Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reflection: Volunteering in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Two mornings a week a bus picks up twelve of us to travel to the House of Resurrection in Kwazakhele Township. This AIDS Haven was begun by Anglican nuns in the '60s. At first it was a hospice for adults who had AIDS. Over time, mothers brought their children who became orphans when their parents died. Gradually, the Haven was declared a place for children only, as it is today.

Dottie Moss organizes our CSB/SJU students with the help of Matron Agnes and her assistants. Most of the hours are spent in daycare for children ages 2, 3 or 4. The students partner one-on-one helping a child with recognizing shapes and colors, developing motor skills and learning to be respectful.

At the same time, we also volunteer at a primary school in New Brighton Township. Pendla Primary enrolls 500 children from kindergarten through seventh grade. Here seventeen CSB/SJU students are partnered with thirteen teachers.

The students assist the teachers in the classroom by tutoring small groups, correcting papers, reading stories aloud and administering spelling tests, among other things. On the playground, they organize play or play soccer with many of the children. Since the children love to sing, they are often teaching new songs and dances to the college students.

My time at Pendla is spent talking to the principal, observing classroom activity and making notes about concerns, both mine and the CSB/SJU students. It is all good work, but I wonder how House of Resurrection and Pendla Primary will be better off when we leave? I ponder this question because we are not only giving of our time every week for 15 weeks, but we raised $6,000 to assist these two places. How shall we spend the money?

Do we buy chairs for the small children who no longer have a decent place to sit? Do we fix something that's broken? Do we continue to pay the salary of the gardener who raises vegetables for the school lunch served every day?

Shall we buy uniforms for the school age children from House of Resurrection? Shall we help furnish one of the new cottages? Will we make any lasting differences in the lives of these children? What is our short-term goal? How can we meet the long-term goal of helping them help themselves?

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure no matter what you decide to do it will have a ripple effect, but you may not have the luxury of knowing what that is. Take care.