by Alison Baglien, Greenheart Travel Volunteer Abroad participant in South Africa
Moloweni (hello in Xhosa) from Capetown!! I’ve had quite a memorable first week in Capetown! First, a little background knowledge on the project. “The Shaster Foundation, based in Cape Town, is a humanitarian organization staffed by people who care passionately about South Africa, her people, poverty alleviation, preserving traditional culture, protecting the environment, and instilling respect for all life. All our buildings are truly ‘green’, and built either from recycled materials or sandbags, with volunteers from all over the world helping to create a charming and colorful community project that serves all people who live here.
The vibrant township community of Monwabisi Park welcomes visitors, tourists, volunteers and anyone else who wants to be part of a unique and innovative community development project – the first of its kind in Capetown. All our humanitarian work is funded by private donations from South African and overseas donors.” However, the project would like to become for self sustainable so they’ve build a guest house in which people can come, get a real “African township” experience and in turn generate money for the program.
Due to the fact they’d like to become self sustainable, they had a big push last week to finish up the guest house so they can start booking guests! Thus, I was part of the madness to get it all finished up. My father would be ecstatic with the projects they had me working on…I painted more pieces of furniture, cabinets, pictures etc. than I have time to list! One of my favorite painting projects was some of the art on the outside of the building. I also did a immense amount of varnishing of cabinets, benches, bread boxes etc. I also completed a papering project in which the armoires were decorated and varnished giving them a very funktified look! I also sanded, stained and helped build a headboard. Gave a poor shot at some sewing…guess I should have payed attention in home-ec. Those were the bulk of the projects that I worked on in the last week in addition to a bunch of little tasks.
A typical work day is from 8:30-5. All of the people I’m working with are just wonderful people. During breakfast, lunch and tea time I’ve had some wonderful conversations and learned a lot about the squatter settlements, Capetown, African history etc., and I’ve also tried to start integrating the Xhosa language! Most people can speak at least some English but if they’re not talking to me or another visitor they always speak in Xhosa.
I live in a little apartment above the daycare center in the building attached to the guest house. It’s a nice lil’ place. During the day I’m looked after by a woman named Hazel and her assistant Andeswa (who has become my gal pal that I chat with at night). They are both lovely people, however, it makes me quite uncomfortable to be waited on like this..for example yesterday I grabbed a pan and started cooking my own lunch, Hazel’s eyes about popped out of her head and she asked me what I was doing I said I was making lunch and she would she like some?, she responded that she should be cooking it and that she wouldn’t have me cooking for her..I’m going to keep trying though! They don’t think I eat enough but much of what the cook is very filling and some of it just plain too heavy…think of an elephant ear in a fried roll form, thought I was going to die of heart failure three bites in with oil oozing all over! But as a whole the traditional food is quite good. I’m having Hazel teach me how to make some of the dishes. Read more about Alison’s volunteer program…