I noticed it’s again a couple of days ago since the last entry, this time a digest of last week.
The week started with a sort of startup day, I planned to begin to teach an employee of the organisation. I already learned that in South Africa a lot of things change constantly, you can’t apply the Dutch mentality here and you just need to go with the flow. So on Monday morning I discovered that the employee hurt his foot during a game of football in the weekend. He stepped into a broken bottle and cut his foot. As I understand he went to the hospital. The government has made healthcare free for the people, but the medical care isn’t at the same level of care as in The Netherlands. The alternative for people here is to go to a private doctor or private hospital but that is way to expensive for them.
During the day he went back to the hospital because it looked like there was still some glass in his foot. The day after I heard that he got sent back from the hospital because he didn’t had a reference from a clinic. As I understood clinics can be compared with the doctor / general practitioner we have in the Netherlands, that’s also free for the people here. The advice he got was: ‘just wait for a couple of days, if the swelling and pain are not less then he would get a reference for the hospital to make an X-ray’.
Interesting to be aware of (and yes the comparison can’t be made one-on-one but lets just do it), in The Netherlands you pay for example 100 euro’s a month for your medical insurance. That’s about 1430 Rand a month, for some people here more then they earn in a month. In one of my earlier posts I wrote people need to live of 90 Rand a day (minus food and transport to work). If you pay 100 euro’s a month that’s 1200 euro’s per year. That’s about 17250 Rand a year. Life standards are different here, but for the people that have work this is still a fortune.
In the meantime at the office the toilet was clogged. Thanks to the neighbours we could make use of their toilet. The next day the employee came back and we worked on preparing for his exam. He also needed to fix the clogged toilet. Interesting to see how it’s done here. First was the high pressure hose, when that didn’t work then a steel wire was used but it also didn’t work. Finally the connection between the toilet and sewage was removed and that helped to remove the blockage.
The days after I helped prepping the employee for his exam in January (the exam is the 15th if I remember correctly). When he was studying I worked on fixing some computer problems for him and preparing the first steps for the WiFi project.
During the week I was asked if I would be interested to stay longer in Port Elizabeth then the two months I’ve planned. I was asked to be the project leader for the WiFi project and also to set up a sort of teaching class in the ‘style’ / way I’m helping the employee from Ready4Life. You maybe can imagine, I’ve got a big decision to make in the next couple of weeks. Staying in Port Elizabeth has consequences for my life in The Netherlands.
By my roommate and another volunteer I was invited to join them at a dinner organised by a family that wanted to thank volunteers that come to South Africa. Just to start with the food, it was great! During the diner the host shared stories about volunteers they had in the past and their own experiences in South Africa. They run an organisation that supports an orphanage that also has a ‘baby safe’ (‘vondelingenluik’ in Dutch).
What impressed me the most is that the orphanage sometimes rescues what they call here ‘throw away babies’. Just like the word suggests, babies that have been born but are unwanted and thrown by the garbage. This can be because the mother is still a teenager or the mother has HIV and doesn’t know how to take care of herself and the baby. I can remember that a couple of months ago there was a fuss about a mother that left here baby in a garbage can in Amsterdam. According to the articles ‘Over 2,000 kids thrown away yearly‘ and ‘New scheme in South Africa allows mothers to dump unwanted newborns in ‘baby safe’ mounted on a wall‘ the problem is much bigger in South Africa then in The Netherlands.
The host also tried to make clear that coming here and do volunteer work really helps. As he told it: ‘A lot of people in South Africa don’t care about each other, they don’t do volunteer work themselves. The work you do here matters, whether you realise it or not. By volunteering in this country your planting seeds and you maybe not see the progress immediately but what you do matters’. That can be something powerful to remember, not only in South Africa but throughout your life.
He was thankful that all the volunteers took the decision the come to South Africa, by coming here you followed your hart he told us. And that’s true, but what was special about that moment is that you realise your not the only one that took a step. For some volunteers coming here is also a break from their life in The Netherlands. People here don’t know your history and that can set people ‘free’, you can be whoever you want to be. There were more interesting subjects discussed but then the post would become very long.
Last week I also met the owner of the house I’m staying in. She got back from her trip. It was nice to meet her.
On Friday en Saturday I attended a ceremony and a wedding, more about it in the next post. 😉