I have been with GVI Cape Town at Gordon’s Bay for nine weeks and can hardly believe that next week will be my last. I have visited Cape Town before but have never volunteered and at the grand age of 57 I must admit that I was apprehensive as well as incredibly excited at the start my new adventure.
I am a nurse and I signed up for the Healthcare and Women’s Empowerment projects to enable me to utilize and also enhance my knowledge and skills. I arrived with certain expectations about what the projects may entail and was not fully prepared for what awaited me.
After having the weekend to “settle in” it was explained to me that the project I thought I had signed up for was, for very valid reasons, running differently (deeply disappointing) so I was asked for my first four weeks, to design and deliver a series of health workshops, to be known as WaSH workshops based on the UNICEF WaSH (Water, sanitation, and hygiene) programme.
No problem I thought until it dawned on me that a) I wasn’t familiar with WaSH, b) I had no internet or computer and c) I had to deliver the first workshop on my second day, oh and d) that I would be delivering them to children whose first language was not English and ranging from grade 1-6.
With plenty of support from the site manager including a brief outline of topics to include, tips and hints how to design a workshop, some information about the primary school where I would be and to remember that I must teach as a facilitator not as an instructor, I forged ahead.
Topics were Hand Hygiene, Looking after our Teeth, Coughs and Sneezes, (week 1) Healthy Eating, (week 2) Exercise (week 3) and First Aid (week 4).
The primary school where I was to be volunteering is called God’s Gift. It is a school mainly for children from Zimbabwe and is sited on the grounds of Ikhayalethemba in the township of Zola.
The classrooms are old shipping containers, with large tables as desks and plastic chairs.
Each classroom has a blackboard but other resources are minimal. (paper, pencils, crayons are at a premium) The classes are taught in English, although the children’s first language is Shona.
The workshops were to be held in the afternoon and were an after- school activity that the children attended on a voluntary basis. This meant that the children who did not attend should not be disadvantaged.
Workshop 1 Hand Hygiene (using glitter as germs)..I was anxious, but kept telling myself that this was something that I taught every day as a nurse, I knew the topic inside out…the challenge was to make it interesting and fun for the children and relevant to their ages. The first of the workshops was to children grade 1-2, the second for grade 3-6. (I hadn’t appreciated the age difference of the children in the second workshop which had consequences in that the younger children found some of the activities a little difficult)
It went well, the children loved singing the hand washing song “Soap and Water” and playing the glitter germs game.
The morning before the workshops I had time to prepare resources and I was fortunate that because of the high number of volunteers at the time on the child care project, some of them could help me run the workshops in the afternoon.
This help was invaluable, not only because of the number of children but also their support and constructive feedback and contribution to improving the songs/activities I had prepared.
My fellow volunteers were so supportive and full of great, creative ideas that I had no qualms in running my ideas past them and asking if they thought my ideas would work of not. The rest of the week flew by.
A review of the first week showed that overall the workshops had been successful (children really love glitter by the way) but also highlighted that trying to deliver two workshops each afternoon was not working as well as it could do (especially having the grade 3 children in with the older grades) so the following week we ran workshops for each grade group on alternate days with grade 3 having a one on their own. This actually made it easier to adapt activities for each age group and with the support of my fellow volunteers I developed numerous activities…, snakes and ladders games, word searches, various craft activities including making tooth brushes, ambulances and fire engines, pictures of teeth for the children to label, worksheets about germs (we made 40 handwritten ones!), first aid quizzes and mini circuits to name but a few.
The children were amazing, willing to learn and have fun and also competitive (especially playing snakes and ladders)
Each day was different and I watched the children grow in confidence, more willing to answer questions and engage in activities. They also became cheekier, speaking Shona when they thought I wasn’t listening!