Author Archives: Mathieu Soete

Day 12 – SCORE, changing lives through sport

Written by Lavinia Manea.

It was another cloudy day in Cape Town, but somehow we didn’t feel the gloominess that sometimes captures the European cities. When you wake up in a hostel crowded with Namibian students queuing for breakfast in the all-too-small eating saloon, you realize once again that you’re at the other end of Africa and the vibrant energy of those scholars ends up lifting your spirit.

Today’s morning program brought us once again in the city centre, this time for a visit to the South African Parliament, which many of us were awaiting anxiously. During our short visit we saw the rooms of the National Assembly, the Committees of Parliament and the Council of Provinces and we learned about the political history of South Africa from our guide, a middle-aged black man who at a certain point voiced –maybe unwillingly- the frustrations and traumas that still persist in people’s mind 15 years after the end of the apartheid.

South Africa is a nation that still aches; but the African people seem to look always forward, towards that “something better” that gives them hope and makes them smile to you whole-heartedly, even if one day before some went to bed with an empty stomach.

And smiling is how we were welcomed in the afternoon by the SCORE team, a group of Canadian and European volunteers and their trainees, young people living in the township nearby. Based in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa, SCORE is an NGO which aims at human development through sport and works with children and adolescents from unprivileged environments with a view to educating them as individuals.

And since “seeing and doing” is the best way of learning, we were given the opportunity to take part in one of their sport activities aimed at informing adolescents about HIV/AIDS. How did it work? The first game required some ball technique to receive individual letters, which we then had to arrange in order to obtain a statement on HIV/AIDS, leading to a short discussion. The second game showed how HIV can affect more and more people, who then had to answer questions on the topic in order to  be allowed back in the game.

A slightly wider selection of images from today:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Day 10 – In the wake of the explorers

Written by Marzena Gawenda.

Happy to be sleeping a bit longer than the last days, especially after last night’s wild African dances, we started this Sun(ny)day brimming with the anticipation of exploring the Cape Peninsula.

The first stop was Muizenberg, a small city with white beaches meeting majestic mountains and emerald waters sprinkled with dark, moving creatures – surfers enjoying the waves. A few brave among us felt the urge to dive into the ocean and did so screaming with unrestrained joy, while others preferred to admire the ocean from the distance, eagerly looking out for sharks that would certainly spice up the day. If you, dear reader, are interested – none of the sea predators showed up, disappointing some of the spectators.

Afterwards, the Kalk Bay little fishing harbor awaited us, with its fish stands, fisherman boats, seals and big waves splashing loudly against the nearby rocks. Most of us topped the visit by having a delicious fish while enjoying the sea view.

The next stop of our trip was Cape Point – the twisting and turning road was offering spectacular views, but none of us would probably imagine experiencing a traffic jam caused by… a baboon! When we finally reached the most southwestern tip of the Peninsula, a short hike up the hill where the new lighthouse is located, and there we were, dazzled by the breathtaking, awe-inspiring birds’ eye view over endless blue waters of the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. One word: WOW!

On our way back we shortly stopped at Hout Bay, with its poor households on one side of the mountain standing in big contrast with lush, posh villas on the other side (the unverified rumor says George Clooney has his property there…). Another striking proof of disparities in South Africa.

With the wind in our hair, sun and a few drops of rain on the skin due to the quickly changeable Capetownian weather, we arrived back to our ‘home away from home’, delighted to have witnessed the amazing beauty of South African nature, some heading for a stand-up comedy in Obz Café to top this soothing day with a couple of good laughs.

Get a fuller overview of the wonders of Cape Peninsula:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 8 – African Monitor

Written by Ward Vrints.

With few among the participants successfully surviving an extra early yoga class, another quick breakfast in our stomachs, we jumped once again during rush hour in crowded third class wagons towards Retreat, while entertained by an soulful African preacher. This neighbourhood is located fairly far out of the city in the touristically unattractive suburbs.

Today it was our destination anyway, as African Monitor, our host of the day, has its international headquarters based in this area. The pan-African think-tank works around effectiveness of foreign aid without focusing how much of ‘our’ Euros actually arrive, but rather on how they lead to substantive development. Indeed, another approach than the one most of us are used to the think-tank, possessing of a quite fancy office, welcomed us in a very warm manner.

After their presentation, as well as one of AEGEE (with another successful attempt to pronounce the full French name), AIESEC, UTRS and ARESTA, we had the possibility of asking any question we wanted concerning the development of world’s most underrated continent and its aid inflow. With many of the questions raising a multiple of new ones, we rapidly ran into our time limits and finished the morning session with a lunch.

With nothing organized for the afternoon, the group was split as a part of us decided to head to the District 6 Museum, whereas another group went to explore the Waterfront. Both very famous spots in Cape Town, but we had not managed to see them yet. The time it took us to eventually, one week after arrival, see the water of the Atlantic Ocean, was worth it. With a nice blend of esplanades, boulevards with palm trees, restaurants, picture hunting tourists and a ship and yacht here and there, it deserved the glory it gets. District 6, the museum, was definitely interesting, but unexpectedly small. However, it is a must visit as every grasp of acquired information concerning the apartheid regime is essential for every single human being.

