What It’s Like at the Ubuntu Center in Masiphumelele
As a Communications and Marketing intern here at Roots, I have learned about many impactful NGOs making a real difference in the local communities. One of those organizations is Projekt Ubuntu: a project in the township of Masiphumelele, in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town. They have a big daycare center hosting about 85 to 90 children a day, called the Ubuntu Center. Besides, they support several independent daycare centers in the township, by providing them with resources, support, and volunteers as needed.
I wanted to learn more about Ubuntu and the impact our interns are making, so I gave them a visit! Candi and Sidney, the founders of the project, welcomed me on Sunday evening and even gave me a delicious meal. As I walked around the beautiful accommodation called Yoga Shala, the essence of the project really came to life. The warm and welcoming atmosphere was all around and was clarified with many quotes and artworks. I met the three Roots interns at Projekt Ubuntu, Whitney, Paula, and Lisa, and they introduced me around the project.
I am me, because of you
Now, Projekt Ubuntu is a great name and is surely nice to say out loud, but what does it really mean? I learned more about that when I met Mama Phat the next day, as we arrived in Masiphumelele for an orientation tour. She is the Project Coordinator and knows the community of Masiphumelele very well. Ubuntu means humanity to each other, she said, “I am me because of you”. We wouldn’t be the same without other people, and that’s a good thing!
Not only is Ubuntu making an impact on the local community of Masiphumelele, but they also do what they can to teach the volunteers and interns their values. Ideally, the volunteers and interns would spread the message back home as well, to end up in a world of Ubuntu!
A Theoretical Background for Practical Use
Throughout the day, Roots Intern Whitney showed me around. She is 24 years old, from Zimbabwe and has graduated in Clinical Psychology! She’s here now to do a Youth Social Work internship and put her theoretical knowledge to practical use.
Having studied Psychology, Whitney gets quite a lot of responsibility in the projects. One of her tasks is to focus on volunteer integration. Many new volunteers come in every week and they often experience quite the culture shock! It’s up to Whitney to make sure this goes more smoothly. She regularly checks in on them and does a ‘cultural orientation’ every Tuesday. That’s when she explains the culture of South Africa and answers any questions they may have.
Whitney is also like a confidant for the volunteers when they are experiencing any issues. This could be small things like problems around the house, but also larger issues like homesickness. Her background comes in handy here, as she wants to make sure everyone has a great time at Projekt Ubuntu!
Yoga Classes and Jingle Bells
As Paula and Whitney were often together – from being roommates to running the project together – I learned a lot about Paula as well! She is 19 years old and finished high school back in Germany this Summer. Now, she’s doing a four-month Youth Social Work internship, just like Whitney. While she’s here, Paula is mostly responsible for assisting Mama Phat with anything she may need. From getting the children together to disinfect their hands before lunch to teaching them a song: she does it all.
Together, Whitney and Paula organized a yoga class with the children, read them a book, taught them a local song and Jingle Bells (Christmas is already in 6 weeks!), and did many more activities with them. The volunteers were always there to assist, make sure the children were doing what they were asked to do, and demonstrate what was going on. There was a very obvious distinction between the interns and the volunteers; the interns were like in-betweens for the Mamas and the volunteers.
Fundraising and Social Media
I met with Marketing & Communications intern Lisa back at the accommodation Yoga Shala. We already knew each other, as we both study International Communication in the Netherlands! Lisa, like Whitney, is 24 years old and is here for 20 weeks in total. She had to do an internship abroad for her studies and decided to make an impact in South Africa.
I could tell that Lisa is really like an Assistant Manager at Ubuntu. During the morning meeting at Yoga Shala, she regularly jumped in to answer questions from the volunteers, give some extra tips, or remind Candi of other points that should be discussed. From daily tasks like posting on social media or hosting volunteer meetings to bigger tasks like setting up a big fundraising campaign: she is here to help! Thanks to her efforts, the Ubuntu Center was also able to get yoga mats for the children. Lisa is a bit more at the business side of Ubuntu, but enjoys it a lot and notices that she’s making a huge difference for the project!
Responsibilities of the Interns
Because Projekt Ubuntu is still a grass-roots project, interns are typically seen as staff members. That means they get more responsibilities and bigger tasks. They coordinate the programs, set up meetings with the many volunteers at Ubuntu, or start fundraising campaigns. An internship at an organization like Projekt Ubuntu is perfect if you want to gain more hands-on experience and get a lot of responsibility!
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