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Day 20 – 30 of August – So much to do, so little time!
Time is flying. Where at first we would still have so many days left we are now in our third week, with little time left, especially at the actual project. Tuesday we went to a school for children who have a mental disability, like children with down syndrome. Some also have physical disabilities with their mental disability. The school is practically the only place where most of the children can go to, like a save harbor. If this school would not have been there they would probably be locked up in their rooms all day. It was a very shocking and impressive experience. Shocking, because where in Holland you would have 6 or 7 children per class here in South Africa you have 40. With one teacher. Something almost unbelievable to witness. Those women are one of the most impressive things I have seen here. The respect I felt for those women had no boundaries.

In one class are two children from Mother of Peace, N* and S*. N* is also in my house, so she especially liked it to see me in that classroom. After seeing the school and its classrooms I felt a strong urge to help out there and made plans with Manon to bake cookies there at Thursday. The rest of the day we had our normal schedule (homework class, daycare, the usual).

On Wednesday it was volunteerday, which meant we went to visit all the other projects in the area. We started at The Farm, about an hour and a half driving from MoP. It was rather… unexpected, as it was so different from MoP. It was kind of filthy everywhere and where I thought we had a lack of structure, there it was even worse. But then again, the project has just started, so there is a lot of hope for it and a lot of work that can be done. MoP has also started out in that way, and look where we are now!

From The Farm we went to Palm Tree, an orphanage which can be compared to an actual family. There are 15 children living at Palm Tree. We had already seen Palm Tree on the day we went to the Township, but it was nice to get the full tour. They had been cleaning up the whole day, but still it looked a bit dirty. As one of the volunteers also admitted: normally it was a LOT worse. At Palm Tree they have a Daycare as well, for the surrounding townships. There MoP can still learn from: the structure they had was amazing. It made me feel like I wanted to take notes and pass it on to someone here. At the end we bought a bracelet and a spoon (yes, spoon) and headed out to the next project.

The next stop was Bobbi Bear, a project which made my heart ache. Bobbi Bear is there for rape and sexual abuse and they are especially trained in rapid response. When they get a call from the police that there is a child that has been raped they get their Rape Bag and head out to the kid. The Rape Bag contains all sorts of things that makes it easier for the victim, which they have constructed over the years. In the bag you have coloring pencils and paper, something to drink and eat, clean panties, wipes, tissues and of course the Bobbi Bear.

The Bobbi Bear is a teddy bear on which the children can draw what has happened to them, instead of having to show it on their own bodies again, which can be very traumatizing. We also saw some Bobbi Bears, and the drawings just made me feel sick. Child rape and abuse is actually very common in South Africa, and it makes me sick to my stomach. Most of the perpetuators never get caught, because the justice system is so slow here. Thank God for projects like Bobbi Bear, who focus on these children and try to make their Hell a bit easier.

From Bobbie Bear we went to I Care, a project that focuses on the street children in Durban. We went to the second phase of the project (there are three) which is called the Rehab. Boys who have performed well in Durban and phase one get transferred to phase two, where they sometimes seriously have to fight the addiction to glue or marihuana, but also where they get back to basic. They go to school and have to prove to I Care that they are getting better. I Care has a 40% success rate in getting the children off the streets, which is an amazing number. Sadly, the Rehab Centre was closed, as the children were on a trip (just like everything in Africa, organization is a disaster), so we could not actually see it.

After standing in front of the closed gate of the Rehab Centre we went to a project called Let Us Work. Nobody from the volunteers was actually volunteering at that project, but it was rather interesting to listen to. The project gives workshops about businesses to help people start one, or get one moving. They make business plans with them to help them on a long term as well. It was interesting to hear how they worked and how they tried to reach as many people as possible.

The last project we went to was our own project, Mother of Peace. The children came running towards us, greeting us with all the joy of the world, it was a fantastic sight. I showed some of the other volunteers around, showed them the school and the church before we went to Memories, a restaurant nearby where we went for dinner. After a fantastic meal (including roasted duck, YUM) with good company we went back home. Tired as hell I went to bed immediately, to be woken up at 12 o’clock: it was Jaimy’s birthday! We sang her a birthday song before I went back to sleep.

