Volunteer Colin writes from Port Elizabeth community programme

By Sallie Grayson. Filed in project news, volunteer stories  |  
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Colin and wife Pam are on their third trip to Port Elizabeth and in between times

Pam with preschool children

withsupport from friends and family they have raised money to fund a pre school teacher

– here are some wonderful updates from them

Saturday 25 February 2012

After a lengthy journey of 24 hours we eventually arrived in Port Elizabeth. After a good nights sleep we felt fully recovered and ready to start back at the project. Having been retired for some years now getting back into the routine of getting up at 6am and being ready for the transport to collect us at 7.15am takes some getting used to again. The warmth of the sun though does make it easier.

We arrived on the first day to be warmly greeted by everyone. Sister Ethel was delighted to see us again and asked to pass on her thanks to everyone back in Middleton who has supported the Play & Learn Centre.

The Play & Learn Centre is thriving and now has 30 children age 4 and 5 with a good attendance rate averaging 28 a day. We have a new leader, Lucille Ann who is fully trained

Lucille Anne and some pre schoolers

for this age group and loves working with these children. The children are well behaved and she keeps them active and busy at all times. They have learnt what to do with crayons and don’t eat them any more, and they can now sit still when listening to a story. The impact the Play & Learn Centre has had on the rest of the school is remarkable. As the children start to progress into other classes you can clearly see they now have a good grounding.

They have a new school principal and he has made some significant changes to the school. The organisation is much better and two new class rooms have been donated so that the children can progress through the Primary and Junior school on site before moving to High school.

I had mentioned in the past that several buildings were left empty in the Care Centre because no funds were available to utilise them. I am pleased to report that a retired doctor has offered to help two days a week and he has this new clinic kitted out with a whole range of equipment. He has called in favours and obtained donations from all over. Some members of the American Army were visiting recently and he even relieved them of various medical supplies to stock his pharmacy.

Sadly though on the day we called in and being shown around a young boy of about nine was carried in unconscious and obviously seriously ill. We were informed he was HIV and had other complications. His short life was ended that day. Unfortunately this is happening all too frequently in South Africa.

As we arrived here we found out that the Inner Wheel concert at Church had raised £924 which is a fantastic result and has helped us to guarantee funding of the Play & Learn Centre for another 12 months.

Much more we could tell but I will finish now for this week. Look out for the second bulletin next week.

Best wishes

Pam & Colin Tunnicliffe

March 02 2012

Dear all,

Thanks to everyone who messages back to us. Well here we are at the end of the second week, cannot believe how the time has flown.

Pam has been fully involved in the Play & Learn Centre. The new school principal is of the opinion that a child cannot learn properly if they arrive at school hungry. Each morning therefore the children are first given a fortified porridge and then they go into lessons. The Play & Learn Centre normally start off with a prayer, then singing followed by a story. This is followed by learning time where for example they learn about colours, shapes numbers, days of the week etc. At 10am they have a playtime and this is followed back in the classroom with table activities such as building blocks, chalk & board, painting, crayoning, memory games etc. The day these children concludes with a story and singing time. At 12 noon they get a sandwich and a drink as part of the feeding programme and class ends for them at 12.30pm.

During the 10am playtime we have re-introduced the hula hoops which the children thoroughly enjoy. It does generate a few squabbles as there are not enough to go around. Last Thursday we also took along some bubble mixture which they think is great as they leap into the air to catch and burst the bubbles. This playtime is also a good time for close interaction with the children. They come up for a hug – several at a time. They sit with us on the bench and practise English by identifying eyes, nose, ears, mouth. They are fascinated by our hair as it is much softer than theirs and constantly run their fingers through it. Skipping is also popular but as they have no rope a piece of electrical cable suffices. They have a fantastic routine with the skipping rope with two people skipping together as ans one drops out another enters and it keeps changing rapidly. They are very agile.

I have  been looking at why two of the classrooms have had no lights for nearly 2 years. There are some electricians working on the new classrooms but up to now they are always ‘coming tomorrow’. Hopefully I will get them soon. I have also been looking at a toilet that has been leaking for many months – I get all the good jobs. Unfortunately this does not appear a simple job and has had a botched repair already – must look for a plumber even though there is no money for repairs.

My next task is to list all the outstanding maintenance problems around the school and we can then see  the extent of the problems.

I have also been roped in to give extra maths tuition to certain children. I have been provided with several abacus and start next Monday. Watch this space.

