I took a party of five members of St Peter’s Wellesbourne to volunteer at Amasango for two weeks. We had an absolutely fantastic trip.
I recommend mid-October as a good time to visit – straight after the school half term, and before exam revision starts – plus springtime is lovely in Eastern Cape (though it can be wet and cold, I know). Mother Zelma and the Sisters made us very welcome, and we all thoroughly enjoyed staying there in their peaceful and relaxed home, joining in sometimes with their worship as and when we wanted to. It was great to feel their support for Amasango.
Some of us felt that three weeks at school would have been better – we all felt more confident in the second week, and could have built on that in a third week. While we could certainly have contributed a bit more if we had stayed longer, I think our two weeks did make a contribution, and it allowed those who had limited holiday availability to join us.
The school day
I was worried that such a large group might overwhelm the school, and we might find organising a group of six rather taxing. In fact, I think the bigger group made a bigger impact in school, and it also made relationships within the group easy going. There would be advantages in a smaller group of three or four people – you would only need one car, communicating with each other would be easier, and arranging accommodation would be a bit easier..
Linda Ngamlana was a wonderful host at the school. It really helped that all of us knew her beforehand – she had a meeting with us when she was in UK, when we planned some of the things we would do in school. There is a volunteers committee comprising Linda with three members of staff – they were really attentive and supportive. We used the library as a base, and one of the volunteer committee met us every morning to ensure things were going well and to address any needs. We were included in staff briefing every morning – the singing and praying together was a great way to start the day.
A warm welcome
The staff were enormously welcoming, and far from seeing this large group of people popping in as an inconvenience, they really seemed to enjoy having us. The learners, as ever, welcomed us, some individuals sought out one volunteer or another, and they were unfailingly polite and helpful. I do think that this exposure to people from other cultures is enriching for them.
We tidied and organised the English language fiction section of the library.
We spread ourselves across the whole school, some of us working with the lower grades playing and supporting learning, while others spent time with the higher grades supporting and teaching English and maths. Catherine, a former English teacher, conducted a drama workshop. Clive helped with the computer lessons. Christine taught needlework and rag-rugging and set up a sewing machine together with ideas for projects for the children. Gill taught actions songs to the youngest children. Sarah taught maths. I taught crochet.
There is more vocational learning happening which is great – the sewing machine, computer classes. The marimba players and pottery work had both recently won trophies in regional competitions.
Everyone who came with me speaks of this trip as a really significant and positive experience in their lives. Thank you to Brian Wakeham for support, advice and lots of DBS processing.