Monday, 1 February 2016

First Week in Incredible Swaziland

COUNTRYAfrica Combo
WRITTEN BY: Devna Luthra

Five days in Kruger was a great way to break the ice. Being away from wi–fi and electricity, with no time for makeup or hair straightening, and sitting in an open safari car on a 48 degree day meant we definitely bonded! Seeing the animals was a surreal experience. Giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, white rhinos, black rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, lions, impalas, chameleons, vultures, eagles, hyenas, wild dogs, and hippos kept us entertained and our cameras in high use. Volunteering jobs started in our second week. 

We split into two groups, one doing construction work and the other sports development for the local kids. The constructors replaced an old wire fence around a preschool, in time for the new school year. Though physically challenging, we finished the fence by the end of the week with all fingers still in tact. The sports group ran drills and activities for about 20 kids each day.

The highlight was definitely coaching swimming lessons and seeing their confidence in the water improve in just a short time. We've also been holding curriculum workshops to create classroom activities in preparation for working in the preschools. A particularly confronting moment of the trip so far was visiting the children's ward at a local hospital. It was overwhelming to see gorgeous young kids so ill, especially when comparing their basic facilities to ours back home. The parents and carers seemed surprised for to see us, and the kids were a bit wary. However, giving them small presents and something to smile about made the trip worth it.

We've also found some comforts from home. The supermarket down the road is stocked with milo and Weetbix, in addition to the local Swazi 'ligusha' and 'umbhidvo'. Of course, a few hiccups were bound to occur. All of us Aussies have the same black Haviannas thongs, and in a dorm of six people much confusion arises. More major ones (lost luggage, missed flights and sore throats) were taken in good humour with help from others in the group. 

 The All Out Africa staff has been the backbone of the trip. They have bent over backwards to make our stay comfortable, safe, worthwhile and fun. This was my first time staying in backpacker accommodation. Not once have I felt unsafe. It's secure and there are lots of people, always someone new to talk to! It's been an interesting two weeks. 

The question many of us are asking is how to make a lasting difference while we are here. Though putting up a wire fence or teaching soccer drills is not going to cure AIDS/enhance education attendance/solve gender inequality/fix broken families, the changes we make are subtle but steady; for the local community and us as individuals. After all, 'The way a mouse eats an elephant is one bite at a time.'

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