After a semester long of planning for our service projects, today marked the day where it all officially came together. These past four days have been spent implementing our services projects. A lot of hard work has been put in from not only the QU students and faculty, but also Tamarin, her friends and family, and the communities.
My favorite part about the service projects was the interactions with the children at the school and the Varkplaas community. Each and every child was so excited to have us be there. I don’t think I saw one child not smile during the time we were there. It was such a rewarding feeling to know that what we were doing for these kids, and just our presence in general, was such an excitement.
Despite some language barriers, although most of the children knew English, we were able to interact with them. One moment that really stuck out to me was when some of the little girls at the Vaatjie School starting playing with Mel, Lacey, Steph and my hair. At first thought I would assume it is because it is a common thing for young girls to want to play with hair, but Tamarin told me they were fascinated with our hair because the texture is different from theirs. Even though my hair ended up a little knotted and messy afterwards I really appreciated such a unique way of sharing our cultural differences.
It was very rewarding to see our service projects go from ideas on a sheet of paper to real gardens, murals, etc. The library took a lot of organization. Before we started, it looked almost like more of a storage room than a library. Once we finished it, we brought a few children in to see it and they were all thrilled to see the colorful walls, organized books, and new comfy bean bags to sit on to read their books. One of the books we “showcased” was about Nelson Mandela, hoping that the children would find an interest in the history of their country and one of the men who made it. I wasn’t sure the children would pick up on it but that book was one of the first ones they noticed and picked up. It felt good to see that not only did they appreciate the work we put into the library but that the materials in the library were relevant to their own personal lives and education.
When we were packing up the supplies to leave the school today I began to feel very upset. In just the few short days of being with these people I really felt that I had begun to develop a bond with them. I would not trade one moment we spent there for anything. Even though my body is sore and achy from all the work we did, I am just so proud that we did it. I never would have imagined being able to get all that we had planned done in such a short time. Although the work was tedious at times, the students and community were motivation enough to get it done.
I admit that I had to hold back a few tears when saying “bye” to the kids. Our purpose was to have an impact on their lives and make a difference for them, but I never imagined the impact they would have on me. They helped me to open up my eyes and appreciate the opportunities that are presented to me. Connecting back to my first blog introducing myself I had written,
“I was determined to participate in another service trip if I ever got the opportunity,”
That still remains true. If there is another chance to return and continue to help out I will most definitely be the first to volunteer.