Tag Archives: service

Milkshakes off Main Road

Today the students returned to their placement sites, and they had (mostly) good things to share when we met to debrief. Those at Ihata Shelter are coming up with fun, crafty ideas to do with the children there. The two students at the Heideveld Clinic got to observe some interesting sounding procedures in “theater” today. We met at a cute cafe in Obs to check in, which is where the group photo was snapped. We enjoyed processing the day and other important feelings over snacks, cappuccino, and milkshakes. Yum. Then we went to the market, ATM, and post office together, successfully crossing busy Main Road (twice!). The students accompanied me back to my flatlet to wait out he traffic before Ubering back to their home stays.

Speaking of which, they are having mixed experiences with their hosts. Aysia and Paige are with a couple who is relatively progressive in their thinking. On the other end of the spectrum is the couple with whom Vadim and Ernesto live. Frequent racist and judgmental (in a variety of domains) statements are voiced. We are working through this and have avenues of support here if a change in location is needed. Mo, Kaelyn, and Sarah are with a Muslim family and are experiencing a bit of Ramadan. So much is learned about culture through home stays, but it can be a challenge at times.

The weather was fairly nice today, breezy and in the mid-60s, which Capetonians consider cold (it is winter after all). The mountain remains a bit elusive, as seen in the photo behind my flatlet. There is construction next door which has sounds of clanging and singing. We definitely aren’t in Portland anymore! 🙂

Placement Ups & Downs

Today the students went to their placement sites for the first time. They will spend six days serving in the community of Heideveld, a suburb in the Athlone part of Cape Town. Over 90% of the population of Heideveld is coloured, the local term for multiracial. Our driver, Ibrahim, told me that about half of the residents were displaced from District Six, which was a residential area of Cape Town that was forcibly disbanded during Apartheid. We will learn more about this as we continue our time here.

Five students selected the Ihata Shelter for their placement site. This women’s shelter strives for a society free of gender-based violence. Women and children can reside there for six months where their basic needs are met while they heal and grow. The students got a tour of the facility, but also of the impoverished township. They were able to interact with little ones, and tomorrow they will be more involved in counseling settings. It sounds like they had a great experience today, and I’m excited to hear more as they continue to serve!

Two students chose the Heideveld Community Health Clinic, a government run facility. We arrived at a crowded clinic and passed through the metal detector. We saw many waiting to receive care in several different areas. Loyiso, our placement coordinator, had informed us that people arrive early in the morning to be triaged, receiving a green, yellow, orange, or red code, indicating the severity of their needs. Those coded as green may not get seen in the course of the day. Unfortunately, the site supervisor for our students is out this week, and the day was not productive. Loyiso will be there tomorrow to address the students’ learning objectives, and if it seems they will not be met, they will likely move to Ihata. I appreciate our students’ flexibility, as well as those on the ground working on our behalf.

We are in good hands here and being well looked after by our host agency, VACorps. Thanks for following along!


Wrapping up in Port au Prince

The heavy lifting (literally, yesterday they moved debris!) is now completed for Erin and the rest of the team. You’ll see their smiling faces in one of the pictures below, as well as a market on a Port au Prince street. The team is relaxing a little on their last full day in Haiti… the beach looks quite beautiful! Overall, it’s been a good trip for her. They did important works of service and she was able to complete more of her research, too!



Another day, more work at the Lord's Kitchen

Erin sent two pictures last night, both of which include her! She’s adding cloves to some peppers to season the kids’ stew for the day. She also noted that she’ll working with the team on a mountain nearby, moving rock. Sounds hot and hard!

Another small update: The Lord's Kitchen

Erin was able to get three pictures out yesterday. All of these are from the Lord’s Kitchen feeding program. The team from CU prepared food and delivered it to 350 children!

Grace Village

Just a quick update that Erin is safe and sound (and doing research and service) in Haiti. The flight was uneventful and the work is good. She has noted that electricity is difficult to come by, so updates may be limited!

