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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Option and the choice to be happy

Happiness is a choice, we have the option to live simply and happily, inside not outside ourselves. Looking at the Children from the townships so bright and cheerful with no materialistic values my realization of this becomes even clearer.

After arriving in Swellendam and seeing some stunning sites and getting the feel of this lovely town I was ready to start what I had come here to do. And what a stream of emotions arrived! 

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A lot of my life I have always wanted to do charity work, but I have always said “when I have money ” “when I’m older” “after I have a family”. However since I made my little leap of faith out of my bubble,  the view I have on that changed. I can do it now, I don’t have to limit when I can help or try to help other people.

Looking back I see I was actually breaking free when I mixed up my life. Breaking free from everything that I worked towards and was encouraged to believe would give me a happy, secure, safe and fulfilling life.

I had become to feel and do now feel very strongly that I and everyone around me has a really privileged life. In many ways-health care,  education, financially,  environment and mostly because of the experiences and lifestyle we have grown up with and continue to live. Travel is normal, even if to other parts of your country, fresh food constantly available and new clothes and belongings when we fancy. What we have is choice. Choice and options. With choice we get to have the option to be happy, but with choice we already have a base line of happiness because we can decide how we live, which path we take.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this doesn’t come without a price for many…. long hours, estranged parents, living for the weekend or living for the wine after the kids are in bed or your home from work! All of this is obviously merely my opinion but…I feel we all live an outside in lifestyle, looking for the external to fulfil our happiness. A raw simple life doesn’t make sense to so many and the cliché of keeping up with the Joneses really does apply.

On my return from Hawaii to the UK I re packed for SA, I had a complete melt down, I was disgusted in all the stuff I had. The shoes worn once, tops with labels, the sheer volume of things! I realised I had accumulated all of this because in the moment I believed that “it” would make me happy! I had been living from a suitcase for 7 months, gifted a few dresses along the way but living frugally and happily, they were the most invigorating and inspiring and free months of my life. I was incredibly lucky too with the love people gave me but compared to my life before it was very simple. I have one suitcase with me in South Africa and my budget is incredibly tiny, allocated for food, communication and travel, I love living with out much, outfits may be less but who cares, the people, the sites, the experiences and the now is what is most important.


The reality kicked in seeing the poverty around me here. When I stand in the Township playing field for the second day looking at all the children walking from all over to join the Easter programme, 99% with no shoes, some wearing what they wore yesterday, items way too small, holes in tops and dirty items. BUT  what shone through was they all were happy, they all played together, ok some fought at times but that’s kids right! They all interacted and joined in the games and activities with a zest and complete enthusiasm.

It sticks in my head on the starting point of the relay stand where a ping-pong needed to be bounced on the table into the bucket, a boy, shirtless and in tartan boxers as shorts, was kissing the three balls in his hand and before every bounce he kissed then bounced. He was determined to win. His satisfaction in life coming not from what he was wearing or had in life but in the competition and fun of this busy bustling morning of fun! An equal playing field, his option along with the rest of the kids is to do or simply to sit back and miss out, they either join in with us or that is it. Two options, two choices, two paths.


I look today at my search of happiness and how I always looked outside of me to find it, the limitations I’ve put on myself because of what I thought I should have/do, the ungrateful person I have been at times and the ignorance of how blessed I truly am. I choose currently to live minimally but fully, to be rich in self-love & love for others than to be surrounded by material belongings and in search of the next new shiny thing that comes my way. I know I’ve made this choice, I have the choice to do this!

Life can be simple and while watching the children dance whenever a song blasts out gives the area such entertainment, energy and life! This makes them happy, they don’t know what new toys and clothes are like but they are still happy and smiling with a simple dance off! Maybe we should all take a moment to be grateful for the options we have, sometimes work and life may seem limiting but you have the choice to change or just tweek your life and be happy. And maybe when you think things are so bad, do a little dance, even if you feel silly and awkward,  I guarantee a moment away from your computer screen or phone, wiggling your hips will put a bigger smile on your face than your Facebook feed or working out what thing you’re going to buy or save for next…. maybe not for you but its worth a try surely!

(Worth a read-Inside Out Revolution, Michael Neill)

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Yes I’m trying to dance…

Road to Swellendam…https://bombshellsoulsearcher.wordpress.com/2017/04/02/Garden Route-to-Mossell bay-Swellendam

Garden route drive through Mossel Bay to the stunning town of Swellendam and Barrydale- route 62.

So i leave calm, free and openness at Surfari yesterday and head across to Swellendam. It’s a couple of hours drive from George and I managed to hop in with some guys who were heading to Cape Town, so much more of a fun trip than the bus again!

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(Map of Africa for sunset for my final night in Victoria Bay. Great company and even better views)

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The land changed again from lush to incredibly dry but always with mountains lining the horizon around us. We passed Mossel bay on the way and I was disappointed, seemed a cute fishing town but not much to look at and pretty much a complete tourist stop, i really do prefer the untouched areas and less commercial.

Service stations were the only place for coffee, we had a pit stop and filled up with fuel, over here you don’t have to get out of your car (dreamy) and you even get a screen wash… I had written in the dirt and the guy who cleaned the screen decided to leave my graffiti, humour in the middle of nowhere!

