A Day with lots of Smiles and valuable Experiences.
Communications and marketing intern Tom joined the Projekt Ubuntu daycare center for a day. Together with other volunteers and interns, he helped with some of the daily operations at the daycare center for children in Masiphumelele, a township in the southern suburbs of Cape Town.
Projekt Ubuntu is a social development organization that has established itself in Masiphumelele. This township deals with a high level of social issues such as poverty, crime, and HIV/AIDS infections. Ubuntu’s main focus is the Ubuntu Centre, a community center that provides daycare for children of the township almost every day. Ubuntu also supports a number of other daycare centers in Masiphumelele that are run by the (grand) mothers of the township community.
The project was found and established by Candi and Sidney. The name ‘Projekt Ubuntu’ itself is purposely written with a ‘K’ as Candi explains that it stands for projekt, like a projector that projekts something. That ‘something’ is Ubuntu. Ubuntu stands for humanity or being human. Translated, Projekt Ubuntu, therefore, means Projekt (your) humanity (in whatever form that is). Candi and Sidney have a house on the outskirts of the township where they host many volunteers and interns from several countries on a yearly base who all have a different role and tasks at one of the projects within the township.
Meeting Kjell, Jolien and Denver
Speaking of these volunteers and interns, I got to meet Kjell, Jolien and Denver. Kjell and Jolien are from Belgium and do a sports management internship at a primary school. Here, they teach the youth to adapt to a healthy lifestyle and keep them away from anything that will not support them in safeguarding their future. In May they will host a big sports event called: the Bhongolympics. During the Bhongoympics the children of the school play multiple games. The overall theme and spirit for that day are derived from the Olympics itself. Besides a focus on sports, the day also serves as a true school party with drinks and food. There will even be a market for the sewing class.
Denver is from England and does a Marketing and Communications internship at Projekt Ubuntu itself. His main focus is creating an online presence for this organization. He recently launched its new website. Besides, he also works on its social media presence (Facebook and Instagram). Besides his communication work, Denver loves to be out on the project to interact with the children. This means, he regularly helps out at the Ubuntu Center. There, he supports mama Pat with the preparations and running of the afternoon activities program for the children.
Arriving at Ubuntu and getting to know the Community
At the Ubuntu daycare center, I met mama Pat. She is the so-called ‘mama’ of the project/daycare center and controls anything happening there. In the morning, I cleaned and prepared the center with Denver and another volunteer for the afternoon program. About 60 to 80 children would arrive that afternoon at the center.
A walk in the Township
After the cleaning duties that morning, mama Pat took me for a walk in the township itself. She explained Masiphumelele covers 0,4 km2, which is home to roughly 300,000 people. This number is most likely even higher as the last ‘rough’ count was done at the end of the nineties. Masiphumelele is a relatively ‘safe’ township, partially due to the social cohesion that can be found between the inhabitants. Still, the township has its (social) challenges as well, such as crime and HIV, and sometimes there are protests that lead to an increase in social tensions.
Besides the many wooden and gulf-plate houses, and the social issues, mama Pat showed me certain facilities built in the past few years, like a primary school and a small medical clinic. Additionally, certain sandy streets have been replaced by asphalt roads and there are a couple of trash bins at some places in an attempt to minimize waste out in the open. These are signs of slow, but crucial improvements to increase the livability in this community, which was great to see.
The Afternoon Program
After this impressive walk through the township, we returned to the Ubuntu center for a lunch break before the afternoon-program started. Over sixty children ran around, played football, played at the playing court and sang songs with each other. I was quite overwhelmed by the hectic and kerfuffle in the beginning, but after a while I found myself participating in hiding and seek, playing football with the boys and I even became a captain of the ‘ship’ at the playing court.
Later that afternoon, it was time for more serious matters. Mama Pat called all the children and urged them to sit in a circle, myself and Denver included. There was a moment for praying, a special moment in my opinion, as everybody (including all sixty children) was absolutely quiet. The loud voice of Mama Pat interrupted this silent moment when she sang a song, with an educational twist. At the end of the song, the group of children had to make teams, every time a different number. In this way, children learned to work together and count.
At the end of the day, I helped Denver to prepare a meal for the children. The theme of that day was: health. The lunch was supported by donations raised by volunteers and interns. These donations go on a special bank account, so mama Pat is able to buy fruit for the lunch in times when there are fewer volunteers and interns. Before the meal was served I had the important task to give all children disinfect soap and helped the smallest ones to wash their hands. Not only does it fit the theme of the day but it’s very important as well. Hygiene is an issue in many townships, including Masiphumelele, and by learning the kids to wash their hands before eating, bacteria and other viruses will be less likely to be spread from the hands to the mouth.
At 16.00, the day was over and the children went home. However, not without a small present made possible by other donations to mama Pat. Since ‘Health’ was the theme for that day, every child got a cool toothbrush and toothpaste. Seeing the children being so happy with such a small gift was precious to see. Although I was only there for a day, it can be said I felt privileged to see this precious community through the eyes of mama Pat, from a workers’ perspective and not necessarily as a tourist. Overall, my day at the Ubuntu center really added a valuable layer to my internship experience here.