The Urban Wanderer

Crossing Borders ~ Bridging Cultures ~ Traveling Responsibly

Day 1 at Volunteering in a Township – Bring it on

This post was originally from February 25, 2020

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this is a part of Missionvale Township

Today was our first full day working at Missionvale Care Centre. Yesterday we went there just for the morning so that we could get a tour of the place. It is quite an amazing facility. It was started by a nun named Sister Ethel who saw the extreme poverty of those living in the township of Missionvale. She started serving food to the community under a tree and from there it has grown into a full fledged community centre. Walking around we were able to see how much the centre actually provides. There’s a distribution kitchen where people can come get food parcels, a community garden where they not only grow their own vegetables, but where they teach the locals how to grow and take care of gardens, a church, a hall where weddings, funerals and graduations take place, a primary school, a crafters unit where locals can learn to make handicrafts to sell, a youth drop in centre where there are after school programs that cover literacy, arts & culture, human rights and heath & well-being, then there’s the health clinic, pharmacy and a donation centre. I know I’m missing other units, but you get the point – there’s a lot going on.


This is Sister Ethel!

Today when we arrived, it was a bit disorganized and without asking us where we preferred to work we just were taken to the donation centre. It took me back to working in Ritsona Refugee camp just a few months ago. I can’t say that I was all that excited to sort through used clothes again although I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do! We did that for a while before heading to the kitchen. There we cut loaves of bread and put together food parcels. If a family meets the need criteria they get one food parcel per week. It consists of a can of beans, a can of sardines, 3 tea bags, a small package of sugar and flour as well as soap. They also hand out a half a loaf of bread and a scoop of soup powder to those who line up. It broke my heart to see the hundreds of people line up just to get a small ration of food. They would come with a used yogurt container or something like that and I would scoop a cup of dry soup powder into their container so they could take it home. Before the end of the line was even up, we had ran out of bread. You wouldn’t think that you could see so much bread fly out in just one day but it goes to show you how many people are in such a desperate state. It broke my heart to see just how many people are in dire need but at the same time the kindness and amount of gratitude they showed us was enough to fill the entire ocean.


From there we visited Mother Christmas. Her name is Rachel and she is the sweetest little woman who runs a gift wrapping Christmas Centre. Basically all year round she gift wraps presents for children so that come Christmas Day every child in the community can leave with a beautifully wrapped present. I can’t even imagine the chaos and joy that would surround Christmas Day. We spent a few hours wrapping presents and decorating newspaper so that the gifts looked pretty. The gifts we were wrapping were for 2-3 year old girls – each consisted of a crocheted animal, a pair of Crocs and a pair of underwear.


At 2 we headed over to the After School Youth Development Centre where today’s lesson was about health & nutrition. The kids were all given a snack and some juice and then they sat down for the lesson. First we took them to the garden so that they could be shown how vegetables are grown. I’m sure half of the kids weren’t listening but the point was there. Then we went inside where the facilitator asked me to read some questions to them. My eyes bugged out of my head when the second question was asking them how the best way to lose weight would be. I quickly told the lady that this isn’t the best question to ask children. She took that question out but in her lesson about food and nutrition she was giving them bogus information. At one point she told them that there are 3 types of milk-skim, low fat or buttermilk. She asked them which was the best for them to drink…her answer was skim. She also told them that it is best to drink a half a cup of water before every meal. Wtf?!!! In a place where food is scarce, telling children to eat diet-like food was probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. When I went up to ask the pre-written questions given to me I tried to explain things like vitamins and nutrients but it probably went right out their ears as I wasn’t speaking Xosa. I walked away just shaking my head. It was obvious that the facilitator was not quite educated on the subject and took a lot of her information from a website that was probably talking about dieting.


Kris and I have come up with a few ideas that perhaps maybe we can help out in the coming weeks.

That was day 1. Bring it on!

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