Pre-Departure work put in for the trip
For the past few years, UTS has offered sport tours and cultural trips for School groups,
University / Colleges and Sports teams from around the world, and has facilitated over 14 such trips in the past few years. This year we built a new relationship with an American group from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO). The 15 students and their teacher had been preparing for this trip for a number of months, taking a leadership course and weekly classes on South Africa. Their main reason for the tour, other than the cultural aspect, was to get involved with a local community and impart their knowledge and resources to make a positive change in the lives of the people in the community.
After much deliberation, UTS decided that the Langbos Community Centre would be the best project for the UCO group. In a small rural community near Addo, the centre includes the Intsikelelo Daycare (which has about 30 children aged 3-6 years attending daily), a soup kitchen (feeding up to 150 residents of the community) a mobile clinic to administer ARVs for the HIV+ residents and a daily after school club for the older kids from the surrounding area. The Langbos community is severely deprived, with a high rate of unemployment and HIV and AIDS. Most of the residents are seasonal farm workers and are out of work in the first 5 months of the year. It is in these months that the centre feels the pressure as all parents send their kids to the day-care centre so they can at least receive one meal for the day.
The focus of the trip would be to build some wooden benches for the clinic waiting room, to work with the young children of the day care focusing on basic English and Maths, to support the local teachers with new learning aids and training in how to use them and to provide an after school sports programme for the older kids. After receiving this information, the group went all out in collecting puzzles, display charts and all sorts of useful material for the day-care as well as doing research on DIY bench designs.
When the group arrived instant bonds were built with the kids, and as the students’ sunglasses proved to be a hit with the kids, it was impressive to see the students take note of this need and quickly make some paper sunglasses for the kids to keep. A very innovative group of students indeed!
The week saw the students do some teaching of the alphabet and phonics and the five senses to the kids and a lot of playtime in-between where song and dance were the order of the day! To break the intense learning, the students had a couple of creative sessions with the kids making puppets and other forms of art. To better communicate with the kids, the UCO students really stretched themselves learning basic phrases throughout the week in the local language, Xhosa. Throughout all of this, the DIY project was on track and going very well for the first time bench-makers who (upon completion) felt inspired to start up a little DIY business back home! Once they saw their finished products, the guys were very proud of their achievement.
Of course a week is not complete without any sport in the UTS camp, so in the afternoons- when the older kids arrived from school, the UCO students had fun teaching the kids some American sports like baseball and American Football, with equipment they had brought with them.
A very fulfilling week for the UCO guys, packed with the project work and excursions including wild life viewing, dune boarding and African dancing, ended with an authentic African meal of roast lamb and Kudu Pie, under the stars.
It was hugely successful for both parties and as a result this could be the start of a series of annual trips from Oklahoma. The trip would not have been possible without our partner agent in America, United Planet. Previously, they have sent us individuals for our volunteer program, but we can safely say the pioneer group trip was a huge success and we look forward to having more of these!
“It’s been an inspiring week for us, we had no idea of the impact that we could make in a short space of time, but also feel like we need to come back for longer and build upon the foundations we have laid with this trip, we’ll definitely be back.” – Dr Jarrett Jobe, Leader of University of Central Oklahoma Group
Jarrett taking the lead in this teaching session
Taylor teaching Siphesihle some American moves
The girls trying out some African Dancing
The DIY project- making benches for the centre
The finished products being put to use