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last weeks

Our time is winding down here.  We leave on the 3rd and get home on the 4th.  Half of the Cloetes are leaving for the States and Mexico on the 1st, so we are celebrating easter a week early.  We’ve heard about the Easter traditions here and I was sad we were going to miss it, but now we will be here for the traditions.  Yesterday we did our last big grocery shopping and our last outting to the malls.  Wedesday was Human Rights Day here.  So there was no school and many people had off of work.  I was a great opportunity to be in the village all day doing interviews.  I did about 12 of them in one day.  Towards the end of the day it began to storm so I was welcomed into several homes, which was different, because normally we sit outside.  Several of the families I interviewed were related to each other.  It was interesting to hear each person describe the other and see if all of the information matched up.  I did have a translator, who I am making lasagna for to say thank you for all of her help. 

Earlier in the week I went into the village and did a few interviews without a translator.  We had a few households marked that could speak English.  I went to a house with three younger ladies sitting in the front yard.  I interviewed that househole.  The woman was my age and she had recently moved onto the village to live with her boyfriend.  Her boyfriend is related to large family that seems to be spread all throughout the village.  She ended up taking me to two more households to do interviews while she translated.  I was so grateful and happy with her kind gesture. 

One day last week Cassie and I went into the village together to do interviews without a translator.  We went to a household where the mother of 4 boys who stay at Botshabelo lives.  She is far along in the HIV process.  She lives with her partner, who regularly beats her and her two young twin girls.  When we were doing the assessment one of the twin girls fell asleep on me.  And yesterday the mother had a doctors appointment so the twin girls were on school property for the day.  Their older brothers who stay here are very personable people.  There are times where we hear about how one of the brothers has to go check on his mom to make sure she is fine or to stop the boyfriend from beating her up and then we see how gentle they are with their sisters.  Seeing the effects of all of the different factors including poverty, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and growing up fatherless on these family members puts a lot  into perspective.  It makes me incredibly sad that these children have to grow up so fast and deal with things beyond their intended age. 

This week we had one of the small children sleep in our flat with us.  This baby is going to be two in October and is very delayed.  He does not talk, walk or crawl.  He is much smaller than babies who are even younger than him.  His mother is a member of management here.  She works at a hotel in town so she is here a lot less than she used to be.  But she lives in Marion’s flat with a bunch of other kids and she helps look after them.  Her child will sleep with her, but most of the time she leaves early for work so the child sleeps with a college couple.  The college couple have their own home on the property next to Marion’s flat.  The couple helps care for the child and when they get home from college they pick the baby up from Leigh’s house.  The college couple had tonsilitis so the baby was staying with the mother more.  The baby has a horrible diaper rash and the mother has been told she needs to wake up every few hours to change her baby.  But the rash is continually getting worse.  So we had the baby sleep in our flat for a few nights.  He would start off in my bed.  I would change his diapier at midnight.  Then Cassie would wake up at 3 and take him from me and change his diaper then and again at 6am.  The baby would sleep through the night and rarely cried…which is nice, but not very normal for a child his age.  We eventually did find out that the baby’s mother tried to abort the baby herself when she was pregnant, which very likely may have something to do with his delays.  Today I went with the baby to the doctors and he drew blood for test.  He believes his kidney is not functioning properly, which is causing his immune system to be weak. 

During orientation we were told if we ever get sick we would go see Dr. Laurence.  Amanda has seen him and Cassie has helped bring children there, but it was my first visit.  Dr. Laurence’s office is very nice and our group members were the only not white people there.  It was calm and orderly until we got there and there was a handful of African and African-Dutch mixed babies.  One woman looked uncomfortable, whereas one couple made friends.  The woman came over and picked up the pathetic baby that I was holding.  She asked for his story, handed him back to me and went to the bathroom to wash her hands.  She gave Leigh her business card and asked to kept informed.  Then the doctor’s wife showed up with her two horses.  It was very funny to me that only a ten minute drive from Botshabelo was this whole different world. 

