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Never a Dull Moment at the Community

By Claire Williams 8 months ago
Categories Limpopo and KZN

“This girl is my sister!” How those words filled me with warm fuzzies on our recent visit to Diputhi, the local primary school within The Oaks community. This phrase came from a year 7 student as I laughed with her and her friends on our way back to class, where we sat down to hear about the conservation curriculum these kids will learn about in the coming semester.

This day began with myself and six other volunteers heading to the village with our trusty leader, Kutullo. We entered the school grounds to find school rooms bustling with busy kids and surrounded by open playgrounds. We were welcomed into a year 7 class by the principal, and greeted by over eighty bright young faces! The room was excited and energetic – new faces are always intriguing and the fact these kids were on holidays the following day might have had a little something to do with it.

The goal on our first visit was simply to mingle and have fun with the students, whilst also teaching them a little about wildlife, conservation and GVI’s role in both. We started with some ice breakers – literally, a volunteer from Canada handed around ice cubes as a metaphor for snow to demonstrate her climate. The smiles were contagious and giggles erupted when we followed the kids lead and, naturally, all put the ice on our heads.

Next was drawing. I’m a terrible artist but the kids I sat amongst appreciated every attempt I made at drawing African animals, giving me suggestions as to what to draw next and giggling as I tried to explain that this ‘leg’ is meant to be a trunk and this ‘bear’ is actually a monkey. As an international visitor one of the most mind-blowing things is the realisation that these intelligent 14 year olds, having grown up metres from game reserves, have never seen the beauty of a live rhino, or have maybe never seen a cheetah or elephant and as such have a very limited knowledge of what these animals look like. This is where we come in; GVI is developing a conservation curriculum which will discuss these animals and their ecology to evoke a sense of pride and awareness amongst the students. My drawing efforts however were richly rewarded as three students drew portraits of me!

Lunch time was extra special, having been initiated into the class we participated in a ‘very official’ volleyball match against the students. A lot of laughs were had and the crowd surrounding the entire court was chanting “G.V.I! G.V.I!” Nothing like a bit of healthy competition to cement friendships and I have no doubt a rematch will be challenged on our next visit.

I spent the remainder of the lunch break chatting to a group of girls about their holiday plans and where I grew up. I was delighted to soak up the lavish attention of the younger students who were thrilled by a game of “hold my hand and jump”, and joked with the boys during a choreographed exercise routine. Prior to us leaving the class we got a little ‘last day of school’ crazy and found ourselves dancing and singing to Shakira’s “Waka Waka” song, a bit predictable perhaps but it didn’t stop the kids dancing on chairs!

We were at the school for only a few hours but in that time I really did learn so much from these students, bonded with some wonderful new friends and hopefully instilled the seeds of environmental awareness that will bloom in the coming school term. What a wonderful experience, I will be blessed with this memory forever!