Thursday I went to the school for the mentally handicapped, where I was going to bake cookies with Manon and grade 2. Ntombiza and Sanele are also in this grade, making it even more fun. The day before we had stopped by a shopping mall where I had gotten baking supplies for the school and cookieshapes from some of the donation money (THANK YOU ALL), which I now gave to them as a present. And how grateful they were! It feels so good to do something for them, the love you get back for it, it is unbelievable. The classroom had been divided into 4 groups and we started baking the cookies. First the mixing of the ingredients and then putting the cookies onto the baking trays. And the children were so sweet, so much insisting and paying attention to the fact that everybody had gotten their turn to whip, shape and decorate. Something a lot of other children can learn from.

After the cookies had been in the oven, during the baking I had a some lovely conversations with two boys (one saw a photo of Stephan and said he looked like a baboon. HILARIOUS), and when the cookies were cooled we started decorating. First some whipped cream and then the stars, chocolate sprinkles and other colorful things. And the children had so much fun, they were so happy. I was so thankful to be able to do it and help them. They truly made me feel so amazing and good.

After the baking of the cookies we went to the shops where we had lunch and sang for Jaimy again. We went back to MoP, where I had to decorate two cakes and wrap some gifts for two kids from my house. Luckily Jessica helped me out, as wrapping is not really my thing. Afterwards we all helped out with the reading in the afternoon so they were done at 4 instead of 5. We all showered and prettied up, sang for Jaimy again and gave her the present we had already bought in Holland. After a quick bite of cake we went to the taxi (WILLLEEEHHH) who brought us to Durban, Florida Road, where the real party started. We had an amazing dinner at Cubana (sang for Jaimy again) and afterwards we went to the backpackers where Nishel, Lisa and Lieselot were staying. At the backpackers we had some drinks (vodkalime, yum) and eventually we went out to a nightclub nearby. I was having such a fun time that I stayed the night at the backpackers (the other girls went home at 12), and I got driven back to MoP the next morning by Shannon, Lisa and Lieselot. It was a small miracle that I had found the way back in one try (thank you brains). Now I have to pack my bag for the ponytrek in Lesotho this weekend while feeling a throbbing pain in my head (vodkalime, curse you).

Day 23 – 3 September – The Ponytrek @ Drakensberg and Lesotho
Here I am sitting, all my muscles sore, my face burned and my head filled with awesome memories. We left on Friday, me still a tad hangover, at 1 o’clock. We drove for about 3, 4 hours to the Sani Lodge, at the bottom of the Sani Pass. There we already had this magnificent view over the mountains and the food and bed was good. I thought the shower was a tad… awful, but I soon discovered I had nothing to complain about.

Packed with lunches we left the next day with our guide, Christine. After about 10 minutes of driving we entered the Sani Pass, which was a gravel road. Christine told us that that was the end of the tar road, and we laughed a bit, until we realized that she was serious. The whole way to the village where the horses was a gravel road, filled with potholes and rocks and everything. You would not get on the mountain without a 4x4 jeep. We drove for about 2 and a half hours until we had lunch by this beautiful river, I had a lovely egg sandwich, and everyone had to pee outside (this is where the wilderness begun). But even the outside was better than what came next.

We drove for another hour or two (it still was a very bumpy ride) until we arrived out the village where Jacob was waiting with the horses. After some tea and coffee we walked outside to see the beautiful animals waiting for us. I was quite nervous, I had never been on a horse before, but also very excited. My horse was white and rather cute, called Marra. Looks deceived me though as it was the laziest horse that there was. It would simply not move unless Jacob was behind me. But maybe it was good, as I would probably have fallen off if I would have had a faster horse.

I got on the horse without falling off again, which I already found quite an achievement, and Jacob got it to move. I was very scared, as I was sure that I was going to fall off. Luckily though, that did not happen, and 2 hours later we arrived at the village where we were to spend our first night. We felt very welcome and the lady of the house made us a typical Lesotho dinner, which meant chicken, vegetables, that same corn thing we had in the Township, and potatoes. It was nice and we all enjoyed it very much. Right after dinner we went to bed, it was about half past 8, which was located in a typical village house. No electricity. No running water. No warmth.I slept in my thermo on a very very thin matrass. But I was still cold. The next day we all woke stiff and cold, but ready for the coming day. We got up and had some delicious homemade bread, the whole breakfast being typical Lesotho again.

