On Tuesday, we had the amazing opportunity to give our time to a worthy cause. We traveled to a township named Philippi to work on a children’s center. It was located about 45 minutes out of town by taxi.
When I first learned that we were going to have the chance to travel in to a township, I was excited, but I was also unsure of what to expect. After learning about how the townships were formed through apartheid and how the people living in them were struggling, I knew that it would be a great opportunity to go in and help. I was also a little skeptical about going in and helping; after reading Toxic Charity, I knew that going in and doing the job for them would not be the right answer and would not help them in the long run. The key to long-term success is to help the people in need get on their feet and get going so they can finish the job.
Our task for the day was to go to the Philippi Children’s center and help with the construction of the center. We traveled by taxi to the location and entered through the front gate that had barbed wire stretched around the tops of the fences. We proceeded inside where we met up with Stuart and the principle of the school. The principle was a kind and generous lady who was excited for us to come. We then were assigned to our respective groups; I was chosen along with a couple others to lay down the concrete for the inside of one of the classrooms and a small section outside. After coming together for a final word, we broke up and began work.
We were tasked with transporting the concrete from the truck across the yard to the room that was waiting for us. We traveled that route a numerous amount of times. After filling the floor with concrete, we were tasked with a few other jobs that included removing poles from the premises and knocking down a couple walls. The work may have been a little tedious, but it was worth it. I had this amazing feeling of accomplishment that I was helping the children and the rest of the construction workers get the job done. But, looking back I wonder; did I really help and make a difference or was I just in the way? Did they need me to volunteer free labor or could it have helped more to employ someone who is out of work to do the job that I was doing? I do believe that we did help get things done in certain ways, but we also got in their way. Our numbers allowed for the process of moving the concrete to go by much faster and the girls who painted did a great job and got an enormous amount of the walls finished, but I can’t help but think that they could have done those things even faster than us. But, I did learn that all of the supplies that we used during the trip to Philippi, we supplied. That was our main contributing factor. And I also saw that maybe our labor and the providing of the supplies was not the main focus; just maybe we were there for a moral purpose to show the people involved with the project, the people that have invested so much into it, that people do care about them and the great things they are trying to do.
I’m glad that we were able to travel to the township and meet some great people working to enrich the lives of the youth in South Africa. It was a great and humbling experience and a great eye opener. It made me see how fortunate I am to be in the place that I am. We all have been blessed with so much and others are not as fortunate. Sometimes giving money and labor is the right thing to do, but maybe there is something even greater that people need; maybe they need moral support and direct human interaction to show them that they are not alone and that what they are doing is still important. The youth is the future in every nation and especially in South Africa. These leaders are fighting to create a better South Africa and I am grateful that I had the chance to share a piece of that journey with them.