At the doctors today Leigh got a phone call saying she must hurry because Marion wants to change around the rooms.  We get home and there are bunk beds going every which way.  I get put in charge of standing in the room that the snacks live in while the woman cleans the room.  This woman is the sweetest woman ever and is apparent VERY afraid of snakes.  Marion locked the snakes in the bathroom in the same room and I had to guard the door so the woman who was cleaning was did not go in there.  At first she was looking around for the snakes.  I told her the snakes were not in there so not to worry.  Then everytime she would have to pick something up her face would get this pure petrified look so I would move everything.  There was one point where I was about to step out of the room and she started screaming for me to stay in there with her.  It was kind of humorous, because she was so nervous and if the snakes really got out what was I going to do?  Also I was helping her move these sea shells and there was a huge spider in them and I had to act like I wasn’t going to pee my pants even though I wanted to cry like a little baby.  Anyway, we were all standing on the veranda and there is an older male and female.  I did not recognize them.  Marion and Leigh went to go talk to them in private…which rarely anything happens here in private.  They came back and stated that we would be going to Rustenburg in a little bit to sort something out. 

That something was that a woman had died and the family needed help getting her body out of the house.  This family is related to the family that I say is spread all over the village and there are also children that stay at Botshabelo that are also related.  The male who came to speak to Marion is the dead woman’s brother-in-law and the woman is her sister, but not the male’s wife…another sister.  Anyway we finish up a few things then we get in the car and drive to Rustenburg with the sister.  We drive for about 40 minutes and get to a house.  The house was in the middle of no where with not much around it.  There were a handful of women sitting outside of the house.  We ask to see the body.  We walk into their house, which was very well organized on the inside, and there is a dead woman on a mattress on the floor.  We go back outside to hear what the family had to say.  Ultimately there were three sisters of the dead woman sitting outside.  All of the family was saying that they did not have money to have the mortuary come pick up the dead body.  The sisters said that the dead sister had been in the hospital for a few weeks and she got home yesterday and then she was dead by nine at night.  This woman was so thin and so unhealthy looking that the hospital had to know she was about to die.  I cannot imagine the confusion this near death woman was experiencing when the hospital had her go home.  In South Africa the ambulance is only required to take a dead person if the cause of death was murder, but the police once they arrive onsite to a death are supposed to stay at the home until the body is picked up by the mortuary.  This clearly did not happen, because the police were not there and there was still a very dead person at the home.  Eventually Marion had the guy who drove us call one of his contacts to come get the body.  Throughout sorting all of this out it was made known that one of the sisters of the dead woman had three of her sons living at Botshabelo.

Marion gave her a hug and made the mother say thank you to Marion for raising her family.  The mother also has HIV and is an alcoholic and she never visits her children.  The mother was not fully there and often looked very seperated from the situation.  Before we left we had all of the sisters get together for a photograph so we can give it to the children. 

We took one last look at the body inside the house.  When you walk into the home there is a photograph of a woman with long braids in her hair in a swimsuit in the ocean.  It was a beautiful photograph.  Marion asked who it was and the sister replied that it was the dead woman.  The picture was breathtaking and looked nothing like the woman who was laying on the mattress.  It really showed how times can change in one lifetime.     


Three Weeks Left

Well. Well. Well.  Quite a lot has happened over the past few weeks.  As a follow up to my last blog about juvy being good preparation for my time here: Like a day later or so there was mass chaos that was so similar to a Department of Juvenile Justice facility it was unreal.  A young boy in the outreach program and a few of his friends who are gang involved saw a tattoo on a young guy’s arm.  This other young guy works in the crèche where all of the babies stay, is developmentally delayed and mostly keeps to himself.  The group of guys told the other guy with that tattoo that he needed to take the tattoo off, because it was from an opposing gang.  A logical person would think: you can’t get a tattoo off without getting expensive surgery, however the three young men handed the other gentleman a screw driver.  After refusing to take his inked skin off with a screwdriver they group of boys jumped the single guy and attempted to stab him.  The guy ended up with minor injuries.  The three boys were kicked out of Botshabelo.