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Arriving is Swellendam it really felt like we had found a gem, stunning little town, bright white church with mountains behind it and cute restaurants. Before fidning my new “home” we went to a place called the Old Gaol for lunch, which happened to be one of the oldest buildings in town, it was a buzzy but calm place and pretty yummy food.

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Driving to Imangele guest house i reflected that 17 years ago I fled my high school as quickly as I could after a shit time! Fleeing to Australia to really have no contact with school memories again. However a positive influence and memory being my theatre studies teacher Mrs Shackley! And as luck or now we have decided fate would have it I’m about to knock on her door.

Amanda and Dave are opening their wonderful 1920″s home to me so I can stay in Swellendam and become apart of the numerous foundations and charity’s they have either set up or played/play a huge role in. I’m apprehensive and nervous but as soon as the door is open the beaming beautiful Mrs Shackley squeezes me tight and im swept into my room, wow, i was exepcting a dorm…  but no! In true theatrical style each room is themed, and I’m in the zebra room! I feel so lucky to have this huge, clean, cosy room and en suite. Rather like the little lady in the cave said to me last week…”I feel like queen if Sheba”  Quickly after we head to the vine-covered veranda for a glass of wine! I don’t think we have stopped chatting since!!!

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Next week is set to kick of my involvement with the Railton foundations Easter club! It’s packed full with activities from nature park visits to sports days! It’s going to be a wonderful way to get stuck in, explore where I can help most and  meet contacts to take this forward beyond the Easter break. My first night though is kicked off by going to the local bar, bands play there frequently and it really is the weekend hub of the town! I was going to stop drinking again once I came to SA but it’s proving rather easy to not….. oooopsie!!!!

My first full day in Swellendam we actually left and drove to Barryale- Route 62, which is a small but buzzing village on the border of the Overberg and Klein Karoo regions of the Western Cape. The drive was stunning (apart from our fuel gauge hitting super low half way across the winding mountain roads)

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We made it though and after lunch popped into an arts and education centre in a nearby township. The building a rustic shack but inside it was bustling with activity, even a computer room with about 15 kids all checking out arts ideas on pintrest. Music rooms, art rooms and more, it really was the place to be and so awesome to see everyone hanging out together rather than alone at home on their very own tablets on phones like we are so used to witnessing in the western world. So excited now ive been here to get stuck in next week, the kids are so happy and engaging, and a cheeky smile or two from them has put a serious spring in my step.

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Wilderness hike hiccup! 

Wilderness hike & canoe, Victoria bay braii at Surfari to now stay at Impangele in Swellendam, to join the Railton foundation in giving a helping had to the local township communitys.

I’ve been waking up to rolling Wilderness every morning for the last 10 days , the sun pounding in while I sit and stare at the ocean. Coming to Surfari and Vic Bay was the best thing to start this trip even though so far from the plan.


Travellers to me are the most interesting, one wants to share their stories of ups and downs, interactions and sites. We thrive off of the adventures and crave to experience them too.

The Garden Route has so much to offer, Wilderness being only a small section. We did a small hike today to a waterfall. Canoed to the start of the trail, the wind wasn’t our friend with every bend it turned to hit us head on.

The scenery was amazing with reeds blowing making a whistling song and mountains lining our route. We parked our canoe (at the wrong “beach”…. this was the start of why we should of turned back) I fell into the water trying to get out whilst being yanked into the beach and then the squishy squeaky hike began!

 The trail was awesome winding up and down and round the forest. We climbed across over rocks to the other side which then turned into broad walk, cleverly carved through the forest so ducking under the trees it had been shaped round was part of the fun. Soon into this bundles of monkeys ran in front of us to hide, then baboons started grunting, every time we moved they all moved and what seemed like more kept on joining them! Clapping and shouting we tried to carry on but they now all sat and stared… after the baboon breaking into the kitchen the previous morning we decided to turn back.

So we never did make that waterfall!!! But a good effort of a funny canoe ride, awesome trail and a pulley back across the water to our canoe! A nice adventure done!

Tomorrow I leave here to head to Swellendam, a beautiful town half way back to Cape Town. I’m heading there to help with the Railton foundation (http://www.railtonfoundation.co.za/ ) as well as other things they have a gym which is a safe space, and caters for all types of people young old and all colours. They want me to go and help with classes from boxing to yoga to general activities as well as a blog for the charity.

I arrive in two days to a big party for the community to say farewell to the summer then kick off Easter break with the kids… I’m so excited to get there and see what it brings!

For many days now I’ve wondered why I’m in South Africa, I’ve missed Hawaii so so much and be comparing and craving what I loved about it! Plus , it has been like a mini holiday which was as far from what I was expecting to happen. So hopefully this is the start of a brilliant ride and I can throw myself into this charity and hopefully pull off a few good classes for everyone! Ha!!!

Another braai last night and a stunning sunset leading to a sky of clear bright stars. Life ain’t so shabby when you take the time to look!!!

Song of this week has been, Follow the sun by Xavier Rudd!

Have a follow- https://www.facebook.com/railtonfoundation.co.za/