ICS Tearfund South Africa: Time to paint the Creches video

ICS Tearfund South Africa Project Case Study

Durban is a culturally diverse, vibrant, friendly city. Situated between the shores of the Indian Ocean, with breathtakingly beautiful coastline and the incredible Valleys of a 1000 Hills, it is one of the largest cities here in the Kwazulu-Natal province. As a city that breathes diversity, it hosts the largest Indian population outside of India itself, alongside many other nationalities and cultures. Mahatma Ghandi, the spiritual leader of the India independence movement, started his journey here in Durban. With almost 3.5 million people living in Durban, the city faces many different struggles with poverty affecting many with lasting impacts on their futures and opportunities for progression or improvement in their daily lives.

As a team of 7 girls from South Africa and the UK, we were placed in five different crèches in the inner city of Durban. Many of us had certain assumptions and expectations of what was ahead of us. We were given handover notes, ECD reports and helpful training in what was expected of us from Zoe-life. We all felt ready and raring to go and make a difference, helping to change our world! However, the reality of how challenging this was often going to be soon hit us and we quickly realised that it was going to take a lot more than a few cuddles and a smile to make a sustainable and significant impact.car

Carmenello’s definitely made all that time and effort completely worth it. Though we were met with slight disorder and a lack of resources/ toys on the first day, we were quickly encouraged that this was only the case because it was the beginning of term. By the second day all the teachers were back and ready to start classes again, allowing us to begin to observe properly. If we’re honest we focused a lot on the insignificant negatives of the crèche at first, due to only having knowledge of registered crèches prior to this. However, after different discussions, experiences of other crèches that have had less help from ICS volunteers and reading assessments and ECD reports, we were able to see how far Carmenello had come and how much potential it had to achieving registration. Our mind sets had changed, and we believe that was the first (and one of the most important) changes that allowed us to make a real difference at Carmenello.

The staff were massively welcoming and appreciative of all we did right from the beginning, constantly thanking us and telling us that we were a blessing sent from Jesus, which really drove us to do all we could for them. This drive was pushed further as we learnt how and why Carmenello was first set up when our team leader carried out interviews with some of the crèches’ owners about the impacts the ICS volunteers have had on their crèches. They explained that all three owners had experienced real struggles with poverty and required a way of earning. This necessity, along with their love and passion for children, gave birth to Carmenello. They then went on to tell us that every bit of money any of them had was put into developing the crèche and allowing the children to have the best experience there possible. This selflessness and evident love for their children was really inspiring and allowed us to see how appreciated our contributions were.

These characteristics were also made evident to us through the teaching that was carried out. The grade car1R teacher carefully put together different exciting creative activities for the children to carry out and the masses of songs sung by the children were always the highlight of our days. However we noticed a lack of important academic lessons in the crèche. We then begun writing a grade R curriculum for Sherine so she was able to clearly see what was required to be taught to her class, along with a detailed timetable of which lessons to teach at what times/ days, to make sure that everything fitted in and nothing was forgotten. We also planned and printed numerous worksheets and lesson plans on science, maths, English, music, P.E., development and stories to give to the crèche so that they had some suggestions of what to teach, with the aim that they would inspire the teachers to create some of their own! We also taught six CIMCI lessons and multiple creative and active lessons (e.g. decorating biscuits, making bean bags and using them for P.E. lessons). The gratitude that they showed to us was overwhelming and made all the long hours of tedious paperwork more than worth it.

