Thank you to the Health Academy
posted by Ben Ziemens on 14 January 2013
Members of the Health Academy team
Members of the Health Academy team

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!

Time flies when you are having fun...
posted by Ben Ziemens on 9 January 2013
Ben at the 2012 Youth Day Event
Ben at the 2012 Youth Day Event

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.

Half-time review...
posted by Ben Ziemens on 4 September 2012
Football pitch at Mahlala School
Football pitch at Mahlala School

Since I spent three of my six months stay with WhizzKids United, I guess it’s the right time to take a review of my time here so far. My work began immediately one day after my arrival with an introduction on each section of WhizzKids United, which gave me a broad first overview of this organisation. After a week, our CEO Marcus came back from a business trip and introduced me then to my main working place, which would be the Health Academy in Edendale, a township an hour drive away from Durban. Since everyone was very nice and made me feel welcome, my first concerns and nervousness were gone quickly and it didn’t take long to feel familiar with that place and all staff members. When people who have never been to Africa think of a township, they might have a picture of a dangerous and threatening place in mind with dodgy people all around. But although it might be true in some cases, I didn’t experience that at all in Edendale.

Rather I enjoyed being there at the Health Academy, because it brings you really close to the practical part of the work WhizzKids United does, besides the Life Skills Programmes at schools, which are counseling-services, HIV-Testing, a Feeding Scheme for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) and a lot of activities for youth. And it also gave me the opportunity to get to know more about the South African mentality, since the Health Academy is run by local staff only. My work as the Health Academy Coordinator basically was about keeping things running well and trying to improve them where it was necessary. So I was responsible for watching the budget, deciding how much we can spent on our feeding scheme and activities, writing Policy documents, buying food for the OVCs and a lot of more tasks.  In between, I always found some time to join the Kids playing football outside, which was always a welcome change to the organizational work I had to do.

Besides the daily work at our head-office in Durban and the Health Academy I had the possibility to join two tournaments, which we always arrange as a final event after completing our Life Skills Training at schools. Especially the one at Mahlala School in Upper Edendale left a lasting impression in my mind. The landscape surrounding this school was just breathtaking - no streets and traffic, no noise, just beautiful landscape and children full of energy who enjoyed playing football. The football pitch was pretty bumpy, but no one bothered at all, everyone was just having fun. The power of football, of which we make use to teach youth Life Skills, was so obvious on that day.

So far I had a great time with WhizzKids United and look forward to the upcoming 3 months! - Presumed I get my Visa extended, but that is another story… :) 

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