We had a long day of hard work at the Phillippi Children’s Center. We were broken up into teams, each team with a task to perform to help build the new school. The girls were in charge of painting the walls of the school. All of the guys helped to lay the concrete floor of one of the new sections. Some guys cleaned up the site by picking up trash, nails or marking unsafe areas and then helped to build the kids of the center a new playground. I took part in this a little bit after lunch and definitely enjoyed it. I have small cousins that are all the same age as the kids we got to play with and I know how much they love a good playground, so it was cool to get to help make something these Phillippi kids will find fun as well in the future.
I have a huge heart for kids! Getting to help paint these kids school isn’t a whole lot in the grand scheme of the total operation, I know, but it meant a lot to me. Seeing all of the kids and playing with them on the playground was more tiring than actually painting. The numerous cries of “And ME!! And MEEE!!” as I picked them up or took their picture never ended! The faces and constant smiles of these children will stick with me forever. I know that’s cliche and a typical response for those who volunteer like we did, but it’s very true. We don’t know the kids stories- we have a general idea that their life isn’t glamorous or comfortable, but we don’t know the details or the struggles their families go through day in and day out.
With that being said and based on the information Stuart has given us on township family structure, it is easy to see why we were received in such different ways by the constructions workers we were working alongside, and the school’s female principal. We felt very unwanted and like a burden to the construction workers, but the women there welcomed us with open arms and appreciated everything we did for them that day. These actions and mentality mirror the theme present in South Africa that women are in more leadership roles and are fighting for change for their children. Men get prideful and don’t take it well when they feel emasculated, so they aren’t present in the family. I believe this explains the difference in attitudes we saw while at the center. We need to take into consideration their feelings before we take their attitudes too personally. The construction workers probably work with multiple groups of volunteers on a weekly or monthly basis and don’t understand why the work we’re doing can’t be done by their brother at home who is unemployed. They don’t see and understand the overall plan of volunteer work and donations. They just see this as a paid job opportunity wasted. It all comes back around. Women are taking more leadership roles trying to break the cycles of the past so their kids can have a better future and a better chance of getting a job.
Working at the Phillippi Center was a humbling experience for me. It was a great reminder of just how blessed some of us really and not to take the little things for granted.