RSIS South Africa 2015
Two teams of students from around the globe have recently returned from their service project in South Africa, a unique opportunity for any student to immerse themselves in rural African culture while participating in meaningful service-learning. Each team enjoyed a two week adventure, engaging themselves in the country’s welcoming community and extraordinary wildlife.
The team’s first taste of South Africa was Kruger Mpumalanga Airport in Nelspruit, the provincial capital city of Mpumalanga meaning ‘the land of the rising sun’ in siSwati and Zulu. Nelspruit is most famous for being the southern gateway to the country’s premier wildlife reserve, the Kruger National Park. It is a place of game, adventure and rich history.
Students came from far and wide, thanks to the international reach of the Round Square community. "The journey to South Africa was nerve wrecking but also really exciting! I travelled here for the first time on my own” admitted Charlotte, team one student from Abbotsholme School “Once I got on the plane I was filled with excitement and the motivation to start building."
Working in this diverse team, students developed a deep cultural appreciation and learned to be more open-minded. “Meeting people from around the world and mixing/working with the local people was amazing” Lucy, team one student from Cobham Hall.
The teams spent most of their time in the farming town of White River, located just north of Nelspruit where they helped build a new library and classroom for Lwaleng Primary School. The team moved huge quantity of bricks, mixed cement, helped to render walls and painted several classrooms. “We are now professional bricklayers!!” joked Rebecca, Leadership student from Lower Canada College “It has been nice to see the progress in the project and pleasant to see the library finally coming together.” Following the successful completion of the build, Round Square Global Member School Penryn College has offered to paint the outside of the building and will have a book drive to fill the library shelves along with R5000 worth of Books in Homes storybooks donated by the Rotary Club.
The two teams also worked closely with two local children’s organisations; Masoyi Special Care Centre and Uthando Orphanage. Both institutions offer valuable services to the local community. “We found it overwhelming to see all the smiles on the children’s faces who are happy but have so little, I wouldn’t have thought something as small as painting a wall could have such a life changing effect on them.” Christine, team one student from Ermitage International School of France.
“I found out that I am very privileged to be an influence to the students. They were very clever and smart and the only thing they lack is opportunity. This programme made me want to work in education and for underprivileged children.” Ayako, team one student from Saint Andrew's School.
“Visiting both of these sites was very enriching, because we were confronted with a reality which we knew about but we never have had the opportunity to experience. Seeing these children that have a very challenging life in comparison to us was heart-touching. It also opened our minds to their situation and helps us to understand the struggle they are going through, there is a lot to learn from them and their experiences. They were some of the happiest children we have ever seen, despite the challenges they face.” Armin, team two student from Schule Schloss Salem
South Africa is synonymous with wildlife and nature. The Kruger National Park is renowned not only for its diversity of wildlife, but also for its conservation record. Here the ‘Big Five’, hundreds of birds, ancient trees, mighty rivers and miles of dramatic unspoiled landscape are all protected and preserved.
The students learned the importance of conservation during their wilderness camps as well as encountering some of South Africa’s famous wildlife in Kruger National Park at the end of the trip “We were able to spot some other members of The Big 5 – some Rhinoceros, a herd of Cape Buffalo, and a couple of Elephants. It was a magical experience to be in the Kruger National Park while the sun was setting on the horizon.” Team two Project Leader Rachel Cazabon.
Students also had a close-up encounter with Elephants at a sanctuary committed to educating young people about these endangered animals. “We were told information about the elephants, which was very educational.” Explains Marcus, Team two student from Bishop's College School “We then were allowed to feed and touch the oldest elephant of the sanctuary, Tembo.”
Students enjoyed a number of cultural experiences including a visit to the local church, a dance class from a local youth group, “we had a fantastic intercultural meeting. A Zulu youth dance group came over to perform their traditional dance and were wearing traditional costumes.” Armin, team two student from Schule Schloss Salem.
These experiences has helped to cultivate a respect for diversity, inspire social responsibility, encourage kindness for all, promote integrity, and empower our students to have the courage to act. “I really loved my first ever Round Square experience.” Aryan student from Dhirubhai Ambani International School.
“My experience was extremely enlightening, enjoyable and fun. It pushed me to do things I don’t usually do and make many more friends.” Sehaj student from Dhirubhai Ambani International School
“This trip makes you grow as an individual” Julia, team one student from Felsted School.
“We’d like to thank each and every student and adult who helped make the trips so successful.” Says Liz Gray, Projects Support Manager at Round Square “Your hard work has enabled the young students of Lwaleng School to receive a more comfortable and enriching education. Thank you and we hope your memories, new friendships and skills learned take you forwards for years to come.”
You can read more about our two team’s experiences by visiting the blogs.