Introduction - Maud's Journey pt. 1

My name is Maud and I’m a 22 year-old woman from the Netherlands. I would like to share my experience at Ilitha Day Care in Port Elizabeth.

I have been in Port Elizabeth now for two months, at a volunteer programme in Walmer Township. I came to South Africa to help other people in the world, and especially children. Every morning, I wave my hand at the classroom door, to be greeted by all the children shouting “Teacher, teacher!” Then I show my face, and I see all the smiles on the faces of the children. They all run to me and give me a high five. That makes me very happy!

The day starts with breakfast. The children eat various kinds of porridge – white, brown and sometimes pink. It’s nutritious and a good start to their day. After breakfast, we form a big circle and we start dancing. Dancing and singing is a very important part of the township culture. Lots of the songs are religious, as religion is also an important part of the culture. I think it gives them hope and it brings people together, especially in living conditions which can sometimes be hard.

The children know a Dutch song: “In de Maneschijn”. It is amusing to hear how they try to sing the song in Dutch! At this point in the day, singing in a foreign language is a challenge for them - however, the rest of the day is challenging for me, because all the children speak the same language and I’m the odd one out. I learned some words in Xhosa, which is the children’s first language. An important phrase is “Hlaha Phantsi” which means “Sit down please”. I can communicate fairly well with my fingers and gestures, so I can make good contact with them without speaking.

After dancing, the children have lessons at their desks. They are learning colours, shapes, counting, the alphabet, months and days of the year, names of animals in English, and more. Currently we are still busy with the alphabet - yesterday we learned the “s” sound, for “snake” in English and “sonka” (which means bread) in Xhosa. Every day we learn one letter. This week the children also learned all the parts of their own body - head, shoulders, knees and toes. They sing a song about the body as well.

The kids are aged between three and six years old and are divided into two separate groups of the smaller and bigger children, so they can learn and play at their own level more effectively.

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