Scottish Charity Number: SCO36069

11th April 2012

Half Way Mark by Maya Walker

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The Half-way Mark!

Its February and the half way mark has now passedI cant believe how quickly the last 6 months have flown by!

Since my last newsletter a lot has happened. I will start by adding an extra lining of gold to the edge of that canvas of mine. The exam results at the end of last year were better than I could have hoped for with lots of A*s and As. Although I must say what I found most rewarding was seeing the smiling faces of those who speak barely any English as I handed them their exam results with an E stamped in the corner – a real achievement for both them and myself!

The end of exams marked the start of the Christmas holidays! Making stockings and Christmas decorations whilst listening to the old Christmas classics in 38 degree heat was pretty surreal! The Childrens house was plastered in festive green and red in all shiny shapes and sizes. Christmas day was very different to the usual back at home, but a real special one for both the kids and the staff, and one that Im sure I will remember for the rest of my life. We had a Braai (South African BBQ) and set up a bouncy castle for the kids which went down a treat! Seeing their faces as they opened their presents and dressed up in their new Sunday best in time for Churchamazing! Yellow for their shining smiley faces!

The holidays also meant a chance for me to get some travelling done and have a well-earned break from the home and Mthatha. I headed for the amazing Cape Town and had the chance to meet up with the other Project Trust volunteers in the country. The city is amazing, although I must say it did feel as though I was back at homestraight roads, proper street signs, shops, bars and most importantly NO POT HOLES!!! On New Years eve we climbed Table Mountain which only tookwell5 ½ hours! As the name suggests and the photos show the top really is pretty flat and it only took about 20 minutes to walk across the whole top surface (once we found the top that was I think we went the rocky way up)! The views during the climb were amazing, however as we reached the top, we were engulfed in a massive misty cloud so couldnt see too much!

Whilst travelling back along the garden route I had a go at some crazy activities like sandboarding and quadbiking which saw me riding straight into a tree near the end of the course! I must say the highlight though was throwing myself of the worlds highest bungee (216m) at Bloukrans Bridge. Well when I say throwing myself off, I think being pushed would be a better descripition!!!

Arriving back at Thembelihle after the travels was a strange feeling. It took a couple of days to get back into the swing of things and the feeling of being slightly trapped came to mind. Being in such an enclosed space with so many people was something I just had to get used to again. I do now however feel as though I can appreciate the project and work much more after having seen more developed parts of the country! It is an absolute privilege to be working at a home in the Eastern Cape

The start of the new school year saw a renewed reward system being put in place in the classroom. This has worked really well with controlling behaviour and concentration and motivating the children to work harder! The classroom felt rather empty at the start of the year as many children were discharged before Christmas. However, within a couple of weeks the classroom was near bursting point again with new admissions! Two of whom included two very cute, but mischievous little identical twins, Aviwe and Iviwevery confusing!!!

Lessons have been going really well and the childrens progress is really coming on, particularly in Natural Sciences, Life Skills and Maths! I LOVE teaching the preschool, particularly now that we have more little ones running around the place. After trying and failing to teach them how to read, I realised the problem was that before coming to Thembelihle (although they had been taught the ABC), they had not learnt the phonic alphabet, so had learnt everything the wrong way round. This has been one of my greatest achievements this term as, with the aid of lots of brightly coloured, glittery stickers, they can now say both alphabets and also read simple CVC words like cat or dog and some are even moving onto longer, more complex words. What I found tough (but also very funny!) was trying to teach them to pronounce the letters C, X and Q as these are the letters which represent the clicks in isiXhosa! There are a couple of children in the preschool who are particularly challenging to teach. Little Dum-Dum tries to copy the letters I write, but for some reason they still end up being upside down AND back to front must take some skill! Im hoping that by the end of the year she will be able to write the whole alphabet herself. I have found that with another child, drawing the shape of the letter on his back with my finger whilst he writes it on the paper really helps, particularly when trying to get the letters b and d the correct way round.

