Nicolas - Volunteer between 2017 and 2023

When I arrived in Johannesburg, I decided to get involved in a charity. I learnt about Creche Gabrielle through the French community who has been supporting the Creche since its creation in 2002. It is true that at first you dread going to a township quite far away from your living area. But then you arrive at Khomanani where Creche Gabrielle is located and it is such a great place. Over the years, I have met amazing people there like Portia - aka Fufu - the manager who is resilient and involved, Malefo, the cook who is an incredible person but also Nthombi, the teacher of the "big" class, Prince, Sizwe etc...

I have seen so much improvement at the Creche and Khomanani. It has been such a rewarding experience to spend time with these underprivileged children who are always smiling. Sadly after 6 years in South Africa, I have to leave but the Creche and the children there will always have a special place in my heart.

Renata - Volunteer since 2022

I am trying to recall what I had in mind the moment I first got in the car heading for my first day as a volunteer in a nursery based in a township. I knew the place where I was going might be dangerous, or at least not safe , but the rest of the team reassured me I would be fine. Would I?

Townships are impoverished areas outside big cities in South Africa, where all black and coloured people were forced to live during the Apartheid times. Even though this dark history has been ended , you can still see A LOT of people being stuck in these places, some living in decent conditions, some in less decent , and some in deplorable ones, where your walls and roof are built of nothing more than corrugated iron. The nursery where I was heading was based in one of such places, a township called "Vlakfontein".

 

After 45-minute drive we finally arrived and I quickly realised there was nothing to be scared about, there was much more to be sad about....

This was the first image I was when I got at the place. A big queue of small kids outside the gate of the nursery. "What are they waiting for?" I asked naively.

"Food." Nicolas silently replied. I soon found out that those were the kids who were on a school break so their parents couldn't feed them at home and sent them to our nursery to provide them with a meal.

 

Once we got it, Nicolas gave me a tour around the place during which I found out there were 4 classes in total where two were taught in a building. The other two had containers as their classrooms and I was going to teach in one of those.

I spent my first day with the youngest kids (1-2) . I didn't really know what to do as I had never taught such small kids but I have two kids of my own so I figured there is one activity that catches all the kids' attention and interest : SINGING.

 

and it worked! Despite feeling a bit embarrassed I went for it and managed to get a smile or two:)

Later I checked what books they had and read them a few.
At the end of our stay we decided to do some sports activities with them but it was a challenge. But I think it was us not knowing the right tasks adequate for their age. I just remember Saida saying : "Oh ils sont trop petits. Ils sont trop petits. ... " (Oh They are too small. They are too small.)
 

The time passed by quickly and it was time to go home.

"How was it?" they asked me.

"Well.. it was 'impegnativo' , as the Italians say, but I enjoyed every minute of it."

And it's true.

I could see the real interest among the kids in all the activities we were suggesting. They wanted to learn and they wanted to participate in one way or another. ANd yes... I could feel they were grateful for our presence.