I have just been part of something life-changing.
Along with 269 other volunteers from across the UK I flew to Cape Town last week with the charity Mellon Educate where, in 7 days, we built 13 new classrooms, 2 toilet blocks, 1 kitchen, 2 sun shelters with tables and a seating area and renovated 7 other buildings and 2 playgrounds at 2 different locations in Khayelitsha, South Africa’s second largest township – wow! I am exhausted but elated.
How did we do it?
Each day started with a 5:45 wakeup call. By 6:15am we were down for breakfast and by 7am we were on the bus and by 7:30am (latest) we were all hard at work and did not stop until 5:30pm, apart from a really quick lunch and tea breaks!
I personally worked with a small painting team where we painted fifteen 6ft high bookcases (four times each), eleven blackboards (twice each) the perimeter fence around the playground as well as about fifteen windows! I also learned how to plaster a wall and build a long table and benches all out of blockwork. I have never ever worked so hard in all of my life and loved every single minute of it.
The pace of work was incredible, the sun shone brightly and strongly all day and for two days we coped with high winds known as the ‘Cape Doctor’. But never once did the banter or high spirits falter or the team camaraderie drop. It was unforgettable to work with such a group of people, 98% of whom I had never met before – the team spirit was exceptional as we were all joined together by a higher purpose to help severely impoverished children whose lives are simply desperate have the chance of an education.
As Nelson Mandela famously said – “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Last week we gave 2,700 children the chance of a good education so that their hopes and dreams can come true as that is all they have – their hopes and dreams.
Living in Khayelitsha
This township is one of the most dangerous places to live in South Africa. We were therefore privileged to be shown around. Their living conditions are simply barbaric – thousands upon thousands of flimsy shacks built out of rusty old corrugated iron sit cheek by jowl offering little relief from the weather or any form of security.
On average each shack is home to a family of seven (spanning three generations many of the children are orphans) as well as rats, mice and countless germs. Forget running water or any form of sanitation – one working light bulb if you are lucky! They live in fear of their lives, but the children skip eagerly to school each day as here they get two meals a day and the chance of a future.
So, what next?
I have made the decision to commit my time to Mellon Educate to reach their dream of educating 100,000 impoverished African children so I will be going back, and in 5 and 7 years’ time the plan is to take both my children when they have turned 16 years old.
I would love to thank every single person who sponsored me so generously – I can assure you 100% that every single penny went straight into building the schools and if you would like to join me next year then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as I would love nothing more than to take a group of mothers from 2to3days.
Action is the only way to make your dreams come true - you just need to take the first step, and then the next!