It was extremely important for us to work alongside the teachers rather than take over. We therefore went to the staff before carrying out anything and made it clear to them that we were open and eager to hear any of their priorities. This was when Eunice (3-4 year old teacher) first mentioned painting the crèche. The faded, filthy yellow walls reflected a neglected, unloved place, which certainly was not the case at Carmenello. As a team we sat down with the staff and planned how they would want it to look. We wanted to create a place of vibrancy and happiness that did reflect the really special atmosphere there, somewhere that they could simply look at and feel really proud to call their own. We were also able to get the staff and the kids involved in the actual painting by getting them to all do their hand print as a leaf on one of the trees that was painted. So after multiple long days of scrubbing the walls clean and painting, Carmenello was transformed into the new beautiful crèche that the owners now (very) proudly own. We also saw amazing repercussions of this by the surrounding community. Once the landlord had seen the transformation of the building he then sent in someone to paint the higher sections on the back wall that we weren’t able to reach, and to fill in the broken areas of the ground on the elevated section in the main room! We were then inspired to continue our painting streak as we took on the task of transforming the mouldy, spider and cockroach infested room out the back of the main building (which we think was previously a toilet due to the smell) into a beautiful, hygienic baby changing room. The babies were being changed out in the open on an old desk at the time so this was a definite priority for both the staff and for us. Again, after lots of scrubbing, painting, squeals when spiders got too near and laying down new carpet our new baby changing room was complete, and really lovely!

In our final weeks, when all of our plans had been fulfilled, we began to wonder what else we could squeeze in before our dreaded goodbye. We noticed that the children loved being in the outside area but were unable to play there as it was all concrete and unsafe for them so we began to think of ways that we could make the outside area more child friendly. It was then that we carried out a lesson on planting! S is amazing at collecting old bottles/ containers to use for creative activities so we used some of these as plant pots which the children decorated. We then got the children to fill the pots with soil and seeds that we provided and put them in outside area for the children to proudly watch grow. One of the volunteers working at Carmenello had been given a sum of money by a lady from her home area to spend on the project too which, after some prayer, was spent on further making the outside area into a safe and fun place for the children also. car2We bought rolls of fake grass to put down on top of the hard concrete, a blow up paddling pool that we filled with sand to make a sand pit, sand pit toys and skipping ropes! The children and staff were all blown away by the transformation that we were able to make which was an extremely touching and humbling experience.

Carmenello Day Care has been such a pleasure to be a part of over the last 8 weeks. When S asked us in our second week if we missed our families, E ensured us that they would be our family whilst we were there, so we didn’t have to feel like we were missing anything. This was definitely the case. The Carmenello family is so full of love for the children, the staff, us volunteers and for God, which really shines through in all they do. Though they still have work to do to gain registration, we have full belief that this will eventually be achieved, and that they’ll deserve every bit of it.

ICS Tearfund South Africa: Personal Journey

Over the last few years my passion for traveling has developed, where I am constantly looking to book flights to a new country to explore or researching new places or reading masses of traveling blogs a day.

Before this, I’ve always had it engraved in me to go through the process of education and follow my career dreams; I thought I had my future planned, and would be satisfied when I got there. I was always eager to go on to the next season of my life, whether this was to going to university or my year out or completing my Postgraduate Certificate of Education or my final goal of being a teacher of my own class.

I became a teacher as I love working with children and young people; seeing them grow academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually: I wanted to make an impact and difference in their lives. However, since becoming a Primary School teacher and reaching my ‘final goal’, I have not been content.  I have found that the schools I have worked in or the parents or even some of the children I have taught, have either not appreciated my long hours of commitment and hard-work or the focus has been more on paperwork and grades rather than the individual child’s well-being. Therefore, my reason for this chosen career has become invalid and felt like my life had come to a halt, thinking ‘Is this going to be the rest of my life? I should be happy: I’ve reached my career dreams, what about the next stage of my life?’ I knew I could make a difference and an impact to individuals elsewhere in the world; I knew that there was so much more to life than staying in the same career.  My heart and feet were starting to itch and yearned for a new adventure.

Last year, after travelling around Portugal when I realised that I should be doing more than just teaching in England and travelling in the holidays, I was praying to God about what I should do after teaching this academic year. I felt God say to me “Pack up your life: quit teaching in the UK, move out of your flat with your friends, sell your car and possession and go where I will send you”. What? Seriously? I know I’m not satisfied here but really? Am I hearing right? Was this a word from God or was I just satisfying my own selfish desires?

After praying and researching about where God might want me, I came across the ICS programme where I just fell in love with the idea of going to another country, immersing myself in another culture, serving the community, taking on the challenge of leading a group of young adults and making a difference to others in need.