Angels, miracles, and soup

I finally have a couple of pictures of the “girls” with their home stay hosts. However, this is still an incomplete report as super-host-mom, Sabine, was not yet home when I took the one of Kym, Jen, Crystal, & Courtney. You will see them with Yul, Loren, & Tia…I will do my best to add a photo of Sabine if I see her again. Also, here are Kjersten & Kelsey are with their adorable hosts, Patrick (Patty) & Beryl. When we asked for the photo, Beryl exclaimed, “Oh Erin, you should’ve let me know so I could’ve had my hair done!” 🙂 These hosts have been fabulous to our girls…we are grateful to GHS and their good care of us.

Wednesday was another day of practicum experiences. This week I went to Little Angels on Owl Place (such cute names). This is a day care center for children of single mothers. Today there were six little angels there (one was already napping and isn’t in the photo), as well as three “big angels” in Kjersten, Kelsey, and Jolene, the amazing woman who takes care of these wee ones each and every day. She does a wonderful job of establishing a routine for the crawlers and toddlers, and I saw a lot of evidence of healthy developmental strategies. It is a brightly colored, stimulating place where nourishing food, good naps, and lots of fun are present. The photos show this well through the healthy faces…the sweet nappers are Lolli with Kelsey and Devotion with Kjersten.

Next I went to Miracle Kidz, which is a new site at which several of the girls have already volunteered, and I think they all will during the remaining time here. The super-host-mom, Sabine, facilitated this opportunity for supplemental practicum experiences. It is a safe house for babies and children who have had a rough start in life. They can live at Miracle Kidz up to a year, at which time they would transition to foster care. I couldn’t take photos of the children, and Elsie, the woman in charge, was at the doctor with some of the kids, so the only photo is of Crystal and Courtney by the sign. In my short time there, I could easily tell that it is a very special place with people doing incredibly important work there…facilitating miracles.

I spent the afternoon helping at a soup kitchen in Cape Flats, specifically Mitchell’s Plain, a low-lying part of Cape Town that was a racially segregated area during apartheid. It was one of the areas people were forced into when they were removed from District Six. This soup kitchen was established in 2009 by the son of Stanford, our kind GHS driver (he was in the photo of the girls in front of the van at the airport back on May 27).

Tragically, this eldest son of Stanford – Quinton, age 45 – was killed in 2010, right in the neighborhood where the soup kitchen operates. The family has kept the kitchen going…just barely. They can only afford to feed the community once per week. Either Stanford’s wife, Lillian, or daughter-in-law (i.e., Quinton’s widow) make 100 liters of soup each Wednesday. Adults get 3 ladles (along with 2 slices of bread) and children get 2 ladles (plus 1 piece of bread). Stanford said he’s sure Quinton smiles down from heaven every Wednesday afternoon.

This was a very touching experience, reminiscent of the mealie meal I have dished out in Swazi preschools. The people are so grateful for the small portion they are given, and then the kids just want to play. 🙂 This was the majority of our time spent – holding kids, dancing, playing street games, taking pictures. They were hungry for our affections, as well as the soup. I believe it was just as nourishing for me as it was for them.

My students were at their practicum sites, but I was accompanied by seven other Good Hope students to the soup kitchen. They are all here learning English (as that is the function of GHS), and were a bit puzzled by why I am here. The composition of our group was as follows: two guys from Switzerland, one guy from Spain, one girl from Angola, one girl from Sweden, one girl from Colombia, one girl from Brazil, and me. The girl from Angola said my accent is like that of a movie star. On the drive home, we shared tongue twisters in our native languages. They REALLY liked my “she sells sea shells by the sea shore” bit…they roared with laughter as they attempted to say it. 🙂 It was a fun afternoon together, serving in this truly global community…I’m so glad I went.

