Read the next part of the story from our South Africa volunteers.
Monday, we began our week at the St. Luigi Scrosoppi Sorgsentrum/Care Centre. After breakfast at Annie’s we left for the township. The morning was spent learning about the history of the centre and what we would be doing during the week. It was amazing to see how they had created this beautiful place in the middle of a township; with gardens, animals and open spaces for the children to learn and play. After our information session and a tour of the grounds we headed up to House Luigi to meet Marvin, the man in charge and to introduce ourselves to the other staff and volunteers. They were all really cool, fun and friendly – we were excited to get started. Then the children arrived! They are all so wonderful and all they want is to feel a little joy and a little love. The kids who come to the centre live in the township and generally don’t have a lot to look forward to at home, so the center is a place for the kids to get some food in them and have some fun. They love to meet new volunteers and immediately we were picked out by the kids to play. They climbed on us and played with our hair all while trying out their English. The majority of the kids speak and understand English but there are still quite a few who don’t speak English or don’t want to speak at all. We hang out with the children all afternoon and at 5 o’clock they are sent home to spend time with their family or carers.
Once the kids leave we get picked up to go back to Annie’s for a small rest and then dinner. Tuesday morning we went through the same morning routine of breakfast then heading to the centre, except Tuesday we were put straight to work. We helped sort and fold clothes that had been donated to the centre; they would then be sold in local markets to help cloth and raise money for people in the township. It was a busy morning filled with lots and lots of clothes! We got through half the bags of clothes that needed to be organized, the rest would need to be done on Friday morning. After several hours of sorting we headed back up to the house Luigi from the church to get some lunch and have an hour to relax before the kids came to play. Each day the children get split up into groups from small/small girls and boy around the age of 4 years up to the youth and teenage groups. Each volunteer takes care of a group for the day. Monday, I got my hair trimmed with tools like Japan Scissors USA and then it got braided by the small girls and Tuesday I played with the sprinklers on and around the jungle gym with the small/small boys. After another day of playing with the kids we headed back to your accommodation to get cleaned up before going out with Annie and two of the other German volunteers Lea and Larissa, to an art gallery opening. We drank wine and listened to music performed by Barry and Sissy, some of Annie’s friends and the performers of Magical Moments.
As the weather was supposed to be ridiculously hot Wednesday morning, instead of going to the centre we went to the Meiringspoort waterfall for the morning with the other volunteers from St Luigi’s. The journey there was beautiful with spectacular scenery, the waterfall itself was also lovely – very different to the one at Wild Spirit, set within dramatic cliff faces rather than being in the middle of a forest. The water however was slightly warmer so the majority of us went for a swim, with some people doing some crazy jumps into the water. We had brought sandwiches, boiled eggs and ginger beer for a picnic lunch and therefore after we were done swimming we all tucked in. The morning went by incredibly fast and before we knew it, it was time to head back to St Luigi’s for another afternoon with the children. As it was so hot and we were all pretty tired, we had no planned activities with the kids, so after getting them to all wash their hands and giving them their lunch (today was jam sandwiches) we had the afternoon to free play. Alli and I spent the majority of the afternoon with the little girls who loved playing with our long hair. The kids were also fascinated by the braid and feather in my hair, as well as my ear piercings. The young boys however were less interested in playing with hair and ran around playing various games such as cricket. As usual the afternoon passed by very fast and it was soon time to head back to Annie’s. Annie cooked another lovely meal – fried chicken, salad and Millies (aka corn cobs); we all enjoyed it but Aiden definitely ate the most! After dinner we were all knackered and had an early night.
