It takes a village to raise a village

Today was another day full of eye-opening and heart-filling sights and sounds. We started our day with a light breakfast and headed out to a primary school called Hambrook. There we were greeted by the staff of the school and the principal, Mr. Matondo. He welcomed us and let us know that he has only been the principal for four weeks, but he is anxious to bring about positive change to the school. After a set of introductions we went out to visit the various classrooms and observe the children in their lessons. At this school, the language spoken is Zulu but the universality of laughter, waves and math made it very clear that these are happy children.

After the children had a lunch of rice and vegetables, we were honoured with a performance of traditional Zulu dances by the children. As I sat there, in awe of the performances and taking pictures, a larger and larger group of children started to form around me. Before I knew it, I had dozens of children flanking me on all sides. It was such a humbling experience. Between the dancing I would have children, no older than eight, tapping me on the shoulder and mugging at me so I could take their picture and show them on my camera screen. Dance, photo, dance, photo, tongue sticking out. Dance, photo, dance, photo, cross-eyes with tongue sticking out!

Steven Ambros observing the traditional Zulu dances in a sea of children.
Steven Ambros observing the traditional Zulu dances in a sea of children. Picture by Xiao Chen.

After this, we visited a high school. This was the first and only high school of the trip and this experience was different. The teachers had announced that they were all leaving for the day (much to the chagrin of the principal—but they filled the appropriate forms) so instead of observing a class, we taught it. Our UNICEF partner, Lyle, took the lead in posing some hard-hitting questions to the graduating class about where they will be going in the future and what can they do for their community right now. We all shared stories and were floored to have our own Brendan Seale perform an impromptu rendition of Michael Jackson’s a Man in the Mirror. The performance was spectacular, but the classroom participation to his singing was the highlight.

After this visit, we stopped at the last school of this trip. We were greeted in a small room by the principal, Mr. Zuma, who claims to be from the same clan as the South African President Jacob Zuma—although his dry humor made it hard to separate fact from fiction. After introductions to his staff (seven educators for 202 learners), he gave us a heartfelt message in saying that he really appreciated our visit and that having people come from so far away made him feel that his school was important and mattered. He encouraged us to take photos and spread the word about the school. After an impromptu dance routine, from whatever children were around (school had ended about 10 minutes before we got there), we ate lunch with the staff and went on our way.

One of the children from the Malotta’s Kraal Primary School getting ready to dance. Picture by Steven Ambros.
One of the children from the Malotta’s Kraal Primary School getting ready to dance. Picture by Steven Ambros.

Returning to the SportsTec base camp, we watched two local teams play soccer. After leaving the match, we had a debriefing with our UNICEF partners and, afterwards, indulged in a Braai—a traditional South African barbeque. We ate and danced under the awning of the centre, with the local mothers who support it. All the while, two drums were passed back and forth, providing a constant rhythm equalling[MJ1]  the passion of the dance and the thunder of the rainstorm occurring inches away from us. As we pulled away in the van to head back to the lodge, we could see the dancers though the foggy windows dancing under the clouds and rain, leading us to the road as we waved goodbye.

IWitness ambassadors along with UNICEF representatives and partners from SportsTec. Picture by Steven Ambros.
IWitness ambassadors along with UNICEF representatives and partners from SportsTec. Picture by Steven Ambros.

 

 

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    Steven Ambros