A Travellerspoint blog

Day in the life of Makaphutu

Bonus Blog for TWOWEEKS volunteers

5.45am The children are up and doing chores (whilst singing loudly, more effective than any alarm clock) before breakfast.

6am Any one who has a hospital appointment leaves early- government clinics in South Africa have a first come first served 'system' and it's not uncommon for those seen later in the day to be told the medication they need has already run out.

7am The minibus taking nearly 20 of the primary school children departs for Lily Vale School (blaring this to much excitement) as does another minibus and car dropping off children who attend other schools in the area. Most attend English speaking schools whilst a couple attend Zulu schools.

8am The youngest children all spend the day in the same cottage doing nursery activities and playing in the ominously named (but actually lovely) 'Pen'. The 'Dokatelas' head off to 1000 Hills clinic, Don Mackenzie TB Hospital or to work on personal projects.

1.30pm Primary schools finish and the children are ferried back to Makaphutu. Most get straight on the trampoline.

4pm Most of the children are back and homework club starts in Cottage 6 (a recreational area with TV, first aid room, library and sewing room). The volunteers supervise and turn their hands to everything from Life Skills to advanced trigonometry, although the older children are always disappointed to learn we have not a clue about their Afrikaans homework.

7pm Wednesday is Community Meeting night led by Nic, the village CEO and guardian. There are announcements, talks, prayers and a lot of beautiful Zulu singing.

10pm On a school night even the teenagers are expected to be in bed. Given how exhausted we are, so are the volunteers.

Posted by arianemeena 14:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)


Final week at Makaphutu

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My final week at Makaphutu turned out to be a week off school- both Thursday and Monday were public holidays so most schools just gave in and gave the children the other days off too.

On Tuesday I visited Lily for the last time and finished off the last of the questionnaires with the house mothers. Wednesday was my last day at Don Mckenzie TB Hospital where Hannah and I did Dr Carpenter's ward round as he was on leave.

On Thursday we had a big lunchtime braai with the children to thank a couple who have been working for the orphanage. In the afternoon we took the teens to the Tala Game Reserve which adjoins Lily of the Valley. We saw giraffes, zebras, rhino, ostrich, impalas, hippos and wildebeest and although the spectrum of botheredness varied wildly between the kids, the volunteers were suitably impressed.


Friday was my last full day at Makaphutu and I tied up a few project loose ends. In the evening we had a community meeting where I was sung a beautiful Zulu song (I just about understood 'siyabonga', which means thank you) and was prayed for, a new experience for me but I was touched at the sentiment. My month in the children's village has been exhausting, challenging, interesting but most of all fun. I feel incredibly lucky to have been welcomed in to this loving community and am just sad I can't stay for longer.

At the crack of dawn on Saturday five of us volunteers headed off to the Drakensburgs, a chain of mountains on the Lesotho border. We arrived at the scenic camp by 9am and did a 3 hour hike to a viewpoint and back. After a picnic lunch we swam in one of many bracing rock pools.

We braai'd (not sure if that's really a verb) and made the most of not being in the children's village by having a couple of bottles of wine.
In the morning we set off on a 4 hour hike in the baking sun, stopping to cool off under waterfalls. On the drive out of the camp we stopped off to swim in a gorge before driving back to Makaphutu. After a few quick goodbyes, Sarah (an American volunteer) and I headed to Durban.

Posted by arianemeena 12:54 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Finding Freedom

Week 4

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I've spent much of the week down at Lily of the Valley conducting the behavioural questionnaires with the house mothers. I also got to see a few patients at the clinic and sat in on the weekly multidisciplinary meeting held at the school where they discuss the health, social and educational needs of the children. It was a good opportunity to see how the questionnaire results will be useful, which was a relief given the time and effort taken! It was also a stark reminder of the hardships these children have already faced in their young lives. Having just one 'looked after' child with emotional problems in a class is hard enough, but looking after a whole school of children with additional needs with very few resources is a mammoth task and I can only admire the dedication of the team at Lily Vale.

1000 Hills clinic was as busy as ever, although as in the UK many of the patients just had a cold and looked baffled when we explained it didn't require any medication. South Africa seems to have an never ending range of cough syrups (including *medic chat alert* ones containing theophylline and terbutaline. Inhalers are few and far between) so most patients assume you'll be giving them something sugary to magic away their tickley cough.

On Saturday we took some of the teenage girls shopping (we have discovered Mr Price, a sort of South African Primark) and on Sunday escaped to a mall for a change of scene and to watch Captain America 2 in 3D for about £4.