 In the mean time there was light brought to the problem of many of the young boys abusing alcohol.  Alcohol usage and abuse is very common here.  The legal drinking age is 18.  The Cloete’s started a tavern in the village a while back, because the nearest one is in town and the drunk people walking back in the dark on the dark road would get hit and die.  A lot of the younger people, mostly males will go up there on the weekend.  However during this specific week many of the young gentlemen were skipped school and other organized activities and becoming drunk.  Through management exploring this topic many other things were found out and multiple people got into trouble.  Many of the older boys were suspended off of property for one month.  Throughout the next week and a half almost all of these people were back on property after apologizing.  Since then things have been a bit more quite. 

For four or five days Amanda’s Liason from school, Tammy, came here to do a site visit.  Tammy has been working with Botshabelo for about 4 years now.  She has sent groups of students prior to Amanda and only one of the students has been fired from here before…But anyway it was nice to have her around because she understands the establishment well and I felt free to ask her any questions I wanted.   She was able to help me process a few different things in a way that I could better understand the situations.  Tammy also took us out for a day, because she had a rental car.  Tammy did that weeks supervision for me and I gave her my supervisor’s contact information in hopes that they will be in contact.  The program at University of Texas is very developed and I think our school would benefit to learn more about their program.  One of the great things about staying here that you get to meet people from all over the world.  So far we have meet people from all over the US, Australia, Holland, Norway.

Last weekend was Leigh and Nicole’s birthday, so the weekend had extra events for them.  For their birthday they asked us to join in the mango groove dance.  This dance is performed by the older girls and we have been joking saying we need to learn it.  So Leigh and Nicole asked/told us we were going to do this dance the morning of the fire, where we would need to perform.  We grab a few of the friendly older girls and they taught us the dance moves…..I AM NO DANCER.  As if us three Americans wouldn’t stand out enough being on stage, but I have no rhythm.  That night we were so nervous.  But we did it.  We also have it on videotape, where you can barely see me hiding in the back corner…not intentionally of course. 

The day of Leigh and Nicole’s birthday there were three visitors from the states.  They were from the Fruit and Tree Planting Foundation.  They donated about 300-350 trees to Botshabelo.  Most of them were fruit trees.  The group was here for about three days and even though they were not here for long, we got to know a lot about horticultures and the organization.  The head horticulturist was on the trip and he was so great.  He was very interested to hear all about our time here and our schooling.  Turned out that his youngest daughter is about my age and that was made even more apparent when he gave me and Cassie a good fatherly talking to right before he left.  It was pretty standard, you know, don’t settle for anyone that doesn’t deserve you, money isn’t everything, you should be proud of yourselves.  All very nice things and it meant a lot to hear from someone who only knew us for a short period of time.  It was a funny thing that we haven’t been lectured since we’ve been here outside of laundry not being collected correctly or not wearing hats often enough…so it was nice to have someone lecture us in this way. 

We have been spending a lot of time in the village working on assessments.  At first it was kind of awkward and working with a translator is interesting.  We each have about 20 assessments we need to do before we leave.  But we completed the assessment for the older couple that we have been checking up on together.  We show up to the house and one of their adult daughters was there so it was nice to meet her.  However, it was very clear that the couple was drunk.  We had gone to do the assessment once before, but they were not home, so we continued on with the assessment.  At the end of the assessment we ask if there is anything else they would like us to know about their family or if there is anything we can do for them.  We already know them getting water is a struggle.  Marion asked us to see if they would set 50 rand a side per month for two children to get water for the whole month (they both are getting pension, so they have some money).  When we brought this up the man stood up and stated how strong he was and he didn’t need help getting water.  Mind you when he tried to stand up he could barely manage.  But this was very frustrating and I feel like if I were in the US I would have been more likely to push the topic, however here we are still building a relationship and out of our own culture so we kindly said okay, we understand.  More assessments this next week!!

