by Clare Lourey,
volunteer in Ofcolaco, South Africa-
My name is Clare (or Khensani as the local staff and children now call me), I’m a primary school teacher from Sydney, Australia.
Through Palms I am volunteering at Holy Family Care Centre, South Africa for twelve months. I’m currently four months into my placement and I am absolutely loving it!
Holy Family is a place of safety, security, love and care for children 0-18 years of age who have been orphaned, abused, neglected or mistreated. Currently we have 75 beautiful children calling Holy Family home, 17 of whom are of crèche (preschool) age while the remainder are in primary or high school.
The children live on site and are cared for largely by local staff “aunties”, along with volunteers from around the world. The Care Centre itself is headed by the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Sisters, with Australians Sr Sally Duigan as Director (currently on leave) and Sr Mary Stevens as Acting Director.
My role at Holy Family has largely revolved around education: The children attend the local village school from 7.30 – 1.30 each day however with the limited resources available at the school, large class sizes, budget restraints and various other factors, children’s education in the local area is not given adequate attention and emphasis. My weekday afternoons and evenings are spent “in the study” with the fifteen Grade 5 and Grade 6 students, mentoring and teaching them the basics particularly of mathematics and English to provide a stronger foundation for their education. It has been wonderful watching the progress in even this short space of time as they flourish from this more intimate and targeted style of teaching and learning. As rote learning seems to be the most common form of teaching here, it has been wonderful to watch them grow and develop while participating in group work activities, independent tasks and creative writing exercises. My hope is that local teacher Gregory may be inspired to consider or adopt some of these student-centred learning approaches with his own class.
Weekends and school holidays also keep me busy – bike riding, trampolines, tyre racing, hula hooping, skipping, soccer, knitting, traditional singing, wire car building, chalk drawing etc! There’s never a dull moment at Holy Family!
What I have enjoyed most to date is getting to know the children and the local staff – they have equally been teaching me – it’s been wonderful getting the opportunity to immerse myself in South African culture, learn many words and phrases of Sepedi (the local language), try pap and atchar and many exotic fruits and vegetables from this region, discover local beliefs regarding traditional medicine and of course being able to see some of the spectacular African wildlife.