The last couple of weeks I’ve been based In Swellendam, Staying at the stunning Imangale with The Shakleys who have treated me like their own and indulged me in fabulous mind opening conversation every evening. My days have been with the Railton foundation on the kids Easter camp. I came to South Africa specifically to get involved with communities and try to help in any way I could, so this was a perfect introduction.
In 2006 a Dutch lawyer travelled through SA and decided to start a NGO in Swellendam which would assist with community development and provide financial support with projects, The Railton Foundation was born and their Motto being ‘From the community, with the community’
The Railton foundation is a not for profit organisation which partners with other community projects to provide health care, sport, youth development, education promotion & community welfare. At the same time recognising the poorest residents are the ones most in need of help, support and guidance and possible solutions to their very real and everyday problems.
Since the foundation has been set up many projects have been started, ranging from a community research project in 2010, a structure that teaches young to play musical instruments, a local bursary fund, a community action programme, a reading/literacy programme at a school and a leadership programme for school age youth.
I was lucky enough to be involved in the Easter youth programme which included sport, athletics, craft, dance, singing and more. Everyday for two weeks in various locations around Railton action packed mornings were organised and always ended with a cooked lunch. Tiny tots to adults with disabilities joined, first day we had about 40 increasing everyday to over 100! It was organised chaos but everyone had smiles on their faces.
I loved this camp, the joy and energy the participants had, the dedication and commitment the workers and volunteers gave blew my mind. It was the most mentally, physically and emotionally draining experience i have been in and knowing how little a difference i could make made this harder. Growing up in a western world but travelling from a young age i was aware of how differently countries and cultures do things, structure and organisation is so variable, neither way is right or wrong just very different. However now when trying to give hands on help this seemed accentuated. The way i may of thought things should’ve been run was completely opposite, i struggled with not sticking my nose in, and when i did put my spin on things it was forgotten then next day! Ive learnt to stand back and understand that the differences are what makes us all unique and hopefully with patience we can learn from each other. Differences aside the result was essentially the same, the kids had fun, and more importantly they had a meal and time away from what is often a very hard home life. I saw snippets and heard stories related to their lives (drinking and stabbings included) but i will never truly comprehend what they go through.
My heart broke when i could pick the HIV babies from the crowds or the children that simply turned up for the meal, also the discipline being violence, this was a shock and after the first time i learnt to just turn away and accept it isn’t my place to speak up, and truly wondered what the hell went on in their homes if this was normal in public. I really wanted this to be my area of influence, for people to realize control and respect does not get earnt through violence, it can be gained by structure and verbal communication, hopefully one day this will change. At the end of this camp iam now aware of how much help is needed and that one person can’t do much at all in one sitting, i’ve learnt that my purpose here is quite possibly to show the children love and give them attention, beyond that i can support the foundation leaders and management as much as i possibly can. Hopefully assisting them and alleviating some of their many many tasks and jobs.
This Foundation is going from strength to strength however the key in all the countries projects and foundations is money, money makes all of this possible, it enables the foundation to employ driven focused men and women from the townships to run the projects continually not just ones off, it enables transport, food, materials and equipment. Everyone can have the enthusiasm and passion to help but $$$$ is what really counts. I hoped and hope i can make a difference but i have come to the conclusion that even if one child smiles and feels some love then that for now is the biggest help i can hope to give.