Sorry for not writing for a while, I've experienced so much since I've been here! My volunteer placement is lovely, I work at a care center for intellectually disabled children ages 4-21. Last week and into this week I've been helping out in the classroom with the older kids who are mostly 12 and up- all of them are non-verbal (though this does not mean they don't make noise!) and are quite low functioning intellectually. Spending the day with these kids has been challenging and also enlightening; it can be hard at times to maintain enthusiasm when the possibility of forming any sort of social bond with them is so slim. I am going to see tomorrow if I might be able to spend some time with the younger children, just so I get the chance to try and get to know the personalities of all the kids at the center.
The director and 3 care workers at the center are great, all cracking jokes and laughing all the time. They really do a great job working with the limited resources available to them. There are also volunteers who come and go, like the two German girls who were there last week before leaving on friday to volunteer at another care center, also run by Cape Mental Health.
Outside of volunteer placement, my experience here has provoked me to really examine the social consequences that still remain from the time of Apartheid. Like I said in one of my previous posts, we went for a tour of one of the many townships and got to see up close what it looks like to live there. Every day on the way to my placement, we drive past miles and miles of rusted metal shacks. It's not just in movies. People really live like that. SO MANY PEOPLE really live like that here. Thousands and thousands. The unemployment rate in South Africa is around 43%, and it's obvious that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer everyday. To make matters much worse, neighboring Zimbabwe has a 90% (yes, 90%) unemployment rate, and an estimated 50% (YES, 50%) of that country's population are now living in South Africa. The immigration crisis here is similar to what is going on with the US and Mexico. People are fleeing political and economic instability as well as violence only to be met with fierce resentment in the place where they seek safe haven. All of this has started to eat at me; I sometimes feel guilty for having the things I have and for the opportunities I have been allowed in this life.
Here are some pictures I shot during our day in the townships:
This weekend, group of volunteers spent two days touring the gorgeous vineyards of Stellenbosch, just outside of Cape Town. We ate, drank, and enjoyed each others' company in a very, very, lavish surroundings. Yet sometimes it was hard to ignore the feeling of guilt for spending money on something as superflous as wine tasting knowing that there were kids less than 45 minutes away who were starving. While it was an absolutely beautiful experience with the best company, it definitely made me question my own effectiveness (if there was even any to begin with) in defeating the cycle of poverty that prevents true human equality here. The disparity is glaring - but also, what am I really doing to make it less so? Just something I've become aware of in the last week.
Anyways, I hope you all are quite well and that I didn't depress you too much. I am going to try and post a few pictures (cheetah "encounter," vineyards and wine, botanical gardens)... I will upload all of them when I get home, because to put them all on Facebook here would be way too expensive. Enjoy :)
All my love,