Now onto cheese. Yummy, but quite expensive out here. So when it came to cutting a block into little chunks for a blind-folded taste test in my Life Skills lesson on the 5 senses, I was a little miffed but also very amused to see all their faces screwed up and requests for the bin to spit it in!

Still a pretty successful lesson, particularly with the aid of a smelly sock for the smell test and a spiky hairbrush that was something I had taken from the garden that morning, that I insisted wouldnt bite too hard! I have also conquered long addition with Group 1 using 3, 4 and even 5 digit numbers which is amazing if you remember from my first report that at the start of the year, this group couldnt add 1 + 1 without the aid of their fingers!

In Economic & Management sciences, Group 2 has been learning all about advertising and promotion. They are now pros at analysing magazine adverts and discussing target audiences and have been having fun creating their own food packaging! In natural sciences we have been doing a bit of biology and learning all about the reproductive organs. I have extended the lessons to include a bit of sex education as HIV is a massive issue in South Africa and it is so important for the older children to be educated in this area! I have also been teaching them about fossil formation and they had lots of fun making their own fossils with modelling clay and shells.

A week or so after returning from the New Year travels, I was asked by one of the members of the church I take the children to, who heads up the Sunday School whether or not I would be interested in becoming a Sunday School teacher. I was a bit wary of the fact that I would have NO idea what I would be teaching the kids as I am not particularly religious, but I thought with the start of a new year it was about time I took on another challenge and a secondary project, and once again I have thrown myself into the deep end and out of my comfort zone. The lessons have been going well so far and I am currently getting them ready for their scripture exams which the church have signed up fornever even knew such things existed!!! The Sunday school is held in two small sheds in the garden of the main church. They are pretty run down on the inside with stacks of broken old benches covered in a layer of dust and crawling with spiders not a great learning environment. So as well as teaching, I have also offered to do them up a bit; mend the furniture, clean it all down and paint the outsides to brighten the place up a bit. Very exciting and I hope in the next few months it will be finished!

Valentines Day was quite special and all the children dressed in pink, red and white clothes (apart from two who decided green was a more fitting colour for the day)?! We made valentines cards and the afternoons entertainment involved baking and decorating heart shaped cup cakes! I have also discovered I have a secret admirer (well not so secret, and actually no longer an admirer). There is a small shop down the road where I go to buy airtime for the Internet and my phone. Often I only need a little to send a couple of emails or when Im short of money I will only buy R5 worth so I usually go a couple of times a week. Recently when I have been going down the road, I have been hassled by a lady behind the counter who keeps giving me boxes of chocolates, red roses and cards from her brother-in-law who also works at the shop on certain days of the week and usually serves me. In the end I had to stop accepting gifts (although the chocolate was rather yummy) as I keep getting proposed to. The result I am now being ignored and charged an extra 50c for the airtime oops!

I think the biggest change for me is the fact that I am now all alone, as my partner has been repatriated. Although there is now MUCH more work to do and a massive amount of responsibility, I am actually really enjoying the freedom it has given me and it has shown me how much I have grown up and changed over the last 6 months. Being the most constant person in these childrens lives is a bit daunting and a huge responsibility, but I am in such a privileged position so I am working my hardest and grabbing every opportunity that comes along!

The rest of my days here have been filled with various bits and bobs like sweeping up a bag full of broken glass outside the gates of the home, planting marigold seeds with the children, helping to paint canvases as part of a fundraiser, celebrating Burns Night in Zithulele with a traditional Ceilidhnever thought I would see one in the middle of the Transkei, but I guess theres always a first for everything! Doing admin work in the office, celebrating my birthday and being given lots of wrapped up pieces of cardboard for my birthday from the children (very cute!) driving into town to do jobs for the home, serving the childrens lunch, and of course, lots of hugs, kisses and cuddles for the childrenphew!!!

So there we have it! Thats my 6 month updatesorry it has taken me so long to send it out as you can tell I have been very busy!

Thank you again to everyone at HFT for supporting me.
Maya -xxx-

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