First Thoughts and Impression From South Africa: August 2014

A few days of our experience in South Africa have passed, and they have been some of the busiest, most wonderful and, admittedly, stressful, days possible. We’ve managed to cram almost every waking moment with new people and places and challenges and all sorts of wonderful things. The Team also thought it would be nice for you dear readers to hear from each of us, so here’s a few short paragraphs with an insight into each of our experiences.


Hello from sunny Durban. It has been amazing start to the trip. I found the journey quite hard and had to recover for a few days. The hotel we are in is right on the beachfront so we have some awesome views. My first real trip out was to Dloko High School. We had a very early start, waking up in the dark and watching the sunrise at breakfast. We arrived in time for assembly and entered the quad where the entire school was gathered listening to the beautiful voices from the choir.


I’ve completely fallen in love with this country and its people. We’ve really hit the ground running, spreading our time between crèches, Dloko High School, sussing out disability access around Durban, and visiting newborn babies and their mothers in hospital. Personally, the most moving moment for me thus far has been Jean handing me a baby, and the absolute panic of: ‘I’VE NEVER HELD ONE OF THESE!’ It turns out babies are great though, and I decided they can be really rather cute.


This first week of our South African trip has been an incredible experience to me. Meeting children at Operation Bobbi Bear, spending time with children from Gogo’s crèche and volunteering with Angels of Mercy have all made me think differently about my life and world in general. Beth, Jude, Jean and I had some fantastic times together visiting Umlazi township, eating gwenia (an African snack: a deep fried doughnut with ham and cheese inside) and visiting the African Arts Centre. The most delightful and joyful moments of this trip have been mornings during which Lucky (our local volunteer) and I run along the Durban beach and swim in the sea when the sun is rising.


So it was my idea that we should post our first impressions, on reflection this was not an easy request. My overall impressions… my pride in the way our team has overcome challenges, my joy in the relationships they have built up and the fun and hilarious laughter they have had with each other and with all the people they have met. My specific memories… Lucky saying that we are making history by being the first disabled volunteers to go to Umlazi, the scathamiya singers at Dloko, talking to the learners there about disability and my two friends, Sinegugu and Ntokozo, two professional performers, singing The Click Song/Qongqothwane and the Kiss Song, just for us in a coffee shop.


This was the first time I was a first choice to work with a disability group coming to South Africa from Scotland. I felt worried but looked forward to a change of new direction of life. But minutes in a car from airport pick up it felt like we been friends/family longtime. Going running every morning with Agata, who is blind, and also swimming with her in the sea and seeing the team going out of their comfort zone to do charity/community work made me feel so lucky to be a member of Crossing Countries. Challenging boundaries, changing lives, still more to come…