As I reflect on the last ten weeks, volunteering in the Inner-City of Durban, South Africa, with Tearfund and Zoe-Life, who aims to reduce the vulnerability of children, I am surprised by the amount I have learnt, grown and changed. Through this placement, I have worked alongside my team with the teachers and owners of their unregistered Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres to achieve government registration, where they will benefit from government funding, thus reducing the vulnerability of children.

Even though on the surface, South Africa may not be known as a country in deep poverty as majority of residents have clean running water, a place to live and food on their tables, they are deprived in other areas of poverty, as it comes in many forms. Through my time in Durban, I have gained a deeper understanding of poverty; the Millennium Development Goals and the United Nations, and how they focus on making the world a fairer place for all people.  While volunteering in unregistered crèches, as a teacher it has completely broken my heart to see that many children are not having their basic needs met in education due to the lack of knowledge and resources. I have become even more passionate to make a difference and impact in children’s lives in these deprived places so that they can benefit from the opportunity to learn and be educated.


Teaching in one of the Creches

In that first week of being in five crèches, I encountered so many emotions from feeling overwhelmed, to feeling stunned by how welcoming and open some of the staff were, to being in tears because of the way the children were being treated, to being excited and motivated to work with the teachers to help them improve their ECD centres. I have really learnt the importance of building relationships with the staff to gain trust and understanding. Forming these bonds with the teachers has helped me gain insight in their story and life as well as the difference we have made as a team in each of their lives. When I saw the huge grins on the teachers and children’s faces and their overwhelming words of appreciation after painting their crèche, I was completely speechless and my heart was full of joy. I didn’t realised how such a small thing of putting some paint on the wall could completely transform and impact them and the community around them. Through working alongside the teachers; getting to know the staff; painting and giving teaching ideas and resources, I now comprehend the realisation of how much of a sustainable difference we have made but also the impact they have made in my life through their willingness, openness and sharing their love through hugs.

As a team leader, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know the volunteers on a personal level, sharing in their achievements as well as their challenging times. Since I have not lead a group of 18-23 year olds, some freshly out of school where they haven’t been away from home before, I have learnt to manage them, sort out any issues and most importantly encourage them throughout the placement. From working with children in the past, I know the reality of crocodile tears so here I have learnt to be more sensitive and caring in addition to praying with the team members in their time of need. Also, I have grasped the concept of sacrifice and thinking of others better than myself while being a team leader because from a young age, I have been an extremely independent person and only needed to take care of myself. Therefore, I have had to continually sacrifice my own needs and wants for the benefit of individuals or the team. Through this, God has reminded me that Jesus was sacrificed at the cross for our sins to save others. Thus, I need to sacrifice aspects of my life for those around me.

My relationship with God has grown rapidly. I have seen a daily impact of God in my life and he has revealed new plans and desires for me throughout this placement. Being in a completely new context allowed me to see God in a new way. I felt that God called me to fast for a day, which was an incredible experience, allowing me to clearly hear from God. He reminded me that I am his child, that he will always be with me and from reflecting on my past, he has never failed to deliver me out of difficulties. I believe he also has given me a discerning heart to govern his people and administrate injustice. From reading a book I was given to take on this placement, God has given me a passion for broken women and children that are involved with prostitution and sex trafficking. Ever since this discovery, it has popped up everywhere: in conversations; passages from the bible; a blog a friend send me; daily devotions; in prayer times and in worship. I was able to explore this new topic that God had put on my heart through the project ran by ‘Nite Lites’. This involved going into a brothel in the inner-city of Durban, where my team and I were given the opportunity to minister and pray for a group of women at risk. It was important for me to start asking God whilst I was still here, how he wants me to use my life after this trip to tackle these issues. Prior to this revelation, my plans simply held moving to Thailand to teach for a minimum of six months. However, God again opened doors for me and has given me new opportunities in these areas in Thailand to widen my plans to fulfil his.

This experience has totally been part of God’s plan for me and it has prepared me for the next season.  I can’t even fathom the profound impact it has had on me, and in the long term, my future has been changed. I no longer just want to travel but to build relationships in deprived communities and make a lasting impression to those who I will connect with.

ICS Tearfund South Africa – Action Research video

ICS Tearfund South Africa: Week 7/8 in the creche video

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