The early evening was filled with a content-related reflection on the activities of the past week. We focused on the difference in importance and approach, and thus the complementarity of all the different organizations we worked with. We basically built up lots of new knowledge due to the diversity in the perspectives among them.

After a tiring yet refreshingly innovative session, many among us rewarded themselves with another step into Cape Townian nightlife.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 7 – Community discussion on HIV/Aids

Written by Francois Firket.

Click here for the full version of the article
The Thursday morning was really intensive. After breakfast, we started with a workshop on MDG8, “Global Partnership for Development”, during which we learned how development could be achieved trough 3 types of foreign investment (foreign direct investments from companies, transfer from emigrants and development aid).

Then, we went for a new visit to Khayelitsha where, together with a group of volunteers, we participated in a workshop on MDG6. Here we gained plenty of new knowledge about HIV/AIDS infection, causes, prevention and the taboo around the pandemic. The most shocking data was that 30 percent of South Africans is infected with HIV and the statistics are even more drastically high for the youth living in townships. Together with name games and funny songs, the facilitator broke the ice and created a respectful learning atmosphere.

The debate involved discussion on the opportunity to pass a law which could oblige the youth to inform their teachers and parents about their status of HIV infection. It appeared that students would not want to reveal their status as they were afraid to be discriminated, through rejection by their parents and exclusion from school. They referred expressly to the right of choice whether to reveal their status or not. On the contrary, it was mentioned that a law could provide an evolution of the mentality. Whether law can change society or society can change the law, the rule of silence seemed to have a fruitful future in townships.

After the workshop, we visited a VPUU project aiming to prevent violence in Khayelitsha and consequently to improve the quality of life of the residents. VPUU creates partnerships with public sector, private sector and several organization of the civil society to provide residents of the townships with an enriching, active and safe environment.

To continue reading click here for the longer version

More images of the discussions and surroundings:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 6 – Making a difference on two hours a day

Written by Hardik Patel and Dóra Kocsis.

Today we have learnt how just two hours in an afternoon can make changes in the life of the people. We spend all our time with SHAWCO (Student Health and Welfare Centers Organization) volunteer organization. Let us brief you about SHAWCO, a volunteer organization for students of UCT (University of Cape Town) which is among the top 200 universities worldwide. SHAWCO works in two sectors: education and health.

They receive a huge contribution from the students at UCT, with 1500 students working for the Education sector and around 800 students working on Health Care.

Jonathan Hoffmanburg - member of SHAWCO

We had two sessions today, the first one by Jonathan Hoffmanburg, who focused on education in South Africa and more specifically in Cape Town. One statement which actually touched us is “Volunteer students are the light houses of the organization”. He introduced some statistics and one of the interesting fact he mentioned, that only 1% of the students from township schools enter the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Jonathan King -Active medical student for SHAWCO

The other session was given by Jonathan King, a 5th year medical student and board member of SHAWCO. He was talking about health care in South Africa and concentrated on MDG 6(HIV/AIDS and other diseases). Some of the reasons which are increasing the numbers of infected people are consanguinity (incest), intergenerational relations, less use of condoms and promiscuity (multiple partners).

Two major activities by SHAWCO are the mobile clinics and educational centers in townships around Cape Town. During the afternoon we got opportunity to visit them.  In “Khayelitsha”  and “Nyanga” we experienced how the volunteers from all over the world are helping them to improve their basic skills (such as numeracy and literacy) after the school with the children.  At both places the children, the project coordinators and volunteers gave us a warm welcome, answered all of our questions and enjoyed our visit as much as we did.

The last course of the day was visiting one of the township mobile clinics in the evening. There are six medicine students and a doctor along with a pharmacist working as volunteer five days a week to look after twenty patients per night.  These clinics provide free services   and medicines after working hours for the people who don’t have money or time to go to the regular hospital. We were impressed by the motivation and energy of the volunteers who donate their time after a hard day at University!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 3 – Workshops in the shadow of the mountains

Written by Ivanka Bloom.

On our first Sunday in South Africa, we had a leisurely start in the morning. The focus of this day lay on developing more in-depth background knowledge of each other’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through interactive workshops which had been carefully prepared in small subgroups. For the workshops we took refuge in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Kirstenbosch, a main tourist attraction in Cape Town, is based at the foot of Table Mountain and filled with colourful flowers, a few squeaking guineafowls and a wide view over the suburbs of Cape Town. It was therefore no surprise that many cameras clicked away at the sight of the shadow of Table Mountain so that it took a little longer than expected to walk up to our meeting point.

Sprawled in the sun that some of us had missed for most of the summer in Europe, we explained some of the MDGs through several creative workshops. At first we were shortly introduced into MDG7 on environmental sustainability. After that, the second subgroup provided us with an overview of all goals to fill-up any outstanding knowledge gaps. The third group on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger (MDG1) opened up interesting discussions on the difference between absolute and relative poverty, the difficulty of reaching out of poverty, the causes and consequences of the poverty gap and the usefulness of development aid. The final workshop of the day on maternal health and child mortality (MDG 4 and 5), opened up our eyes on the hard facts of the problems that South Africa faces with regards to these MDGs.

The coming days will be filled with workshops on the remaining MDGs and our first visits out of the westernized part of Cape Town and into the townships.

More material from the cameras:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.