Spring Break was last week and we went to Cape Town.  We were struggling with a good time to go and sorting out all of the details.  But Amanda, the intern from Texas, has classmates doing their practicum in Cape Town so we were able to stay there for free.  Cape Town was amazing, so beautiful.  The girls stayed right in the city center so we were able to walk around to the different shops, eat at cozy restaurants and see the parliament buildings from their windows.  Our flight left on Wednesday and we had transportation all set to leave at 6am.  But then we heard about a country wide strike that was going to occur on Wednesday.  The strike is in relation to the tollways and the protestors were to be in the major city streets, which were the ones we were going to be taking to get to the airport.  So we decide to leave the night before and stay at a hotel.  We did that and flew out with no problems.  We got to the street the girl’s live on and see a huge mob of people all in red.  We watched from afar and that was that.  Apparently last year the strike turned violent, but it seemed to be pretty under control.  Even though everyone kept telling us we needed to be safe and to be aware of what was going on…I was really excited that I got to see organized protesting…don’t worry I have pictures.  Our time in Cape Town was very nice.  It was such a complete opposite to here.  We were able to be out and about in the city, whereas here we are on the property in the middle of nowhere for weeks without leaving.  Cape Town is much more touristy and more pricey than anything around here.  We saw Table Mountain, Camps Bay, Cliftons Beach and walked around the Waterfront.  I would love to go back there. 

We got back to Botshabelo property today.  We got many warm welcomes home.  It is definitely fall here now, because I am in my sweatpants and slippers.  We have three weeks left and I think it is going to go by so quickly.  This week we have a smaller assignment and a 15 page paper due and then next week a 5 page paper and another smaller assignment due.  Doing homework here is so difficult, because there is rarely a time that it is quiet or that I am alone to focus.  I worked on my paper in the hotel, but tomorrow I will lock myself away somewhere and hopefully finish is.  Being here so close to graduation and knowing that we have so much to do when we get back is very stressful.  It’s like I either want time to stop or time to hurry up, but this a few weeks until I go home and then a month until graduation timeline is freaking me out.

Botshabelo vs. IYC

I have come to the conclusion that Botshabelo and Illinois Youth Center- St. Charles have many similarities.  In no way am I saying that Botshabelo is like a jail, however the children and the problems the children face are very compatible.  The children in both places face trauma and are forced to grow up too quickly.  At IYC I worked solely with adolescent males, which here I work more with females, but I can only imagine the fights that would happen in female facilities.

My task supervisor at IYC started off in a female facility and she shared many stories with me and honestly it does not seem too different from some of the stories that happen here.  In the past week I have stood directly in the middle of two female fist fights.  The first one was, because a girl refused to follow the rules and so the girl who is very helpful and was trying to enforce the rules initiated the fight.  I brought the girls to Marion, where Marion explained that the girl who was enforcing the rules was brought up in a home where she was brutally beat and since she has been here they have been working on her anger management, but she still struggles to not resort to physically expressing her anger.

The second fight was over a boy….yes a boy.  These girls, oh my lanta.  A few of the girls in the outreach room are soo boy crazy, it makes me absolutely sick to my stomach.  This fight happened last night and these girls sure can put up a good fight.  I also brought these girls to Marion.  They talked it out and Marion explained that there are so many cultures in one place here that you have to be culturally sensitive when disciplining.  One of the girls was told that if she gets in trouble one more time she is moving in with the woman who is in charge of the kitchen, because they are from the same culture.  The woman, who heads the kitchen, sure is one tough lady.  Marion always says that there is only person who is scary than her on the property and it is the woman who heads the kitchen.

With the boys, there are bets made and broken, threats made out against each other, people being paid off, which is just like St. Charles.  There were so many times last year that I had to go visit one of my clients in confinement and ask why they got into a fight, “he owed me a burrito.”  The only difference is that here it is over sweets or a bag of chips.  The kids that don’t have any pocket money to be betting are the kids that seem to always be losing and sometimes their friends are there to pay off their debts and sometimes they are not.