The second day we rode for about 5 hours, which lunch in between (again by a beautiful river), and all day we had such amazing views. I can count myself so lucky to have witnessed these things. I can honestly say that is was so unique to have seen, especially from the back of a horse! After the lunch we crossed a river and Jacob even made Marra go in gallop, which was so fast and exciting! Through the river we also ran in gallop, splashing all the water up, it was a blast.

We rode on to the next village where we were to spend our second night. The conditions were the same as the last village (aka very primitive), but now my face was burned. And not just a little, nbo, I was like a lobster. After a lot of calming lotion (thank you Odette) I decided to go to the toilet. What a mistake that had been. It was horrible. A big hole in the ground with a sort of self-made toilet seat over it. And my hand got into something wet. I think I have never used so much hand sanitizer in my whole life. I felt so disgusting and filthy, but again: no shower. The sleeping conditions were the same as the last house, so again cold and stiff, but in the end it was all worth it.

The next day we got on the horses again to ride back to the first village where we got on the horses. It was an two hour ride and afterwards we got some delicious Lesotho lunch again, before getting into the jeep again. Which was welcomed by my butt (which was really sore from the three days ride), but not so welcomed by my sore back. We stopped at the top of the Sani Pass and had a drink at the highest pub in Africa (HEINEKEN BEER). With the beer in my stomach we made the descend, stopping at the Fountain of Youth (sorry mom, not allowed to take it with in me in the plane) and we all got a bottle out of the river. We finally reached the tar road again, which felt like suede. At the Sani Lodge we got dropped off by Christine and picked up by Biggie, who has been driving us to many places. He was also at the safari and the volunteerday, and he is such a nice guy. It is so nice to meet all these wonderful people here.

So now I am in my last week, which feels odd and nice at the same time. I have done so much here and seen so much that my head is filled with amazing memories. But also I am ready to go home and see my family again and my friends. How much I love Africa, I love Holland more, and I cannot wait until I am back.

Day 26 – 6 September – Almost the end.
Still with sore muscles we woke on Tuesday, by the sound of someone throwing up. Apparently Jaimy had caught an infection to her stomach and was so sick she would throw up anything she would eat or drink. After a quick talk we decided that it was better if she stopped by the doctor, so I went with her to the doctor that was next to the shops. She got a shot and was told to drink lots of fluids and try to eat something. Also she got some antibiotics with her and we were told to be careful handling the same foods etc. The rest of the day was quite standard.

Wednesday it started to rain. And when I say rain I mean pouring down. It was insane. It still is insane, as it is still pouring down. The worst thing is that in Holland it is nice weather. Why, oh why does the bad weather has to come with me?! But here in Africa your normal day apparently stops when it rains. Children do not go to school, they do not play outside, do not have to go to Chapel. Really awkward.

At my house, St Anne, there is also a new baby boy, named S*. He is 10 months old and BIG. It makes me wonder why a boy that young already has to come to MoP. It was very exciting for everyone to see a new child in the house, so everyone was there to take a look. After bathing him and playing some at the house I went back to my house.

In the evening, despite the rain, we had planned a playbackshow (which turned out to be a dance show, haha!), which was a big success. There were 4 acts with children dancing and having fun. I was the photographer, so got to see and witness it all very good. And it was so much fun to see the children have fun and enjoy themselves. The winners were the Micheal Jackson dancers (it was majestic) and after we had a big after party, where everybody danced and had fun.

Today, Thursday, it still rains, so the daily routine is also not there. No baby daycare, no daycare, no schools, nobody is out. So we all packed our suitcases instead.

Our last day here. It feels funny, yet relieving. I have witnessed so much here, and I am so grateful that I was able to come here, but at the same time I am ready to begin my new life in Renkum.

Love you all and thank you for following my adventures.

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Anouk Burgers

Name: Anouk Burgers
Leeftijd: 24

Was vrijwilliger bij Mother of Peace van 13 aug 2012 tot 07 sep 2012

Over mij:

Ik ben Anouk, 19 jaar. Maar wanneer ik naar Afrika ga zal ik 20 zijn (geen tiener meer!). Mijn hobby's zijn hockeyen,