One year with WhizzKids- office work, vegetable garden and a new football pitch.
posted by Markus Bensch on 17 October 2013
"Enjoying my time at WKU"

It was the 5th October 2012 when I arrived at the King Shaka International Airport in Durban. Since then 12 months have gone and I’m with WhizzKids already for a year. It’s been an amazing time with many memorable highlights.

The last months with WhizzKids United have been very busy. Time flies like the wind and there wasn’t even time to write a few lines for the blog. WhizzKids United is like a never sleeping city – always busy. People are coming and leaving. I’ve worked with 12 different international volunteers in the programme team, and a total of 19 volunteers joined and left our organization. I met some amazing people during my last year with WhizzKids United and it was a pleasure to work with so many passionate people for the aim of a HIV-free young generation in Edendale, Kwa-Zulu Natal and all over South Africa. I really enjoy this intercultural experience, to learn from other people, listen to their stories and understand their culture. It made me more sensitive towards other people and broadened my view of the world.

If I review the last couple of months there are lots of highlights that I’ve experienced. Our tournaments at Sinamuva Primary and Siyahlomula High School in May this year were definitely one of them. For the first time we combined the football tournament with an HCT (HIV Counseling and Testing) campaign. It was very promising and we will continue with it in the future. It was a pleasure to see how much the youth enjoy playing football and how interested they are in the Health Academy and our work.

I was also very happy when we started a new vegetable garden at the Siyahlomula High School which was one of our objectives of the OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) programme. We organize seedlings for some surrounding schools from our partner, Sunshine seedlings, and it was very nice to put together a plan of actions with the students. We planted spring onions, cabbages, cauliflower and beetroot for the school kitchen. Seeing the plants blossom was definitely emotion for me and to see the good work materialize gave me some sort of a good balance compared to my usual office work.

The ground breaking ceremony for the new Football for Hope Center in May this year was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my stay. The whole organization was looking forward to this day and we all worked very hard to make this happen. It was very interesting to see how relieved the people have been that were involved in the whole process of applying, planning and re-planning, preparing and re-preparing. Since May the construction proceeded and we hope to hold the opening ceremony by the beginning of next year. Unfortunately I probably won’t be with WhizzKids anymore by that time.

The most recent highlight was the Coaches across Continents (CAC) visit last week. It was such fun to work with Nick Gates and his colleague Nora Dooley. I really enjoyed being on the football pitch, to work with children and youth, boys and girls and feel the power of football for social impact as well as to improve my own coaching skills. I realized that after my time with WhizzKids I would very much like to continue to use football as a medium for education and empowerment, be in direct contact with the young generation to help them to be “shape their future with their feet”.

Goosebumps & Moments of Happiness
posted by Markus Bensch on 9 November 2012
Me and the kids at The Health Academy
Me and the kids at The Health Academy

 

I am very happy to be here in South Africa. My first four weeks with WhizzKids United (WKU) were very exciting and have made a great impression on me. In the first week, I was given my first project straight away; it was the responsibility of running the Pick ‘n Pay Gardening project. I was very happy to be given this opportunity and I enjoyed the fast pace of the work, which helped me to settle into the WhizzKids environment much more quickly. I organized the collection of the seedlings, brought the Earth boxes to the Health Academy (HA), planted the seedlings with the kids and my colleagues, took pictures and wrote my first report. It wasn’t until now that I experienced situations during the day that have made me sit back and think about everything that has happened thus far, such as how I reacted to a particular situation, what I felt during these situations and how my colleagues behave and react to the things that they are experiencing. We have all come here with different life experiences and cultural backgrounds, but it is really exciting to see the similarities and differences between people despite this. Nonetheless, the change from my life in Germany to the South African society feels like a fluent transition for me. I’m interested and curious about this country, the people and their hopes, ideas and fears.

I have already been lucky enough to make South African friends very quickly who are keen to show me their country and how they live. Last week, I went on my first journey with a friend, Zola, on the taxi buses in Durban. It was really exciting to travel as so many South Africans do here. Moments like this give me goose bumps. Experiences like these give me a great feeling of happiness and appreciation that I’m alive and so lucky. One of these moments of endless happiness also occurred when I was with the kids at the HA. They were so interested in me, this “white stranger” they quickly expressed their eagerness to talk to me. I was overwhelmed and sat with the local children in the waiting area of the HA.  They appeared to love touching my skin and used me as a climbing frame. It was a pleasure to see their smiling faces and bright eyes.

Despite the positive there is one challenge that I face every day; the English language. Sometimes it takes me longer to express what I want to say. I find it difficult to find the words I need to describe something and more and more frequently I say to myself, “That was a really good expression.” J In such a short time, it’s already getting better and I’m more and more comfortable and confident with English. I’m patient with myself and have enough time to improve all the skills which offer me further opportunities.

“I love to be a stranger.” This sentence describes me very well, because in foreign places I’m much more sensitive, attentive and careful. I hope to experience many more moments of happiness in that I just enjoy the moment and feel at one with the world.

 

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