Railton Foundation, Swellendam, helping each other to help the township community satrting with the Children.

Trying to help the Township kids in Swellendam, Cultural differences, challenges and realisations!

 

 

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’

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cape Town arrival!

Arriving in Cape Town as a lone traveller, off to volunteer at an up cycling, community project! First to test out the South African Uber drivers…

Landed after 22 hours of travel and got an Uber from Cape Town airport, I had been advised to get a SA number and ignore any taxi offers, wifi can be hooked up to while waiting in line at immigration, its pretty easy to go get a SIM card inside the airport and then book an Uber, would say easier to have the app on your phone already so with all your bags you are not standing around on your own trying to sort transport.

I arrived at night so instead of going out to the project at Gordons Bay I stayed in a hotel local to the airport, best decision, yummy wine, nice bath and great sleep!

My first day and I was excited to get going to the ‘Revival Project”! My Uber driver on this occasion was amazing, he was like a tour guide for me story telling of the shanty town areas lining the main highway. He talked of how so many races and religion live together and that causes constant conflict. That drugs were the main cause of issues, a new drug is being bought in from china and exchanged by fisherman for specific shell-fish and fish, people will scurry around after dark for anything to scrap to make money to get their next hit. These communities are places no one goes into! Especially a huge area we drove past of corrugated huts, this is famous for being the area where the most wound injuries and deaths come from, i.e stabbings and they are very particular that no witnesses are left so if its you and a friend your both going to be goners! IMG_5199

It was a real reality kick that life was going to be very different to what I have been living in Hawaii, the freedom, the trust, the lack of concern of leaving your house door open or possessions in your car all changes from now!

I arrive at the “Revival Project” a project I’ve been super excited about getting my teeth into, hands dirty and hopefully makings a difference going forward in this community.

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It’s a building site. It’s scrub dust land with shipping containers as the bathrooms, kitchen and living areas. I knew this but the fact of no hot water, minimal food and the concept of having four dogs which although soft to us were in fact there to guard the property was a real eye opener! My disappointment wasn’t the hard work and being grubby and hungry it was the lack of freedom, I want to be free to wander to the store or beach but you can’t!

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Safety is a real issue, you don’t go out alone and most defiantly not as the sun goes down, ironically the time that’s most dangerous is the time the ‘Rastas’ praise the sun going down and are grateful for the day and new one to begin. So actually when I did go to watch the sun set the vibe was awesome but that was because I was with a local who knew where to be and knew who to walk away from, although it would have been nice to be alone and reflect it was so nice to hear him talk story and explain why to him the sun is the thing in life he is most grateful for!

Sadly the project only had me at this time as a volunteer, the stage it is at is hard labour and also work online asking, begging and setting up fundraising platforms. I’ve spent my fist two days, painting primer onto the containers ( a graffiti artist arrives to add some art in a few weeks) , cooking, full on cleaning as a day before had been a dust storm and everything was insanely dirty! plus working online asking for copious amounts of pallets, barrels, soil and more!

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My works become basically all online now as other volunteers are not arriving for a while. So after a lot of self questioning I  decided to head to Vic Bay to a hostel, a 6 hour bus drive through was is promised to be some incredible views.

I can do the work I need for Revival as well as experience the Cape, and when more people give their time to the project I can get back to getting physical and get the outreach community projects going once the place is less of a building dust site.

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( Plus side of dust, dirt and cold water showers, I actually slept really well in the pods, can’t complain, cosy and kinda peaceful in the midst of chaos! )

I’m disappointed it hasn’t rolled out how imagined but maybe this is better. At first I felt like moving on for a period of time was failing but the ground work of sourcing seems more important and if I can do that looking at the surf not dust then why not!

I’ve got to say that the Cape has a calmness even with all that is going on in a negative way right on your door step. It has a peaceful energy and I can only imagine in the mountains and near the water this is heightened.

I’m looking forward to my journey through this mother land!!!!

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