One of our footprinters, Anna Haas, is volunteering for Project Trust at Mitchell House in South Africa. She’s sent us this description of what she’s up to on a day to day basis:
I work with three different classes in the enrichment centre here at Mitchell House – Juniors, Seniors and Lifeskills. I’ve chosen to copy a passage I wrote about the Lifeskills class, as I believe it gives a clear image of the children and the work environment I’m surrounded by daily.
This week I was working in the Lifeskills class, the only class in the Enrichment Centre I hadn’t worked with yet. The Lifeskills class holds the oldest group of teenagers (I think the oldest is 18) and the aim is to help them become as independent as possible. This is achieved through weekly work placements at the Garden Centre, running their own popcorn business within the school and getting them to help with chores around the classroom. What I personally loved about working with the lifeskills children is that all of them are given the opportunity to learn the basic skills required for any person who wants to live independently and I think it’s fantastic that they’re given the same chance as everyone else.
One of the difficult things about working with classes in the Enrichment Centre, especially in Lifeskills, is that all the children suffer from different disabilities which affect them in different ways. In Lifeskills the main aim is to increase their independence and prepare them for the outside world but some of the children will always require a little bit of assistance.
One boy, for example, suffers from epilepsy and is unable to communicate effectively with the people around him. He understands when you ask him to do something but will usually only communicate in Sepedi, a common language in South Africa. This does mean that I now know the Sepedi word for ‘orange’ which is Lamunu… and how to say some other basic phrases like ‘hello’ (Dumela), ‘how are you’ (O kae?) and ‘I’m fine’ (Ke gona). Like many of the children in the Enrichment Centre he also responds well to music and if you start singing the South African National Anthem he will take the lead and sing all four verses right to the end.
On the other end of the spectrum there is a boy in the Lifeskills class who suffers from autism but is extremely capable of doing his own work. Like many people who suffer from autism however, he doesn’t fully understand how to interact socially which could prove a problem when he leaves Mitchell House. So while with one child we’re focusing on a whole range of skills, with another we’re just focusing on social interaction.
If you’re interested in a wider perspective of Anna’s work and travels in South Africa, you can have a look at her personal blog.