Izzy Richards on her last weeks at Otjikondo

Izzy Richards completes a fabulous year at Otjikondo School in Namibia where she has volunteered teaching children for a year. She wrote to us before she set off, after her first term, after her second term and now as she finishes.  Hazel’s Footprints gave Izzy a Footprinter Grant to help with the fundraising required for her year. 

Izzy Richards – Parent’s Day and Beyond 

I’m writing this from our hostel in Windhoek the day before I fly back o London. It all feels surreal, but let me update you on the last month.

As I mentioned in my last report, Parent’s Day in Otjikondo is the biggest day of the year and the run up was BUSY. Everyday here is busy but it gets even more busy as the day approaches. We had to give up a couple of extra things we’d been doing like reading to the younger children, doing extra chess and ballet and setting up ‘just for fun’ sport matches at weekends as Parent’s Day consumed our lives more and more.

Days got longer, nights got shorter – the work load got heavier and at times it was very difficult. Nothing felt good enough and I just wanted to curl up. The lessons spent sitting and sewing with small groups, the competition of who could make the best planet and evenings spent in the Gap flat with Skye and Anna doing various craft-related tasks whilst binge watching ‘Downton Abbey’ made the pressure so much easier to deal with. The weeks and weeks of even more intense work paid off though. We were all set up and ready by 3pm the day before Parent’s Day. We spent the rest of the afternoon helping the kitchen staff make mince, playing with the children and going with a group to harvest spinach from the garden.

Izzy Richards picks spinach at Otjikondo

 The Big Day

The big day was a success!! The craft sale went well, both parents and children were impressed and excited by the colours, face paints and food.

Parents' Day display

Despite the slightly rowdy and unsettled audience, the cast performed ‘Dr Dolittle and the Monkey Mayhem’ excellently well. Afterwards, Skye, Anna and I collapsed for an hour before going to help Zelda in the shop. As we sat outside the shop I began to shiver, and thought to myself “I know it’s winter, but it’s not that cold!”. After bursting into tears in the middle of the shop because of the pure exhaustion and relief then dragging myself home to bed, I took my temperature and discovered it was very high. I slept for the next 15 hours….

We spent the next day asleep apart from the 2 hours we woke up to go for lunch at Gilly’s house with the family. After feeding us up, Gilly sent us back to bed and told us to take it easy for a week.

A more relaxed spell at Otjikondo

In some ways the 6 weeks we had left after Parent’s Day were some of my favourites. Otjikondo was properly home by this point, I felt comfortable and confident when doing things. We also had the opportunity to do so many things we wouldn’t have if Parent’s Day hadn’t been moved forwards by a month.

I helped with beading, set up extra ballet classes and we did volleyball with the the older boys on Saturdays. Life seemed to have this new sense of relaxation about it and we did so many things with our days. We did crazy things like bringing back the official swap day. That’s a day where, after pulling names out of a hat a couple of days before, all the staff take up a different position. I spent a day working hard in the kitchen as the school cook and head of the kitchen staff, Sister Sylvia. I also, with the some of the time I had to spare now that we didn’t have Parent’s Day to prepare for, put together all the video clips that would be shown throughout next term’s concert.

 Saying Goodbye

Izzy Richards with one of the pupils at Otjikondo

Our last few days were some of the hardest and goodbyes began a week before we left. First of all came our last Sunday. We walked up and down the rows of pews shaking hands and hugging all the adults and children. Despite knowing we weren’t leaving for a week it was impossible not to get very emotional. Especially when afterwards, like we’d seen them do so many times during the year, they made a huge circle around us and sang their hearts out. Later that day we said our first goodbye to the 3 eldest children of Paul and Sara (Gilly and Reiner’s son and daughter in law) who go to boarding school in a town an hour and half away form Otjikondo.

The next week was filled with waves of emotion as we said goodbye to more and more people and our final assembly was the most surreal moment. After a year of watching so many people come and go and have that farewell assembly, it’s finally our turn to go. As we pulled out of Otjikondo in the early hours of this morning I couldn’t help but feel like an upset child, reluctant to leave the house of a best friend.

Otjikondo, I will be back.

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