Tuesday morning we drove to Philippi to participate in a service project on the township’s school. Upon arrival, we met the principal of the school and Kissmea, the project manager. (Note that they are both woman leaders!) Stuart gathered us up in a huddle to explain why we were doing the work and to pump us up for the day by doing a rather loud chant. Next, we were briefed on the safety rules and told what was appropriate for us to wear on the job site. To me, the rules were a little much. I was assigned the task of painting the inside of the principal’s house, which meant that I would need to wear a hardhat, goggles, and a mask. The crew laughed at us when we arrived wearing t-shirts, workout shorts, and tennis shoes since in their minds, it looked like we were all about to go for a run.
After our briefing and given tasks, it was teatime. I would have rather started work and then taken a break, but that is not how it works in South Africa. Therefore, we sat down, had a snack and water break as we were told to do, and then started working. Morgan and I were in charge of painting the inside of the principal’s house. Painting is not really my thing, so it took me a while to figure out the most efficient way to get the job done. By doing this, I got paint all over me.
When I was told it was time to take a break and play with the kids I was ecstatic! The second I stepped onto the playground I had kids all over me that all desperately seeked attention. To me, that just showed how little love and affection they are given at home.
Then, it was time for lunch. I was also surprised by what we had to eat: lasagna, side salad, and soda. Many of the paid workers would only have a few slices of bread for lunch while we were given a full meal to eat. How can this be fair? Also, if you think about it, we were taking away their work. Since this is their job, we are performing tasks that they are getting paid to do, and when the job is finished, they are unemployed again. In the workers’ way of thinking, I am sure they were unhappy when they found out another volunteer team was coming to help finish the school. The person that assisted Morgan and me kept asking if we were coming back tomorrow, and I am sure this is why. In addition, we began painting the bathroom that apparently did not need painting, but we were not told this. Now we wasted time and paint to do a task that we were not even supposed to perform.
At the end of the day, we had a closing ceremony where the principal, Kissmea, and Stuart all thanked us for our hard work, which included us receiving a t-shirt and certificate. Overall, I had a great day working at Philippi Children’s Centre, but I could not stop thinking about what we learned by reading Toxic Charity. Personally, I felt like I did a good dead for the community, but I am not sure that the paid employees would agree with me.