Elizabeth’s work experience in South Africa

I have come back from South Africa, from a profound working experience piloting my project ‘Let’sMove’ in Durban and Rural Ingwavuma in KwaZulu-Natal.

MY BEST STORY THAT SHOWS THE OUTCOME OF PROJECT LETS MOVE

A boy, 6 years old (but the socio-emotional development of a 4-year-old compared to where we are from the west). When I first met him he was angry, impatient, unfocussed and wild. Hitting other children, hardly using language, screaming if he wanted something or pointing. After 2 days I saw a big change in him, he was more calm and focussed, I got his attention. After 4 days he started helping the younger and smaller children in his class and when he learnt something new he would show them. After 6 days he was showing affection. After 2 weeks he started to use correct language, asking for things and saying thank you. After 2 weeks he came running with pictures, letters, anything he could find and asking me what it was all named in English and he would teach me the Zulu words. After 7 weeks (and this amazed me), he showed HE wanted affection. He would stand very still in front of me. Then all of a sudden jump in my lap and wanted to be cradled like a baby and I had to rub his hair and tummy. He let this happen for a good 5 minutes when he jumped off and went gently to a little girl (who shows all the signs of being abused), looked at her, she gave non-verbal permission) and picked her up to give her such a genuine, honest and gentle cuddle.

This story shows how beneficial my project has been. How it can have a huge impact on children’s lives for the better.

It was as I said before, a profound experience. To experience a drought, and living in a community that is stretched by so many challenges. To see so many children in poverty and abusive environments. And to work in schools and notice the deprivation in educational standards and seeing the effect it has on adults and children…I do not have much to say other than it was profound.

WHAT I HAVE DONE:

I worked in 4 crèches, 2 primary schools and 1 orphanage. Directly working with over 2000 children and trained and mentored 42 teachers. Indirectly engaged with hundreds more people and young people, from cleaning and cooking staff and drivers, to people in the community who heard about me through their children or saw me.

I trained teachers to help create an understanding of how to use play, music and movement in early years learning and creating an understanding of its educational value. Providing teachers with new tools and resources. Empowering and inspiring teachers and the children we serve.

OUR DAYS

We started the day with a prayer, singing and dancing. Then had morning activities, followed by a break. The dinner ladies came in with a big steaming pot of sour porridge which gave you energy. After another prayer and some free play, we continued with activities.

I worked very hands on, working directly with the children so the teachers could watch and learn. I would give the ‘home work’, mostly discussing at home what they did in my classes, and preparing an activity they saw and liked. The next day they had to run it. I would support them and mentor them, slowly giving them more responsibility.

Both teachers and children thoroughly enjoyed it. We laughed a lot. I have seen many positive changes in many children. A body HOLDS stress. Through play and movement this body exhales and relaxes and from that state a person/child can start express themselves and learn. So many times throughout our days I have heard and saw this exhale. That was one of the best signs that my work was working.

I was aware I was only there for a short time. 3 Months is not much time at all. To build new relationships and to try and make positive change happen that will have a long-term effect. Also by leaving I break the trust again a little.

But, and I wish you could have been there to witness this yourselves, to see the direct benefits, by working very hands on, constantly adjusting to the needs/response at that time, also keeping an eye on the development of the project and what it needed to become to hand it over, it has been more than worthwhile.

It has moved me deeply. I am happy with what we have achieved together, but so much more needs to happen. So, here my reflection:

REFLECTION

People in KwaZulu-Natal are sometimes referred to as ‘lazy’ or ‘they do not care’. I think it is wrong to assume this or word it like that. When you get to know the people and get deeper beneath the surface and gain a better understanding of the people through; their culture; their challenges; the psycho-social effects of HIV/Aids/abuse/poverty/alcoholism/drought etc, you will find it is much more complex.

People’s and especially woman’s self-esteem is very low. Their suffering a silent and inwards one, a sort of imploding.

People seem to have accepted a defeat, which is hard to witness. People do not ‘cope’ here, they ‘endure’. So many burdens they carry. So many children being hungry or losing parents too often and too young. The purpose of my project ‘Let’s Move’ was to create a supportive place for children who have struggles in their lives to be able to feel safe and air their views, talk about their problems and providing a fun learning environment to do this in. Focusing on mentoring teachers, to empower them through the art so the feel inspired and motivated to make a positive change in their working environment for the benefit of the children and in doing so, to the wider community.

But before this can happen, if BASIC NEEDS are NOT met; safety, food, shelter, clothing – how can you even start all this?

If you cannot be a child due to hardships and abuse and suffering and hunger, how can you expect them to do well in school and in life?

But I have seen first-hand the effect of play. To see a child, open mouthed and eyed, completely lose themselves in play and fun. To see an exhale and a release of stress in the body.

To see a child become a child again completely. It is the best thing that I witness again and again doing this work.

So, to all my sponsors, financially and mentally:

I would like to thank you, very much, for making project Let’s Move a reality.

It has changed the reality of many children in rural Ingwavuma for the better.

If you would like to know more, please do not hesitate to ask me.

If you have been inspired yourself, maybe would like to reach out to one of my partner organizations, please do so. Your support and donations really make a difference.

Keep Moving.

All my love,

Elizabeth.        Please see MY BLOG on my website to see what I have done:        https://moveandlaugh.wordpress.com/my-blog/

BENEFITS OF PLAY MOVEMENT/PROJECT: LET’S MOVE

  • It stimulates personal, social and emotional development.
  • It creates a consciousness and learning of self and others.
  • Children learn to be responsible, read body language, showing tolerance, form an opinion, show how they feel.
  • Using movement as a tool to learn physical skills, language skills, cognitive skills and socio-emotional skills.

For further information: WHO I WORKED WITH AND WHO THEY ARE.

If you would like to look deeper into who I was working with. I was working with the following partner organizations:

Povertyswap: http://www.povertyswap.com/, to bring skills, knowledge and resources and sustainability to the poorest communities in the world. It is run by Helen and Ian Faulds who have been more than a tremendous help to me, by cheering me on and letting me fundraise under the umbrella of Povertyswap.

Jabulani: https://jabulaniproject.wordpress.com/, to improve the current life situations of underprivileged individuals in South Africa, creating opportunities for social and economic self-determination. It is run by an astonishing man, Alex Wallace. He has been a huge inspiration and help to me.

Bobbi Bear: http://www.bobbibear.org.za/, works on behalf of children who have been sexually abused. I performed a clown show under a beautiful tree in a township.

Corner-to-corner, run by Sihle Ndima: http://www.from-the-roots.org/, Corner to Corner workes closely with Isiphephelo Girls Trust to kick start a program for girls living on the streets. Children who live on the street and are constantly searching for the next safe place to sleep, or the next bite to eat. Often involved or victims of crime and rape.                     Their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fromtherootsinc/?fref=photo

Zisize Educational Trust: http://zisize.org/, the aim of the programme is to eliminate challenges, (e.g. hunger, lack of shelter or adult support or the effects of abuse) which prevent learners making optimal use of their educational opportunities. Zisize was my main partner in KwaZulu-Natal and I worked for them.