Outstanding summer programs for teens since 1982
Header Item 1

The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

Giant Hearts, Generosity and Dedication – Community Service Africa

An update from Community Service Africa!

The Westcoast Blogger

Dear Parents of Community Service Africa AF2,

As I am writing this quick note to you, I am surrounded by the laughter and cheer of about forty Shaagan children playing basketball with Jackie, Amber, Nicole and Dana. Jordan is playing an African version of patty cake and their singing is delightful. Our teens have been showing a tremendous amount of skill in engaging the local kids in play, and giving them much needed TLC.

Meanwhile, Emily, Rochelle, Jayme and Michael are continuing the garden work which we began yesterday. We are planting spinach, tomato, beetroot and cabbage plants on the Shilekisi school grounds. We experienced the scarcity of water – which is so foreign to us North Americans – when we had to drive to a community spigot to fill big jugs needed to water our plants. Luckily, Rochelle and Emily are sending thoughts of love to the plants while they water them so that they grow to feed the kids.

Over in the kindergarten classroom, Alli, Brittany, Tyler and Andrew are painting the walls. They have chosen to produce an underwater world motif and plan to paint an alphabet model above the chalkboard.   You should see the pride in your kids’ eyes as they display their work to their trip mates.

Another special project has been filling our time and our hearts. The day before we arrived at Shilekisi, one of the school kid’s house suffered a devastating fire. The principal asked if we would be able to help with the clean up and our kids jumped at the occasion to help this single mother and her four children who had just lost the few possessions they had. When Jayme, Rochelle, Emily and Andi arrived on site with Jasmine, there was about two feet of burnt debris and the sand that had been used to stop the fire. The girls immediately got to work with gloves, shovels, and brooms and the house was transformed within an hour. Slowly, the mother and children who were crying started to smile. Next, the girls decided to paint the inside of the standing structure of this house made of cement and the charred walls were soon made bright with “Viva la Pink” paint.  As we were working, the family’s community began to gather and sit outside the house to support the grieving family. The girls were working with two women from the community who had also come to help. As they were working, they began to realize the destitute situation of the family. The kids’ school uniforms and books had burnt which meant they could not go back to school unless they paid the 1040 Rand to replace these items. Rochelle exclaimed: “I want to give them my whole suitcase, I don’t care, I’ll wear this outfit every day of the trip.” The girls kept talking and decided to speak to the group about putting together a relief fund.  They figured that if each tour member gave the equivalent of $10US, we could replace the books, uniforms, and some of the blankets and food that had burned. Andi managed the fundraising while Jayme, Rochelle, and Emily purchased important staples like blankets, rice, and some clothes. On the second day, Matt took Ryan, Marie, Tristan and Rachel to paint a second coat of “Viva la Pink”. They also washed the floor and helped repair the windows with the glass we had picked up in Acornhoek under the guidance of a local carpenter. When the repairs were done, the whole group came to the house to present our relief fund and presents. This was a moving moment as our kids eagerly gave so much to the stunned family. Mpho translated that they were so thankful, that we had helped so much and four elder community women asked if they could sing and dance for us to thank us. It was an incredible experience. When we first arrived at the Shileski school on Friday, the principal, Mpho (pronounced Mmmmmpoh) said “You are more than welcome!” and we have been treated like family here ever since our arrival. This afternoon’s event has really turned us into a family as well.

Our local guides Whessel, Albert and Nevashin are amazing! They have been commenting on how our teens have giant hearts and demonstrate so much generosity and dedication. They also get a good laugh every time we shreek at the sight of exotic wildlife! Some of us have spotted two giraffes (not me and I am very jealous!), an assortment of various antelopes, including kudus and impalas, as well as monkeys, baboons, and Zazou’s cousin from the Lion King – or rather Yellowbill hornbulls.

We have been having boma campfires under starlit skies and talking about our experiences with Michael’s moment of the day, and the “I’m not in Kansas anymore’’ moments. Your kids are showing incredible mindfulness and spiritual maturity while we experience this adventure.

Anyway, the soccer game beckons so I’ll send more news as soon as possible,