Another struggle that is very similar to here and St. Charles is that it is important to maintain a clear message that we are here to work and even though we are nice to the children we are older and are in a management role.  Cassie and I both look relatively young and sometimes the children forget that we are here to provide services, not to be their best friend.  Marion reiterated this yesterday, she stated that many of the young teenagers have not experienced people being nice to them, so they assume it is in sexual or romantic manner.  I don’t even have enough fingers or toes to show how many times I had heard that speech at IYC or how many times I have seen situations like this occur.  I am grateful that I have had the experiences I have at my previous field placement, because the skills I learned there have proven to be transferable already.

Valentines Day

Last week may or may not have felt like the longest week ever.  Saturday we went to the Casino for my birthday.  The Casino has a dance club part in the bottom, with our luck we got there and the dance part was closed.  So we played a few machines and got some ice cream, drove through McDonalds and came home.  The next day was very low key.  Cassie had two cards going around for the kids to sign for me…it was very sweet.  Marion sang happy birthday to me with a group of children as well.  I got birthday messages from people from here and from at home…it was a wonderful birthday.

On Monday we were put in charge of throwing a Valentine’s Day party for the kids the following day.  So we rushed back to our homes and started planning.  We needed to get into town to get decorations and sweets.  There were transportation issues, so our ride didn’t arrive until 6pm, which all of the shops would be closed by the time we got into town.  So our trip into town was postponed until the morning of Valentine’s Day.  Most of the transportation issues revolved around one of the “handy-men,” who lived a home away from us, his car was stolen in the middle of the night, so they had the other car out during the day looking for the car.  Apparently, the car was stolen and then the people used it to hold up the petrol station up the rode closer into town.

Tuesday morning came around, we woke up at 4am to decorate the dining hall before the children went to breakfast.  We get back to bed and we get called to go into town.  We get dropped off at the Clear Water mall, while two caregivers and two children head into the hospital at Johannasburg to get refills on their ARVs.  At the mall we run into the specialty shops trying to find sweets, prizes and Valentine’s Day themed things.  We call our transportation and he picks us up, we head to a butcher, where we pick up 1000 rand worth of meat for the children’s special meal for the party then we go to the sweets store.  This sweet store had every possible type of candy imaginable.  It was a warehouse just for candy.  We spent another 1000 rand worth of sweets.  Then we head back to the hospital to pick up the children and their caregivers.  If you do the math there was the driver, the three Americans, two caregivers and two babies.  The car holds five people.  Cassie manned up and sat in the back wedge between the boxes of sweets and the bags of uncooked meat for the hour ride home.  Not to mention it was so hot that day.  Quite an adventure, to say the least.  We get back to Botshabelo and we were told the party was postponed to Friday.  Even though we had just spent the past six hours running around like we had the most important mission ever, we were okay with the party being postponed because it gave us more time to get organized.

We had a lovely Valentine’s Day party on Friday.  Cassie constructed three piñatas and there was only one injury throughout the night, related to piñata sticks being thrown.

Throughout the week we were introduced to a family that we will be working with for the rest of our time here.  The family includes a man who is elderly and his elderly woman spouse. Their house even though simple is very well put together and their plot is clean and well managed. They have six children, four of which have passed away from a variety of causes, majority HIV/AIDS. There are nine grandchildren that they are aware of. Two of those nine live at Botshabelo and attend school there, due to their parents passing away. These two children, one boy and one girl, are free to visit their grandparents when they want, considering it is only about a five minute walk. We heard that when the two of grandchildren were visiting their grandparent’s last week, a male visitor raped their grandmother in front of the two children.

