Tuesday, February 18, 2014

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas and Thank you

We currently have Claudia volunteering with us.  Claudia won the round the world volunteering competition for GVI and has spent almost a year travelling from project to project. Cape Town is her final project. 
Claudia was kind enough to share some photos of her greatest moments of the past year, what an amazing time she has had!  As I was watching her presentation, It really brought to light that as we are heads down and busy here on our projects, so too are volunteers and staff on every other GVI project around the world. I’m sure every project some great stories from the year.
Summing up a whole year in Cape Town is really difficult.  For every big achievement such as developing our Sensory Room for children with Special Needs , constructing paths at Grade R, or completing an amazing three day Charity Challenge, there are achievements that happen day in and day out on our projects.  Achievements such as a child learning to write her name, speaking their first sentence or reading their first word or a local staff member asking us to share our lesson ideas with her are the achievements we cherish as much as anything. These are the small steps that lead us to our goals.
Of course, here in South Africa, the most significant event of the year was the passing of Nelson Mandela. He will continue to inspire us in the future. He once said,
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
 To all our volunteers and staff who have made great contributions to the Cape Town projects in 2013 we say thank you.  There have been some fantastic achievements and we have had lots of fun along the way.
We say thank you and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2014.
You will get to see a new platform for our blogs in 2014, so stay posted for more details.
Seasons Greetings,
The Cape Town team


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Getting ready for Christmas

This past week at Ikhayalethemba we’ve been busy decorating and getting ready for Christmas.  We’ve made Christmas ornaments out of recycled materials and decorated a Christmas tree, learned Christmas songs, and even participated in a Gingerbread Man scavenger hunt complete with homemade gingerbread cookies at the end.  The children especially enjoyed watching the volunteers perform the skit and were in hysterics as everyone ran around in animal masks chasing after the little gingerbread man.  It has been so wonderful seeing the childrens’ faces light up at each new Christmas activity and sharing their eager anticipation for Christmas! 




Thursday, December 19, 2013

Support makes a Difference

Sometimes as volunteers we can wonder how much of a difference we are making.  The story of one of our children with Special Needs shows how, stimulation, support and care can really make a difference.  Precious (not her real name but we’ll protect her identity)  joined us at Ikhayalethemba orphanage 18 months ago.  She was about 12 years old. Although she could walk, she had very little movement. Her movements were stiff and even slightly turning her head was a real effort.  She didn’t have the confidence to make a choice, she always awaited direction.  
Our volunteers worked hard with Precious.  They involved her in morning circle time, took her for walks, taught her to throw a ball, encouraged her to draw, paint, thread and cut.  They also encouraged the other children at the orphanage to interact with her.  Whilst the volunteers gave great support to Precious, Mama, her family and the carers all gave Precious great support and encouragement too.
The difference in Precious in 18 months is phenomenal.  She pushes the other children around in their wheel chairs.  She mops the floor, tucks the other children into bed, organises her belongings, and paints and  draws with increasing independence and more ease of movement.  Yesterday, she threaded a necklace and then tied it herself, for those who have worked with Precious, you will know what an amazing feat this is. 
Precious is just one story from Ikhayalethemba. Her world has opened because Mama’s family, the staff and our GVI volunteers have given her so much stimulation, care and  support.  There is no doubt that providing time for a child can make a real difference.
Cheryl Martin
Project Manager


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Grade Rs Graduate

What a delight it was to see the Nceduluntu Grade R students graduate last Friday.  When we think back to early in the year when they seemed so young  and were just getting the idea of Grade R and then look at the end of the year and see a group of independent children ready to head off to Primary School, the progress is amazing.
In South Africa, Grade R is an extremely important year for the students.  This is a time where they prepare for school. They learn the routines of school.  They learn the basics of numeracy and literacy and other subjects and also they learn to work together as a group.  The children learn in their Home Language Xhosa and also in English. 
Our volunteers provide support at Grade R with the Literacy and Numeracy work but also with themes. We have contributed to topics of healthy eating, keeping safe, our body, winter, spring and the list goes on. Music time has also been an important part of our input as we model English language through songs and rhymes.
Graduation day is approached with great excitement by the children.  The children arrived looking smart but  then soon before the ceremony, the parents took their children aside and dressed them in their graduation dresses.  The boys mainly in suits and the girls were in mainly in white dresses.  They all looked so grown up!  After posing for their photos they then put on their graduation gowns and were presented with certificates and a gift. Following the presentation, they all jumped on board the bus and headed off for their celebration lunch near the beach.
The children had a great time and the volunteers had a great experience seeing what an important time Grade R is for the children and parents.  We wish all the children from Nceduluntu a great first year at school in 2014 and congratulate Grace on the great job she does teaching the Grade R children.
Cheryl Martin
Project Manager


