Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

24th September 2014

Final Report: Lewis Murray in South Africa

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This is my final report about my volunteering year in South Africa. I have been home for a few weeks now and I think I am just about getting used to everything again. Although pleased to be home amongst family and friends, there are many things I miss about South Africa, most of all the people I worked with in my projects. Before I start to explain the things I have learned from my year in The Hamlet, I thought I would bring you up to date with what I got up to since my last report.

Work at The Hamlet continued as usual and in my last few months I started to realise how accustomed I had become to my environment, it really had become part of me. As a result I began to consider how hard it would be to leave it all behind when I returned home. Easter at The Hamlet was fun; we took all of the residents who hadnt been taken home by family for a day out to an animal park. This was such a special experience as it was my first proper excursion with all the adults together. It was such a fun filled day with the residents having the opportunity to ride horses, as well as pet and feed many other animals. In May, one of the residents who had been at The Hamlet for over 40 years passed away .This was an extremely emotional and sad time for everyone. Fraser and I had to spend a lot of time speaking with each of the residents to help them understand what had happened and help them come to terms with their loss. It took weeks for everything to return to a feeling of normality.

The secondary projects which we had set up were a huge success and extremely fulfilling.                 At The Hamlet School Fraser worked mostly in the computer classroom. My role was with sport. I spent 2 days a week coaching the boys under 16s football team. This was quite a challenge as I had to plan training drills and organise them into different positons ahead of the inter school Winter Games. The games take place at the end of August so I am still eagerly awaiting news on how the school got on, especially the team I had been coaching.

St. Marys Orphanage was a project I really got a lot of joy from. I enjoyed all of the projects I worked in, but something about working with children in a social care environment was something special. As I explained in my last report, the kids have gone through so much in their lives already and it was a real privilege to volunteer there and feel I could help, even in a small way. St. Mays was very busy as usual, and there are so many things I could tell you about, but again, the weekend the stood out for me was Easter. Easter weekend was also a very special time for St. Marys; the entire home went to Church on Easter Sunday which was so uplifting. It was a day of singing, dancing and giving thanks to God. When we got back to the home there was a huge Easter egg hunt which was fun. Day to day life at St. Marys continued with assisting the children with their homework, as well as taking the children to hospital to pick up their medication including their retrovirals.

As you can imagine, saying goodbye to all my friends, co-workers and residents at each project was extremely hard. It was especially emotional as I have no idea when/ if ever I would be able to return and if I do, who would still be there. The Children of St. Marys sang me a song as I was leaving, about thanks and having a positive spirit in life. It was very touching and Im pretty certain I can still remember every lyric. The Hamlet threw me a huge party on my final weekend, where we danced, sang and ate lots of delicious food.including a massive brai (South African BBQ). My host, as well as the CEO of The Hamlet spoke and then unexpectedly, each the residents came up in turn to say their touching own goodbye.

I certainly have had an incredible year in South Africa; I have learned so much about a different culture, experienced so many wonderful things and met such amazing people! It was a giant leap into the unknown. I cant help but think of how naive I was a year ago but I am so proud of myself. It has been an extremely challenging year at times and I have experienced things I would not have dreamed of as a 17 year old boy, who had lived his entire life in a sheltered town in Scotland. The past year has opened my eyes to an entirely different world and South Africa has left a huge mark on me that will never fade. I know how incredibly lucky I am and how my life may have been radically different if I had been born elsewhere.

All that is really left to say is thanks! Thank you for the support and good wishes over this past year. None of it would have been possible if it had not been for your kindness. So a HUGE thanks to you all at Hazels Footprints

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