Sarah Fox sweethearts

Wednesday was another volunteering day. I met Jen and Kym at Sarah Fox Children’s Convalescent Hospital in Athlone. The stated objective is “to provide expert nursing and medical care in a homely and loving environment for children and infants who are recovering from acute medical and surgical conditions…these children are unable to return to their own homes for social or medical reasons.” That last part seems to be the key…it feels more like a medical foster home than a hospital. And the conditions seem more chronic than acute. Parents aren’t really around, so Kym and Jen (& other workers and volunteers) are so important in providing the TLC all the little sweethearts there need.

Jen and Kym are stationed in the baby room, and as the pictures show, they are very happy there and are making a big impact. The main conditions treated at the hospital are TB, HIV, and kwashiorkor & marasmus (i.e., diseases subsequent to malnutrition). I saw a baby this morning that looked like fetal alcohol effects might be present too. You’ll have to ask Kym and Jen to tell you about the babies’ personalities and who their favorites are (it happens…Kym is holding Tyana and Jen is holding Phelokazi). In my short two hours there this morning, I grew quite fond of Fatima, who was born July 5, 2011…I think the feeling was mutual.

The babies are delayed in their growth, motor skills, language, etc. As I sat there, I wondered who they are able to form attachments with and how this is affecting their emotional development. I often reflected on our daughter’s orphanage in China and the similarities…not much crying despite a room full of babies, very basic facilities, “staff” as caregivers. They are safe and looked after, but it is far from an ideal or even a “normal” setting that babies deserve. It was sad and happy all at the same time…bittersweet, I guess.

We have talked in class about having the mindset of what can I do at this time for this one. I truly observed that being lived out at Sarah Fox with every peek-a-boo game played, every dropped toy retrieved, every nappy changed, every nose wiped, every smile shared, every hug given. All six of these young women are doing great things – you would be as proud of them as I am if you were here and saw them in action!


I don’t have much to report on this sunny Friday morning in Cape Town. I imagine the students will be saying “TGIF” by the end of the day as they have had a very busy week. Today they go to their practicum placements…I hope they go well.

I am catching up on some online tasks and preparing for classes next week. Sheila, Binci, and I will be going to lunch in the neighborhood…on the first Friday of each month, the local SAMiller Brewing Company in Newlands delivers kegs of beer by horse and cart. Sounds intriguing (& something my husband would really enjoy!). I will do my best to be a good partaker and reporter of the experience.

Tomorrow, we have our all-day excursion with our pal, Rashied, to the “jackass” penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach and then on to the Cape of Good Hope. That’s truly the name of the cute little penguins here, though I couldn’t bring myself to send my 11-year-old son a postcard with that on it (I went with the more generic one that says “African penguins,” and then regretted it as I think he’d get a kick out of the word “jackass”). 🙂 Perhaps we’ll learn what’s behind the name. We saw three of them on Robben Island yesterday, and they are very cute little guys. We’ve already been warned about how smelly their colony will be.

The Cape of Good Hope is not technically where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, though I guess that’s how the tourist attraction bit frames it up. We’ve been told to bring our “swimming costumes,” so hopefully it will be warm enough to get in the water. Then we can claim that we had our feet in two oceans simultaneously, however false that may be.

In order to not disappoint, I have attached a few pictures, though nothing too exciting: the lovely ivy security trim on the gate of GHS (look closely…yikes!), along with our classroom and “lounge” at Abbadale. Two of the girls (please do not take offense at that term…consistently they are called girls and I am a lady, because I am older and married, I suppose), have already taken the Global Psychology class (& graduated May 5th!) – Courtney & Kelsey – so they hang out in the lounge area while we meet in the adjacent room. The maids of Abbadle kindly wash our water glasses and tea/coffee cups each day, so we are pretty spoiled here. As for the ivy trim, that is just one of many options here…there also is razor wire, barbed wire, and humming electric fences atop people’s gates and walls.

I will sign off until Monday (fingers crossed). Thank you for following along, as well as for your prayers. We all are doing well, staying healthy and safe, and learning a lot, so I guess it’s all going according to plan! 🙂