Thursday, December 5, 2013

A look back at 2013

As the year comes to an end and school is about to close, now would be a good time to look back on the year we have had at ACJ Phakade Primary School and remind ourselves of how far GVI has come over the past 12 months.
This year we have been able to use the new sports field to its full potential, hosting a school sports day, football matches and athletics tournaments. It is great to see the children utilising such a facility and also to see the local community benefitting from this resource.
After the successful completion of 2012’s charity challenge the money raised went towards the purchasing of athletic and sports equipment for the school. This year GVI bought a secure container to store the equipment and this now stays on school property. The volunteers prior to this were great at creating games and activities without the correct equipment however with these now being utilised the children can practice specific events and train appropriately for the coming years tournaments.
Everyone can appreciate the importance of reading, for children especially, and we often take for granted our ability to access books. In September of this year we transformed an old disused room into a Reading Room for all ACJ children and teachers. Although the space may be small it has become quite a haven for children who want to access stories, fact and fiction they otherwise wouldn’t come into contact with.
Throughout the year we have seen great results from the children we have been working with on a one to one basis. Not only have we seen the improvement in their numeracy and literacy abilities but also their general confidence and conversational skills. This is very rewarding for our volunteers who have built great relationships with the children over the year and for those who will continue to do so.


Rachael Fleary

Senior Co-ordinator



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Charity Challenge.....A Great Experience!

This past weekend was a busy one for many of the volunteers and staff here in Gordon’s Bay, South Africa as a group of 17 of us was making the 80km trek from Cape Point to Table Mountain.  This is the second year in a row we have done the hike in order to raise funds for some of our projects here, and I have been lucky enough to participate in both events.
On Friday, bright and early, we headed down to Cape Point where we would start our journey.  After we arrived we had a group stretch and got everyone ready for what we were about to undertake – our first obstacle.  Because it’s not enough to just start at the sign at Cape Point, we were starting from the lighthouse there.  And there are quite a few steps going up between the sign and the lighthouse.  But the team set to work and climbed up to the starting location.  After a short moment to catch our breath, have some water, and get a couple pictures of the amazing view there we officially started what would be a tough three-day challenge.
For that first day our goal was to reach Simon’s Town where we would stay overnight.  We walked through the national park and along roads the whole way to reach Simon’s Town in about six hours.  After reaching the backpackers, attending to many blisters and sore joints, the team decided to carry on and take off a chunk of the next day’s walk as well by heading towards Fish Hoek.  But even with the extra hour and a half of walking, we all knew that this first day would not compare to the challenges over the following two days of hiking, so we hopped on a bus back to the backpackers where we could rest up and prepare for the next day.
On our second day we had another early start as we still had to finish making our way to Fish Hoek where we would meet our trail guide Binny and her assistant X.  Straight away it was clear that these two knew what they were doing and they were going to push us hard to make sure we made it through what would be the toughest day of our challenge.  Because during day two we had about nine hours of hiking to do as we went up and down two mountains to end at Constantia Nek.  It was a very physically draining day, but it was full of breathtaking views as we hiked past waterfalls and along the sides of cliffs overlooking much of the Cape peninsula, which offered many a good excuse to stop and marvel.  As we finished the day we all stopped off for a well-deserved drink before heading back to our accommodation and again preparing for the following day.
By the time the last day came around every member of the team was feeling strained from the challenges we had overcome already.  Our team met up with the office staff as well as more volunteers at Constantia Nek to gain some much-needed support as we tackled our third day’s hike.  On this day we had plans of hiking all the way to the top of Table Mountain, however nature had a different plan for us.  We discovered that the weather was too windy and the cable cars would not be running to take us down from the top.  Together with the help of Binny and X everyone agreed that we would take a different trail known as the contour path that would lead us up and around the mountain and down to the cable car station.  It was another beautiful hike overlooking all of Cape Town that took us about seven hours from start to finish.  But the most amazing part of the whole hike was definitely at the finish line.

            As we headed down a steep last stretch everyone was excited to know they had almost made it.  The feeling was overwhelming as we came down off the mountain to be greeted by our drivers, guides, and especially our project partner Mama Lumka and some of her family who had come out as a surprise to show their support.  I personally did not believe my ears as I heard their voices cheering me on for the last stretch.  It was such an awesome feeling that bested any other during the hike to know that not only had we completed our challenge, but that our project partners were there to show how much it meant to them.  And looking around you could tell that everyone felt the same as we all had huge grins on our faces.  The challenge was officially finished and the only thing left to do was celebrate.
Andy Eskeland
Ikhayalethemba Coordinator