Having just arrived at King Shaka International Airport in Durban, I was waiting to get picked up by WhizzKids United. After half an hour, I began to wonder what was holding them up. Perhaps there was a lot of traffic, something else had cropped up, or it was just African timing. It turned out that it was none of these reasons! Stefan had been standing a few metres away the entire time and we just hadn’t seen each other. The waiting was followed by a warm welcome at the airport, and then from the other volunteers at the WhizzKids United house.
The first time we drove to our Health Academy in Edendale, I was amazed by how beautiful the scenery was. We drove amongst green mountains and valleys, and I saw some villages that were built on the mountain side. There were some cows on the freeway and I also saw people walking or sitting beside it - apparently it is the shortest way to get from A to B. This made me think about some of the differences between my expectations before coming and the first impressions that I felt during my first week in South Africa. Besides the cows on the freeway, you can buy a cow’s entire head in supermarkets. I was also surprised to see that monkeys are not just found in the countryside further away from the city, as I saw one dashing past our office in Durban.
After those first impressions, we finally arrived at the Health Academy. I was nervous because, as I am responsible for training the staff there, my first assignment was to talk to the staff about the kind of training they required. As a new volunteer, I didn’t want them to feel offended when asking them where they felt they needed to refresh their knowledge, but everything went very well. Sitting together with the staff, we introduced ourselves and discussed the need of the workshops. Everyone was very welcoming and I received a lot of warmth from them, which made me feel accepted from the beginning. After the meeting, I was trembling with excitement, but relieved that there had been no problems.
I experience this kind of excitement with every new project I embark upon for WhizzKids United. It’s great to see the little differences that I can make for the kids and staff at the Health Academy. I’m highly motivated to take every little step I can to help reduce poverty and HIV, as well as fight for children’s rights. We are all living in the same world, and I think it is so important to build on our understanding of one another in order to make as big a difference as possible.