Monday was yet another Public Holiday (and people wonder where SA's productivity goes)- Freedom Day, commemorating the date of the first fully democratic elections 20 years ago. We marked it by watching 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' with the teenagers, who came up with some very thoughtful remarks in the discussion afterwards.

This week's view is from our local wifi hotspot, Hillbilly's Café.

Posted by arianemeena 10:58 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)


Everybody loves a four day weekend

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We used our Sunday to visit Durban's northern beaches. The sky was blue, the sand golden and the Indian Ocean pretty bloody ferocious, thus demanding hoards of life guards (who took their touch rugby duties very seriously). Moses Mabdiba Stadium was built for the 2010 World Cup at enormous cost but with impressive results, here I am being battered by the wind, you can just about see the stadium behind my hair.

We've had a pretty intensive week of medicine so it was a good thing it was only four days long. On Tuesday whilst at 1000 Hills Clinic some volunteers brought in a lady they had found in a local shelter, who was very ill from an infection of the wound where her hand had been recently amputated as a result of leprosy. There was very little nursing care available where she was staying so her dressings had not been changed. We sent her to hospital and when she was discharged back to the same shelter we arranged for her to be admitted to a lovely local hospice, where they would be able to care for her wound. Leprosy is very treatable and the incidence is declining in South Africa, but there are still many misconceptions and the local doctors thought it possible this lady's poor care was due to staff members being scared of catching it.

One of the doctors at the TB hospital was on leave this week so Hannah and I did his ward round on Wednesday. We saw pretty much every complication of TB there is and witnessed firsthand how late presentation and poor compliance with medication can have devastating consequences.

The long Easter weekend meant a break from school and clinic for all of us. The weather was glorious and after Easter themed activities on Friday we had a braai (South African BBQ) with all the children on Saturday.

On Easter Sunday a couple of us took a group of the teenagers to Kloof Gorge where they conducted an impromptu photoshoot by the waterfall. Nearly 20 of the 7-14 year olds went on an overnight camp, leaving the village bizarrely quiet.

Easter Monday was the second day of the Kearsney College Rugby Festival, where some of South Africa's best school teams competed and future stars were selected by the Sharks Academy. The standard was amazing and no doubt some of these guys will be Springboks in a couple of years.

This week's view is from the back of Makaphutu out over the forested hills behind us.

Posted by arianemeena 15:06 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)


Howick and Makaphutu

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Sunday is my designated day off and a few of the volunteers headed up to Howick Falls, north of Pietermaritzburg.

Nearby is the site of Nelson Mandela's capture in 1962, where there is now a photographic exhibition and a recently unveiled memorial.

I spent much of the week at Lily of the Valley (the larger children's village with nursery, primary school and medical clinic on site) which involved getting the lively 7am school bus from Makaphutu, where the early hour does nothing to temper the enthusiastic singalong to Zulu-pop.

Some of the children have, quite understandably given their backgrounds, emotional, behavioural and attention problems and I have been asked by the Lily clinic doctor to help the house mothers complete some baseline evaluations. I joined Grade 3 for a day and also met with the Special Needs teacher to discuss the issues they face in school.

Hannah and I were asked to join the Community Care Givers from 1000 Hills Clinic on house visits so they could get our opinion on a few of the patients they see who are unable to make it to the clinic. Twelve of us piled in to the back of the ambulance and headed off, occasionally stopping to move a cow out of the road.

The surrounding rural township has relatively high levels of poverty and some of the people we visited explained the difficulties in getting pensions or grants when too ill to work. The most distressing case was an elderly lady, left bedridden by a stroke and neglected by her sons. If no one remembered to bring her food she wouldn't eat and her blood pressure had become uncontrolled (so putting her at risk of a further stroke) as she had run out of medication. We were able to take her in the ambulance to the local government clinic for assessment and medication and the Home Care manager from 1000 Hills set about organising a temporary bed whilst a care home could be found. The Community Care Givers go door-to-door to identify those in need of help and if they were not around I dread to think what would have happened.

Back at Makaphutu I've worked out most of the children's names, but still cause great mirth when I attempt any of the various clicks that pop up all over the place in Zulu. We've been supervising homework club, seeing any children the housemothers are concerned about and had a Saturday Maths training session in preparation for the next Olympics. This week's view is brought to you by the imaginatively named 'The View' pancake house, where I tried SA specialty bunny chow (no bunnies were harmed in the making of this dish).

Posted by arianemeena 06:34 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

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