Today was my favorite day so far. I really enjoyed the opportunity to help out the underprivileged children of the Philipi Charity Centre in the town of Philipi, in a rural area just outside of Cape Town. We were out the door around eight in the morning and arrived around nine. None of us were prepared for the manual labor and construction work we had ahead of us. We were all dressed in shorts, t-shirts, and wearing various styles of footwear. When we arrived, one of the heads of the construction site laughed and told their co-worker that we thought we were going running. Luckily, the construction site company, Granbuild, provided plenty of equipment for us to use including boots, helmets, gloves, and glasses.
Stuart Hendry, the entrepreneur who taught us earlier in the week, organized us into different groups. The girls were in a group and were assigned to painting. The rest of us were split into groups of about five or six. I was assigned to the concrete group. After gearing up, the cement mixer was ready for us to start filling up wheelbarrows for us to move to the designated building. We moved over 12 metric tons of cement throughout the entire day which is an incredible feat. I had never worked a construction job before and didn’t really know what to expect but I quickly caught on thanks to a few of my group members experience with construction.
We were all working extremely hard with only short water breaks to replenish our water levels. After the first truck was empty, we pulled a pole out of the ground using shovels and pick axes to dig around the rocky soil. We got the pole out right when the second truck was arriving and we were ready to fill up some more wheelbarrows. We blew through the second load, which brought us to our next task of breaking down a wall. This was my favorite part. We got to use a giant sledgehammer to break a 2-inch thick cement wall. I literally just swung as hard and as fast as I could. We had the wall down within ten minutes and immediately started clearing the rubble. Since we knocked that task out faster than anticipated, we moved on to our next one of moving a bunch of tires to the center of the yard to be made into a playground. We broke for lunch just as we finished moving all of the tires.
After a nice lunch break we were ready to finish the playground. We dug a bunch of trenches to fill with the tires for a perimeter. Our lower backs were on fire by the time we had finished digging the trenches. The time flew by as we began placing the tires into the trenches and filling the trenches back in. Dr. Turner told us to finish up at a good stopping point because the taxis were on their way to get us. We got the entire perimeter finished and then helped clean up some of the equipment we had used.
While we waited for the taxis to arrive, we went out on the playground to play with the kids at recess. Most of the kids were between two and five and were more than eager to play with us. It was so enjoyable for me to see the excitement on the kids’ faces as we played with them. They loved to be held, carried, and tickled. Their favorite thing to do was to be picked up in the air and spun around overhead like a helicopter. They would line up and continuously say “ and me” and “helicopter”. The line was never ending. Everyone wanted to be picked up and I was starting to become even more exhausted. I went until I could no longer safely spin them above my head and I tried to tell them no more but that didn’t work so I had to run towards some of my group members. I then sat down next to some of my group members and a little fellow of about two years named Sondalay, came and sat on my lap. He was the cutest little guy I had ever seen. He never said one word but he loved to wear my sunglasses. I would have let him keep them but they weren’t mine in the first place. He didn’t need any entertainment. He was perfectly content just sitting in my lap wearing my sunglasses. I got a couple pictures with him and then had to say goodbye as the taxis arrived. He didn’t cry or anything when I took the sunglasses back. He was so well behaved just as the all of the other kids were. They weren’t spoiled in any way. They were just happy to have some new people to play with.
As we walked away, all the children waved and yelled goodbye like they really had enjoyed our company. It was truly an eye-opening experience as I walked through the playground on my way to the taxis because I got one final look at grateful these kids were for so little. A group of three year olds waved by to me as I walked to the gate to leave and I noticed that they had been playing in a sand hole. They were just sitting in a hole of sand in the middle of the concrete with no toys or anything to play with. It made me feel so accomplished that I could help give these children something more. A simply playground made out of tires would keep them entertained for years to come. It was such a rewarding day and I hope to participate in more community service in the future.
We got in the taxies and headed back to the hotel, covered in dirt and sweat. I felt alive though. I felt satisfied with the days work. I knew that I had made a difference and had not left anything out there. I had given my all for the day and although I know that one day is not much, I knew I had made the most of the opportunity. When we got to the hotel, we had a short time to shower and get ready for dinner at Ian Corvet, the chairman of SASDI’s house.
Mr. Corvet is Stuarts boss so we were really lucky to have the opportunity to have dinner with him and his wife. We learned all about SASDI and how they plan on growing and developing in future years. We also learned a lot about the demographics of South Africa and the problems with them. We basically were caught up to date on current issues involving education and labor with black South Africans. After working for the organization at the Philipi Childrens Center, it was nice to know more about the organization we were working for and to here from the chairman himself. Mr. Corvet was extremely humble and personable and we really enjoyed getting to hear from him as well as converse with him in his beautiful home over a delicious South African meal.
We got back to the hotel exhausted after such hard work both physically and mentally and collapsed in our beds (after writing our blogs of course). Knowing that we have another long day ahead of us in the classroom tomorrow requires a good nights sleep. I need to be fully energized and awake to absorb all the material we will hear from the awesome speakers tomorrow.