We started to do house visits this week with this family. We have just made initial contacts so far, however they are very willing to work with us and we plan on frequently checking in. The husband speaks a bit of English, however the wife speaks very limited English, so we have a translator with us. So far we have just been asking about simple family history. However, we asked if they would mind if we sat down and did a family tree with them and if they would mind if we brought their two grandchildren with us within the next few visits. We asked if they needed anything from us and they stated that they are too weak to travel to get water. Marion, our task supervisor, previously has discussed this problem with us. There is a water wheel towards the front of the village, where the people who live in the village go and get their water. The wheel is a big almost merry-go-round- like thing, that when it is spun water comes out of a spout. I volunteered us to come back later that day to fetch the couple water. The couple lives in the farthest house from the water wheel and when we got there to get the water, the male went to stand up to help us with the buckets and he was struggling to even get up from the bench.  After a REALLY good arm workout, we returned with the water and stated that we would be back in a few days to talk some more.  After this experience I have a new found respect for people who live in the village and fetch water from the water wheel, because they make it look very effortless and it is anything but effortless.

Cassie has been working on the finalized versions of the maps for the audit.  Marion gave us the paperwork that we need to ask each household when we start going through the village.  It is about six pages and is set out to get a brief social history and a better understanding of the family.  In supervision the other day, we asked Marion if the people who live in the village pay any form of rent or pay for any of the water.  The people in the village pay once a year one rand towards the school.  Somewhere between 7.5-8 rand is equal to 1USD.  It is very eye opening to put it all into perspective.  The person who funds the college children to attend college has not been following through fully with funding, therefore today the students did not attend college because they did not have money to give for petrol.  This is very unfortunate and hopefully will get sorted out so they do not miss more school.  However, if they do not have school tomorrow it will be an excellent opportunity for us to have plenty of translators to travel into the village with.  We also are trying to organize transport to get to the store so we can print the pictures of the houses we took.  This way we can have the community members pick out the picture of their house and we can go from there.

While waiting for feedback about our assessment, we moved on to our other project.  For the past week we have been taking daily walks through the village.  During our walks we have been trying to create a map of the property.  There are three sections of the Botshabelo village: St. Francis, Lesedi and Kashini.  For each of the three sections we have been taking pictures of each of the houses, drawing a rough draft map, and writing a brief description of the house.  Yesterday was our day out and about so we were able to pick up poster board to start making a more final version.  Kashini is the area that we are staying in, as well as the Cloete family members and most of the teachers at the school. ( PICTURE 1 :This picture is taken from the steps from the porch and to the right is the veranda directly when we open our doors.  Straight ahead is one of the Cloete sister’s homes and it also acts as the Botshabelo office, where registration for school occurs).

St. Francis is the right side of the village, if you look at the property from Kashini and Lesedi is on the left hand side.

The village is very interesting to walk through.  The homes are simple.  Some of the plots are very well managed and have beautiful gardens and flowers, whereas some of them are less maintained.  At the village meeting, there were a handful of people there that were told we would be walking around and mapping out their areas.  However, we still get plenty of strange looks as we walk through.  Many of the people are outside of their homes working in their gardens or doing laundry as we are drawing their homes and taking pictures.  We say hello to everyone and in return we get a variety of responses.  Some people are very friendly, whereas others give off the impression that we are invading.

We attended the last village meeting on Thursday and everyone was reminded that we will continue to be working throughout the village and that the following meeting everyone must bring their ids.  Leigh told us that the residents will break up into three groups, one for each area and then we will give those residents a house number and identify their house and take down their id numbers.  This will get us a good start on the audit we will be conducting.  For the rest we will have to go into the village and gain the information that way.  There is a huge language barrier with many of the people that live in the village.  Many of the residents have very low educational backgrounds and know limited English.  For this reason we will be paired up with translators.  Since we will be entering their homes, for safety reasons, our translators will most likely be male.

The village is a very beautiful place.  However, it makes you realize very quickly what you have and how much you appreciate it.  To one side of the village there is a cliff and it is very beautiful to see the neighboring town.  Upwards, past the village there are fields and the cemetery.  Being up there is very relaxing for me.  However, when traveling through the area we need to be constantly aware.  We are not allowed in the area at night time, unless with a Cloete family member or a member of management (PICTURE 2, 3, 4 & 5).