On Thursday we also had a pretty exciting morning, we set out with the other volunteers for a morning at the local Cango Caves. The caves are incredibly old, full of amazing rock formations including ancient stalagmites and stalactites. They have also been used over the years for different functions – thousands of years ago the entrance of the cave was used by people as a home (they only used the opening chamber as they believed ancient ancestors lived in the other chambers of the cave), when the caves were rediscovered a few hundred years ago the caves were also used as a concert hall due to the great acoustics. We went on the shorter heritage tour which took us 600 m into the caves through a number of different chambers each different sizes and each displaying unique rock formations. There is a longer tour available – the adventure tour, which takes you much deeper into the caves (appox 1.6km), however this tour also means you have to fit through some pretty small spaces and I think Alli and I were glad that we didn’t do this tour! Especially after we heard someone once got stuck leaving a group trapped in the caves for 11 hours! After our tour we headed back to St Luigi’s where we had another afternoon of feeding the children and free play. By this point Alli and I had definitely formed some closer bonds with some of the children and even just playing with them and seeing them have fun in a safe environment was so rewarding. After work that night we also had another amazing treat – we visited the incredible local show ‘Magic Moments’. The show is run by Annie’s friends Barry and Sissy, and is set within their home where they preform and also provide dinner for their guests. The dinner was also delicious – it was a traditional Potjiekos and was definitely one of my favourite meals so far (Alli and I both went back for more). Sissy and Barry were great hosts as well – our glasses were never empty! The singing however was the highlight, and all of us were moved by Sissy and Simphiwe’s beautiful voices and their amazing renditions of songs such as ‘At last’ and ‘Hello’. Meeting Barry and Sissy was also interesting due to the fact that they have faced some issues as they are different races but it’s amazing how in love they are, it really adds to the show. Overall it was a fantastic evening and I think it’s safe to say we would all go again.
Friday unfortunately was our last day volunteering at St Luigi’s. We were all pretty tired from the night before however we all got back to work sorting and separating more clothes to be sold. After a morning of hard work we managed to get through all the clothes and had filled St Luigi’s media room with piles and piles of clothes ready to be priced and then sold in the following few weeks. We had our last lunch at the centre and then the kids began to arrive again. As it was our last day we were allowed to do whatever we wanted with the children. So after our usual lunch routine with the children we spent the afternoon playing with chalks on the floors outside around the centre. The kids did some beautiful drawings and were also incredibly sweet, writing things such as ‘I love Fran / Alli’. Warren also had the idea of colouring in the bricks outside Huis Luigi, we spent a while doing this and though it looked really cool, we also both ended up covered in chalk ourselves as the kids decided to also draw on each other as well as using the floor! At the end of the afternoon Marvin and Karabo got all the children together to sing, dance, thank and say goodbye to us all. It was pretty sad saying goodbye to the kids, they were all such amazing playful and happy kids and I think we all would have happily stayed for another week. As it was our last night in Outdshoorn we went over to Thappelo’s house where the other volunteers were also living, where we had huge takeaway pizzas – known to be the largest in the Klein Karoo, and a few drinks to say goodbye.
The next morning after a much needed lie in we went out for brunch with Annie before we had to get the Baz Bus to Mossel Baai. We went to a really cool cafe in town called ‘Nostalgia’ and the food was delicious. After eating we said our goodbyes to Annie and her beautiful dogs and headed on our way. On our arrival in Mossel Bay we checked in to our Backpackers and went on a walk down to the point and then into town. We ended up after walking around for a while at Cafe Havana Lounger where we had cocktails and Tapas for dinner. After food we were stuffed and headed back to the hostel where we chilled out drinking tea on a deck looking out over the Bay.
On Sunday we finally went cage diving with the famous Great White sharks! We walked down to ‘White Shark Africa’ where we had a briefing and breakfast before heading on to the boat. The boat trip to seal Island where we would be diving was beautiful with awesome views of the Bay and the island itself. Mossel Bay is also a perfect place to shark dive due to the fact that researchers believe that close to Seal Island is a breeding ground due to the fact that you only see juvenile sharks in the area. A juvenile Great White is still about 2-4 ft though! We were a little nervous due to the fact that there had been cases recently where trips hadn’t seen any sharks, however we were lucky and in a pretty short amount of time our first shark of many appeared. Whilst waiting an intern working for the company told us about the Great Whites and their research, including how in the womb the Sharks actually eat each other! We were all lucky enough to have close encounters with the Sharks and it was thrilling to say the least. However in no way did any of us feel at threat, they were fascinating and I definitely have new found respect for these incredible creatures. This trip also showed the great need for shark conservation as the number of Great Whites is decreasing due to industries such as shark fin soup; it was also clear that although the Sharks have a bad reputation due to the media etc; they are definitely not mindless killers, even with shark ‘attacks’ often it is just the Sharks being inquisitive rather than aiming to harm the human. After all Sharks don’t have hands or feet to investigate and so they have to do it with their mouths! (I also thought it was interesting that the Sharks taste with the roof of their mouth) After an incredible morning we headed back to the hostel as we were getting the Baz Bus to Stellenbosh. This was our longest journey yet on the bus so when we finally arrived at the Stumble Inn we went for a late dinner at ‘Ginos’ a local Italian and then headed to bed.