Earlier in the week we took the whole school swimming at the nearby municipal baths. We had nearly 35 children in one minibus at one point – Health and Safety  mmmm!! We took about 150 children and another school about 300. You can image what it was like getting them changed when many do not have swimming trunks or costumes. They had to swim in underwear. Getting changed back again was the best. All the clothes had been piled up under a tree. We had spare shoes, socks, and many other items but we got by fairly well. Many of the children had never been swimming before and they had a great time. The teachers just took the tablets.

All for now. Its definitely the smiles we put on the childrens faces that makes it all worthwhile.

Look out for bulletin no3 next week.  Bye for now

Pam & Colin

09 03.2012

Here we are again with bulletin no 3. We cannot believe how the time has flown.

This week there has been a national strike, last Wednesday. Unfortunately strikes are not always peaceful and road blocks are frequently set up with burning tyres all to intimidate. It was deemed unsafe for us to travel into the township so we were forced to take a day off. Some of the older children and us were to go down to the seaside to explore rock pools and study marine life but this also had to be cancelled much to the disappointment of the children.

A footwear manufacturer who makes what we would call plimsolls (they are called TOMS over here) donates one pair for every pair he sells. the project received 10,000 pairs of these TOMS and then the fun of distributing them started. The children in the school get them first. two pairs each. You can imagine trying to get the right size for each child is an interesting exercise. Trying to stop the children mixing up the different sizes and keeping them in pairs is another mammoth task. After the school anyone in the community can come and queue for a pair. As word spreads hundreds converge on the Care Centre. The main gates are shut and about 40 at a time are allowed in. Again getting the right size is an interesting exercise. The thumb of each person is marked purple to try and stop them joining the end of the queue again.

I am sure you will be please to know my first maths lesson went well. I had expected to have only 3 or 4 children but due to a teacher being off sick I had the whole class. What an introduction to teaching.

Some of you may remember in past years we reported on the hundreds of Orphaned & Vulnerable (OVCs) children that arrived each afternoon as part of the feeding programme. That has been stopped now  and a more structured organisation put in place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. On Tuesday children are invited to a Reading & Craft group. They listen to a story and then do craft work. On Wednesday afternoon a music group has been started. Currently it is just a choir but the hope is that a selection of instruments can be obtained. On Thursday afternoon a physical trainer comes in and gives soccer training and netball for the girls. At the conclusion of each afternoon activity the participants get a sandwich. I must confess I don’t think it is running fully effectively at present but it is early days and hopefully it will develop.

The general feeding programme for the adults continues. Everyday between about 300 to 400 people queue for several hours, in the sun, with little shade to receive a cup of soup powder and half a loaf of bread. For some this is the only food they have for the day.

Although the economy is still fragile I understand it is showing signs of some recovery and recruitment in some industries has started again. In this township though it is reckoned about 80% of the adults are unemployed. HIV/Aids and TB continues to be a serious problem. There are however signs in the townships that the infrastructure is starting to improve. Just 14 years after it should have started a drain is being put through the township and more electricity has been installed to the shacks – legitimately. In some townships, a lot more ‘smartie’ houses have been built since our last visit. ‘Smartie’ houses are of a block construction – a living room/kitchen, a bedroom and a bath room. The name comes from the outside colour resembling the selection from the tube of sweets.

Not sure what our final week will involve but look out for bulletin no 4 to find out.

Best wishes to everyone

16.03.2012

Dear all,

Well here we are, our last bulletin and the end of our four weeks . We are both reluctant to leave but leave we must. We do leave with mixed emotions – joy that the Play & Learn Centre that many of you have helped us set up and continue to run for the last three years continues to thrive. We are satisfied that its future is secure so that 30 children will get pre school education and the whole school also benefits from this ground work.

The opposite emotion is sadness as we say farewell to the children we have worked with for four weeks and who we have also played hard with. We have taught them new songs, re-introduced the hula hoops and I have been taken for a ride many times in an imaginary taxi. We have certainly put a smile on many of these childrens faces. I have also found that many of them are very ticklish.

During the week I took four children for extra numeracy work. Learning numbers 1 to 10, and learning the numbers in Africaans. It was an interesting learning curve for me also having to learn the Africaans with them and then trying to teach them the number in English. We all survived.

The Play & Learn leader has been very receptive to some new ideas that Pam has been able to suggest. Many of these new ideas have been implemented and some others have been modified and adapted. The leader is excellent in what she does and loves the pre school age group and the children are certainly thriving.

In closing I wish to thank everyone back home for their support and for writing e-mails back to us with encouraging comments and messages. I hope you have enjoyed reading our bulletins describing the highs and lows of our visit.

Bye for now. Hope to see you all again soon.

Best wishes and God bless

Pam & Colin

Colin hoolahoops kids excitement

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