At the backside of the village there is the town tavern, which we have gone to with members of management.  The first time we went there we left very quickly, because we were getting starred at like we clearly were in the wrong place.  However, last Friday we went back and after being approached by a few people with multiple questions we were welcomed and could enjoy our evening.  I took this as a small victory.  (PICTURE 6: MSW interns: Amanda, me, Cassie at the tavern.)

Last weekend we were able to make it to the Lion and Rhino park.  Since we were volunteering at the Creche, we arrived before the park opened and we met the staff.  From entering the gate there is about a 20 minute drive to the area that we needed to be at.  The drive was gorgeous with winding roads and there were a few animals along the road as well.  The animals included ostriches and warthogs.  Once we got to work, we were cleaning out the animal areas.  Cassie won MVP this day, because she was the best pooper scooper EVER.  Not to brag, but I’ve been MVP for the past four days, because I’ve been cooking.  Anyway, we were moving from one fenced in area to the next and the lion cubs just wanted to play, but we had to push them away, because we had to have the areas clean prior to customers arriving.  Once all the areas were clean, we chopped up vegetable for the hippos and the tortoises.  There were two hippos and they were so lazy, but once they saw we had food, they got moving.  Their meal consisted of potatoes, butternut, cabbage and carrots.  The tortoises’ meal consisted of cabbage.  There was a large fenced in area with about 20 tortoises in it.  They were in groups, so we had to put them up and separate them.  The animals did not look that large, however they held their weight well.  Because they were heavy.  But it was cool, because how often do you get to pick up tortoises? (PICTURE 7)

Once we were done feeding the animals, we had a chance to play with the cubs.  By this time there were customers, so we had to go into the fenced in areas that were not busy.  It was about 1pm and hot out so the cubs were all napping.  We spent most of the time trying to wake the animals up without irritating them.  A few of the 6 month old cubs woke up and we played with them.  They were very cute and would take nibbles, but it didn’t hurt (PICTURE 8)

Then Cassie and I ventured into the larger cubs.  These cubs were more playful.  I only have one or two bruises on my thigh from this little guy.  But once they started nibbling you just had to push them over, just like you would a house cat.  Even though we were just volunteering for the day, it was a really good experience that I am glad that the people at Botshabelo had this connection (PICTURE 9)

Everythings funnier in Africa

February 4, 2012

This has been one long week.  This past weekend were scheduled to go volunteer at the rhino and lion park, so our transportation was here, we stopped at the petrol station and were on our way.  We get there and the woman said we didn’t have a reservation, after a few phone calls and multiple explanations, the woman understood that we were there to volunteer.  Our driver, Tebogo, then was told to drive us back to this building.  Once we had almost reached this building, Nicole called us saying that the place had called and we were too late and missed orientation, so we had to turn around.  We already had a driver in order so we went to the mall.  We saw a movie and went out to lunch.  It was weird, because once we left the movie, Cassie and I were discussing how we didn’t even feel like we were in South Africa anymore, but just someone on vacation in the states.  We returned to Botshabelo just in time for our nightly duties.  It was kind of a bust of a trip, but we are supposed to give the rhino and lion park another try tomorrow.  We will leave plenty early.

We are still in the process of helping the teachers cover the children’s workbooks in hopes for them to last longer.  We have moved onto covering binders.  Outside of that we have also put together an assessment and handed it into Nicole and Marion.  We are having a meeting with Marion today or tomorrow for her feedback.  We took Dominican’s preset assessment and merged it with Amanda’s assessments from her classes.  While waiting for feedback, we were on the search to find a list of all of the students that attend school at Botshabelo.  We were under the impression that a complete list was being prepared.  Once we got that list we realized that many people that we knew of were missing or there were so many repeat names that we could not distinguish between the multiples.  We took that list then went on a hunt through files and by word of mouth to complete the lists with full name, school number and where the child stays.  The assessments we will be conducting are aimed for the outreach children.  This hunt for a complete list kept us pretty busy throughout the week.

