Enriching My Life by Ysabelle Thackery

Thakery la

Right, so I think I’m well due another report and here it is! I can’t believe I’ve been here 9 months now; the thought of going home in just 3 months is exciting but still surreal.

I’m really settled into the Enrichment Centre and Mitchell House now; everyday I grow more and more confident and my responsibilities become greater. For example I now provide learning support twice a week for the pupils in the mainstream college; I assist students who are struggling in classes with their homework and extra maths. It really is inspiring and motivating when they grasp a maths concept and become confident in what they’re doing. Things in the Enrichment centre are also going fantastically well. I’ve built such a close, strong relationship with the children and it’s amazing to see them grow and progress. For example a 4 year old boy in the junior class who’s autistic barely spoke when we first arrived. He only had a few words and the rest was incomprehensible. However, now he is chatting away! It started with a lot of repetition of the teachers and other children but now he has learned to use his language in context. He greets you with a ‘Good morning Yzzy! How are you?’ and loves to shout ‘Yzzy come!’ as he runs about the playground waiting for me to chase him.

Also the older boy with cerebral palsy who we act as a facilitator for has been making astounding progress in his feat to create a DJ business. Last month he was surprised by Jacaranda FM (a national radio station) with a sponsored laptop and external hard drive, all live on the radio! This was after weeks of work creating funding proposals, arranging interviews with DJs and business men and creating a business plan. At the moment we’re working with him to create a motivational speech that he is presenting in ‘Disability Awareness Week’ assembly next week. It really is phenomenal to watch and to know that I work along side such an incredible person with such a strong sense of determination and confidence (although sometimes its apparent he has too much confidence when he calls himself ‘the love doctor!’).

We also invited a new girl into the junior class after the Christmas break, a gorgeous little 3 year old who sadly suffered from epileptic fits when she was a baby. She has fitted in perfectly. It’s hard to compress these last months into one report, so much has happened!! We had an amazing Christmas concert in which we (with a tear in my eye!) said goodbye to one of the boys in the junior class. He had an amazing send off in which he did a little dance routine to Waka Waka for us! And trust me, he’s a better dancer than I am & he’s only 6! We also had a trip to a local bird and snake park in which one of the boys tried to climb into the flamingo enclosure! So that was an interesting trip! Hopefully next month we are going to go on a 2 night trip to Kruger Park with the Life Skills class which will be incredible if we do get to go. It’s just down to the parents now so see if they’re brave enough to let their children spend two nights away from home.

Aftercare in the mainstream school is also going well. After Christmas it was like starting over again though as the entire grade 3s moved up & were replaced by lots of new little ones, so remembering their names was a little difficult at first! However, now I know pretty much every name of the 50 odd kids that attend aftercare. It’s nice to be there from the start for the new grade 00s as we only arrived halfway through the year for last years children. I’m known as Miss Yzzy by them all, which is preferable to Mam, which I find far too formal! Earlier on in the week we decided to set up a talent show for them all, possibly one of the funniest things I’ve seen! Firstly it was pretty much a girls versus boys war, we had one of the little boys pretending to be the South African equivalent of Simon Cowell and lots of body popping, break dancing style moves going on. As I said before they are ridiculously good dancers for 5-10 year olds!

The hostel we stay in is dull & dowdy as always. I think we’ve managed to eradicate the rat situation; however, the cockroaches are prevalent as ever and seem to respond to no form of extermination methods! We managed to avoid hostel for a while though when one of the teachers asked us to house-sit for ten days! I didn’t realise how much I missed things like a sofa and a carpet, as well as having an oven & being able to cook our own food! Along with avoiding hostel with house-sitting we’ve also been off on our travels for the Christmas and Easter holidays. At Christmas we travelled through Swaziland and down the coast for 3 weeks and ended up in Cape Town for 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year. It was an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity and I loved every minute of it. It was a very bizarre Christmas Day and I found it quite difficult being away from home. It was absolutely roasting and we decided to climb Table Mountain to find that the café at the top was shut because it was Christmas. We then finished of our African Christmas with a meal in Nandos! So it ended up being a very different experience from the usual snow & roast turkey! During my travels I managed to fit in some more surfing lessons (I can actually stand up now!), a wine tour, exploring local markets and enjoying the gorgeous South African sunshine. In the Easter holidays we took a 24 hour bus to Namibia where we stayed for a week and went sand boarding and quad biking in the Namib Desert and met up other volunteers. I managed to try ostrich, kudu, zebra and crocodile meat which was very tasty! After Namibia we had a very hectic journey over to Botswana where we stayed for another week and a half. We visited some more volunteers and two boys whose project was out in the bush at a school for troubled boys, which was a fantastic experience. Botswana is a beautiful country; the Okavango Delta is just stunning and the people are so relaxed and friendly. We stayed in Maun for a while along with visiting the boys in the bush near a small town called Shakawae. In Maun we went on boat trip down the river and horse riding through the bush. Along with our big holidays we also managed to squeeze a 3 night camping trip to Kruger National Park on a long weekend. We saw all of the big 5 apart from a rhino and went to sleep with the sound of bush babies rustling in the trees above our tent. It was an extraordinary weekend and we also managed to pay South African rates (which are a quarter of the price that internationals pay!)

In regards to the language, we are still learning. I know a lot of basic Afrikaans classroom commands (sit nice, turn around, don’t throw/kick, good girl/boy, listen, watch etc.) and my Sepedi is coming on quite nicely although I’m nowhere near fluent! We even had the chance to use our Sepedi in Botswana as Setswana is incredibly similar to Sepedi. We have a lot of people willing to teach us their language, but one problem I find is that everyone always addresses us in English so it’s quite hard to become immersed in the language like you would in a rural community.

Other things that happened recently… Last weekend we were invited to an African wedding. There was lots of dancing and praising the lord and the ceremony lasted 4 hours! (And that was only the first half!) I really enjoyed it though. Sadly we missed out on the food so we ended up satisfying our hunger with KFC! That’s one thing about South Africa, it’s got infinite amount of fast food Chicken chains! KFC, Chicken Licken, Nandos, Galileo’s Chicken to name a few!

Right, I guess that’s it for now. I would just like to say thank you once again to everyone who sponsored me & helped this year become reality. It really has the best experience of my life so far! Thank you!