One of our lovely Brazilian students, Giovanna Rodrigues Costa Negro, studied with us for the last 6 months and visited some of the volunteer projects International House Cape Town is working with in Cape Town. In this blog post you can ready about how the one day she visited the projects turned her life around.

The start of a fascinating day

When the school invited me to visit the place and get to know the projects that were running there, I did not have much information. The only thing I knew is that there were several social projects happening in townships and settlements on the outskirts of Cape Town. Now I had the chance of getting to know them.
Once we arrived there, everybody was open and ready to answer any questions that I might have. But one of the answers to my first question that I did not get at that moment but that now makes so much sense, summarizes well the whole experience: “It’ll make more sense once you’ve seen it”.

And it really did, my first stop was at the Saltycrax Backpackers where Gail, the manager of the SAVE Project awaited me with a quick briefing. She explained who they are, where they act and the reasons that led them to create SAVE. This project is responsible for the creation and development of eight schools from the most improvised to the biggest infrastructure inside the overpopulated and extremely poor township of Dunoon.  In partnership with another project called HOPE (Humanitarian Organization for Poverty Eradication) they created the Sunshine Educare facility inside the settlement of Wolwerivier.

Just a bit of background

The SAVE project has been operating since 2006, celebrating its 12th birthday by giving back to the community this year. They started as a small group of volunteers, implementing education for those kids mostly inside somebody’s house that had been offered, or in some shacks made out of raw materials. As the time passed, and more volunteers started to come with donations and good will to help, they grew and became the wide organization they now are.
With aims such as providing to those kids, not only an ambience that looks like a real school and feels like a school, where they can feel safe and actually get to learn, but also quality of living, sport, crafts and hope for a healthier happier life outside the townships.

About the importance of volunteers

Most of the beautiful work happening down there comes from the volunteers that come from all around the globe. They are mainly from Scandinavia, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Mexico and Brazil. These volunteers usually pay a fee that will include their housing for the time they’ll stay with SAVE, three meals a day being breakfast and lunch with the ingredients provided so each volunteer might have what they feel like, and for dinner a full meal cooked by their chef. The fee also includes transport from the volunteer houses to the townships and back. A donation to keep and do the maintenance of all the schools and activities provided by the social project is added as well.

These volunteers usually choose between two ramifications of the project or depending on how long they will stay, they can do both. The first one consists on assisting inside the classrooms. Depending on the age of the children, they can also help with the caretaking and doing activities, songs, crafts and trying to introduce English in their speech. Inside the schools the children receive meals, sometimes with what their parents bring, others with food bought or donated. With what they raise nowadays, they are able to feed up to 1375 kids a day.

The second one happens during the afternoon with the oldest kids, after the school and the homework is done. These kids will be taken to the volunteer houses to practice a sport of their choice, these can be swimming lessons, dancing, skating or surfing. All of them with the volunteers as a way of implementing not only fun but also health in their lives and using their free time to do something constructive.

What SAVE does in and for the community

Considering the conditions some of those kids live in, this free time could turn into something dangerous, for instance following the examples of alcohol and drug abuse some of them have inside their houses or joining a gang. The aim of the sport and activities project is to not only occupy this free time but also to show the kids that they have other better and healthier options that can bring joy to their lives.

Alongside with the kids projects, SAVE does some attempts to uplift the community, doing fundraisers and collecting donations as a way of giving back. A part of the money the volunteers pay is reverted to buy supplies for a soup kitchen inside the township. It feeds people with all sorts of chronic diseases such as HIV, TB and High or Low Blood Sugar, that need the food in order to take their tablets.

The reward you get for being part of SAVE

In a brief conversation with Gail, the manager of the project, on the way from one school to another, I could ask about her feelings towards the organization and what for her are the most rewarding parts of being part of SAVE. What I heard was certainly one of the most heartfelt statements of the whole day. Her passion is renewed every time she listen to the kids speaking English or when they choose her to open their fears, insecurities and experiences seeking her help.

For Gail, the rewarding feeling comes when she sees a school with all infrastructure being given back to the community. When they can get their teachers certificated and see the older kids social development. The feeling to see how grateful they are for the love and care SAVE gave them, giving them courage to choose and pursue a different lifestyle is what Gail drives in her job.

I could witness how glad these kids are for this chance, and how respectful they’re to the volunteers. It doesn’t matter for them if you are a certified teacher, a volunteer or a visitor, they’ll address to you as teacher. It is not only as a matter of respect, but also because they’re truly thankful for anything you have to share. To learn for these kids is gold, and they will thank you for it in advance. From the moment you step inside the classroom, they will run for you, hug you and kiss you thanking you for your attention, your knowledge, your care, your love, your presence, they will thank you for you.

The impressions of one of Ih’s Brazilian agents

Tatiana, one of Ih Cape Town’s agents from Brazil was on a visit in Cape Town during that time and together we spend the day at SAVE getting all these great impressions and seeing the importance of what they do. “To be present, and have the chance of observe up close how happy these children are for being part of this project is touching. SAVE Project is definitely changing these little kids without conditions lives, you can capture in their eyes how important this closure with the volunteers is for them. They have so many dynamic activities; I firmly believe that these children can follow different paths towards the positive side of life. To bring knowledge and sport into their lives is something that can take them beyond.”