for the same reason the kids across my shoulder rely on the Health Academy. The Health Academy is founded on solid principals of attending to the health needs of the kids in Edendale and the staff who work tirelessly without resentment forms part of the many reasons why I commit to serving the future of my continent. Almost a month ago I met Charlize Theron, today I can only think of her but her words will continuously hover across all corners of the Health Academy- “the youth of this country are the future and we should not halt our fight against HIV&AIDS” were her exact words. That instant moment I felt a wave of joviality filling my soul, I had no excuse to feel gloomy and dull in a place that offers so much care and hope to thousands of kids.
I don’t slightly doubt that when Mandela’s vision was often met by a host of questions that would often result in the relinquishment of his dream; such thinking has even led me to ceaselessly applaud the selflessness of the founder of WhizzKids, Marcus, who never surrendered nor gave in, Winston Churchill would be pleased.