recollections & respect from volunteers

By Kate Stefanko. Filed in guest posts, local partners, volunteer stories  |  
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We have been touched by all the messages we have received from volunteers.

“I have fond memories of Paul when he took us under his wing in Port Elizabeth back in 2010. I am sure he will be greatly missed and I hope Calabash finds the strength to continue his legacy.
And thanks should go to you, too, for providing me with the opportunity to meet such a great guy and to take part in such a worthwhile project.”
Sue (Henry Nginza School)

“I only had a brief acquaintance with Paul but, in that short time, I was impressed by his commitment to the township schools, his contribution to reducing inequality, his vision and his ability to tell things how they really are. He gave me amazing support at the time of a very difficult personal event and I will always remember him with great respect and affection. Paul was a very special person who is greatly missed. It seems unbelievable that he is no longer here.”
Carole (Charles Duna School)

“I had great respect for Paul when I was out there. Thoughts and prays to his family. Very sad news.”
Ellen (W B Tshume School)

a hug – Celia & Paul, Joe Slovo School

“I know Paul was not only a partner but a special friend to everyone at people and places. I am absolutely shocked and I’m sure you will be too. I am going to PE [this year], and was hoping to visit the schools, Emmanuel and Missionvale, with Calabash Tours, but it won’t be quite the same without Paul in the background. With my best wishes and with sadness,”
Jean (Missionvale & Emmanuel Community Care Centre)

“Paul made my stay in Port Elizabeth and my work at W B Tshume so much easier than if he had not been there. I liked him very much and got on with him so well – but then who wouldn’t?
This is my favourite recollection – On my last day at WB Tshume in Port Elizabeth they held the customary farewell party for me. I was in an emotional turmoil and fighting back the tears the whole time. I managed well enough until the Senior Choir sang for me. The sheer beauty of their voices and the wonderful harmonies finished me off. I was in tears. I looked across at Paul and his eyes were full of tears as well. ‘You too?’ I said. He replied that no matter how many times he heard that singing it always affected him that way.
Another great story – On my last evening Paul took me out to dinner at a local restaurant. We talked for hours. At one point he was explaining to me that his young daughter had asked him about Apartheid. He described all the segregation rules. When he had finished his daughter simply asked the question, ‘Why?’ Then he knew that the new generation of young people would win the battle against prejudice once and for all.”
Tony (W B Tshume School)

“He was an innovator who put his whole heart in bringing about a better life for so many South Africans post apartheid.”
Rita (Isaac Booi School)

“He was a lovely man and did such excellent work at Calabash.”
Val (Joe Slovo School)

“I first met Paul in Oct 2006 when I went as one of the first volunteer teachers to PE. I was struck by his enthusiasm and vision. He wanted to help the people of the townships of PE to help themselves to improve their lives by using the skills of volunteers from abroad. Whatever we did had to be sustainable, we were not there to tell them what to do but to suggest and show different ways of doing things which would be to the advantage of all.
Paul was an inspirational person and that first visit was life changing and I returned to Tshume school many times, even bringing my husband along too.
Paul was a great motivator, inspiring those who worked with him and I felt it was a privilege to work with him. I believe his humanitarian ideals will live on and inspire others.”
Brenda (W B Tshume School)

(and this from Brenda’s husband, Barry)
“I remember with affection one incident where I was organising a workshop for teachers interested in teaching art. Paul asked if I needed any materials other than the paint and brushes which I could provide. I asked if he could get six red peppers for the teachers to draw. The person Paul asked to go to the shop could not decide which sort of red paper I wanted and returned confused.
I realised what had happened and we all had a good laugh about it, proving the truth of “it’s not what you say but the way that you say it” especially true in South Africa.
Paul’s sense of humour was very well developed and will be missed. Thinking about the pepper/paper incident takes a bit of the sadness away.”
Barry (W B Tshume School)

“Paul was such an inspiring character — who always brought out the best in everyone.
He certainly had that impact on me. He has done so much for communities in the townships — especially the children.”
Richard (Henry Nginza School)

“I still can’t quite believe it – I sincerely hope that the People and Places team will be able to build upon Paul’s legacy and that Calabash is able to continue with its important work.”
Susan (Emafini School)

“How can this be? He was such a wonderfully caring person and so involved with the Calabash program. He can never be replaced but I do hope Calabash will continue the good work he started.”
Marina (Joe Slovo School)