Earlier in the week we attended a birthday party for nine children here.  It was so nice to see them celebrating and being proud of themselves.  During the week the Cloete’s had a family emergency and have been facing the challenges with that, so we have been finding ways to keep ourselves busy.

Finally getting into the swing of things

 There are three social work interns here right now.  We have been divided into groups for tasks.  Cassie has the outreach boy house, Amanda has the core children and I have the outreach girl house.  Every morning starting at 6 I check on the girls, make sure they are on schedule, changing into school close, washing faces, making beds and sweeping and mopping the floor.  Then I collect the laundry.  Each child is assigned a number and during the intake process we marked each tag on the clothing with the number.  This is a newer process, but theft has become such a problem that this system will hopefully prevent the children stealing each other’s clothing.  To ensure that each child is properly showering and turning in laundry I have a list of the all of the girls in the house.  Since these girls are from the outreach program, they come from many different places with a variety of backgrounds and cultures.  Only a few of them speak English, so I am sure it is very entertaining to watch me try to get them going in the morning.  However, they are actually very good and very motivated to get all set for the school day.  However it is only the first week of school, so hopefully that continues.  There are a few older girls who are very helpful to me and translate.  The girls in this house range from 6-16.  Each older girl is paired up with a younger child and then there are groups of eight, just for organization.  Once the floors have been mopped and swept then the children make a line on the porch and I do inspection.  And I do just that, I make sure that they have showered properly and changed their clothes.  Then at 6:45 braingym starts at the school.  A few of the days we went to watch the games get started.  Then the school day begins and we get moving on our projects. 

Last night we were just finishing our dinner and one of the older girls came for us to attend a meeting.  We show up and it was a community meeting.  These meetings occur once every other week.  The school has students who are the inner core, who are children who live and are raised at Botshabelo, the outreach children, who are children whose families cannot support them or provide them with an education, and then there are the children who are from the village.  The village is attached to Botshabelo and the Cloete family provides a family with a plot to build a home on, if the family is in need.  The meeting is a way for the people who live in the village to remain involved in the schooling process and a time for them to voice their opinions and concerns.  This meeting was so interesting and I wish more meetings were run like this.  Everyone was honest with everyone.  If someone needed to be called out, that is exactly what happened.  Leigh, who ran the meeting, had us introduce ourselves to the people and she explained that we will be doing a project with them and that we are trying to help them and that we are educated.  She then asked if anyone had a problem with us coming to their homes and working with them.  Everyone stated they were agreeing to work with us. 

Starting in February we will be conducting an audit.  Leigh has the village mapped out for us and we will be going around and collecting the occupants of each house’s information and we will ask a brief history of the person.  This will help Botshabelo maintain the conditions and be better aware of who is living where and with whom.  I am very excited to get out into the village and hear the stories of these people.  After the meeting many people came up to us and wanted to introduce themselves and things like that.  It was very nice and I am looking forward to getting this started.

Along with that project we will be conducting a form of psychosocial assessments on the outreach children.  We are going to put together an assessment and give it to Marion for her input.  This assessment will gain so much information about the children.  Marion explained it as going from just introducing yourself to knowing everything about a person.  The goal is to understand why this child is in the need of an outreach program and what interventions then can be set up to help the child face any obstacles.   Psychosocial assessments used to make me very uncomfortable, because you are asking so many things about one person, that I know I would not be comfortable sharing with someone I barely knew.  However, some very smart person once explained that she liked to conduct them, because you got to ask questions about people you normally would not get the chance to ask.  So I will try to look at it from that point of view.

In addition to those two projects, we will begin to shadow Marion in her interventions.  She is going to train us on her AIDS group, so once we learn that, we will run the group ourselves.  I am very anxious for all of this come about.