“He was so full of energy and enthusiasm, a true force for good. He seemed unstoppable in his amazing efforts to bring about change. He crammed so much into his short, rich and enriching life. We count ourselves fortunate to have known him and our hearts go out to his lovely wife and beautiful daughters as well as to Nelson and Xolani and all who not only worked with him but loved him. When we begin to think of them all, we realise that there are far too many to mention.To them and to you we send our sincerest condolences and share in the sorrow of the loss of such a wonderful person.”
Bob & Maggie (Emafini School)

“I traveled to South Africa to go to a placement in Normanthamsanga Township  and AV Bukani School. It was great to be met off the plane in Port Elizabeth by a friendly member of the Calabash Team. A thorough briefing session about the Township, the school, the hosting family, the programme of visits and opportunities was clearly the result of an enormous amount of thought , hard work and sensitivity.We were issued with a mobile phone and it was clear that any problems or worries if they had arisen would be dealt with quickly and efficiently. I was anxious about the trip as were friends and family at home but Paul was so genuine and caring that I knew straight away I would be “alright “. There was a genuine love and respect for him in the school and the township.  I learnt so much from him about South Africa , the recent history , the current situation and the ideas behind the Calabash programmes. He and the team were doing an amazing amount for this corner of South Africa. Paul was such a wonderful inspiration, guide and support.”
Diana (A V Bukani School)

“I spent only a little time with him but what an inspiring man. I feel so sad to know that he has died so young but it must be so much more painful for all of you who knew him so much better than I.”
Caroline (W B Tshume School)

“Paul was such a great man, with a strong heart and a great brain. Both Susan and I have been left a bit windblown at the news.  He was so young! It’s certainly made both Susan and I commit to making the most of our lives. Life is short and fragile!”
Louise (Emmanuel Community Care)

“Paul was inspirational , I will never forget him . My friend Liz is out in PE helping at the Emmanuel Care Centre (2017). So many volunteers have contacted me, we were all touched by Paul. Do carry on with your wonderful work, it is so important.”
Jenny (Isaac Booi School)

“My abiding memory of Paul was his patience and the sincerity of his input to the project. He was always there to offer advice and support.”
Mary (Emmanuel Community Care)

“It’s tragic that such a passionately committed and charismatic person should leave us so early. I will never forget his kindness, support and motivation when I volunteered in Port Elizabeth at Isaac Booi School in the beginning of 2013. I’m so thankful that I had the great fortune to meet and work with such a wonderful man. He will be so greatly missed.”
Sue (Isaac Booi School)

“For me , Paul engendered the new post-apartheid South Africa. Calabash was the best example of respect and love between the black and white communities.  His organisation broke down historic barriers.   He was first and foremost innovative.  He was also motivated, dedicated and creative. He was dedicated to bringing about a more equal South Africa.”
Rita (Isaac Booi School)

“He will be missed both with you and with the various schools in Port Elizabeth. He was such a lovely man.”
Lesley (Emafini School)

“I remember fondly my time in Port Elizabeth and how Paul and his staff looked after us all.”
Judith (Henry Nginza School)

“Paul and I were in personal contact on Facebook, it was a great shock as only days before there was a photo of Paul with one of his daughters after she’d done a Bungi jump. I hope we will be able to  make a memorial to Paul – a man of great integrity. I am glad you are committed to continuing the work and the connection with Calabash.”
Chris (Isaac Booi School)

“I’m lost for words…I send my love and appreciation to you Paul ❤”
Danielle (Emmanuel Community Care)

“A role model to all of us who met him, the work he did was invaluable.”
Robin (W B Tshume School)

“To all those who loved Paul Miedema and today mourned his passing and celebrated his life:

Try to remember that a good man never dies,
You will see him many times.
You will see him in the streets,
You will see him in the houses,
In all the places of the town,
In the vineyards and the orchards,
In the rivers and the clouds,
In all the things here that make this
World for us to live in.
You will feel him in all things that are
Here out of love and for love-
All things that are abundant,
All things that grow.
The person of a man may leave-
Or be taken away-
But the best part of a good man stays,
It stays forever.
Love is immortal
And makes all things immortal.

Hamba Kahle Paul.”

Jenny (Emafini School)

 “I so don’t want this to be true. It’s heartbreaking.” Eileen (Henry Nginza School)

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