For five weeks I was in Cape Town to do volunteer work with a friend. We worked in the Shine centre for three weeks. The Shine centre is an organization that promotes literacy in English schools. The children that go to the centre learn in English as their second language. When we arrived in the beginning of October we worked at a primary school in Sea Point. After two weeks we went to the Shine Centre. We felt really welcome when we came there. When we came in we saw posters and phrases on the wall, books and colorful chairs. On our first day we got the introduction by Karen. She showed us informative movies and explained how they work at the Shine Centre. After that we were excited to start our sessions. There were no kids on our first day because of an important test for the grade three kids. But we could immediately help with something else. That day the optician came with new glasses for the children. We went to pick up the children who got new glasses. She showed us the schools that were situated at Zonnebloem. When the children were at the centre, they got their new glasses. The kids were so happy. We saw how special this was for them.
The next day we started at the Shine Centre. We watched a session with Karen and Athenkosi. It was great to see how Athenkosi was learning by playing word games. He enjoyed the session and showed Karen how many words he already knew. The next session it was our own turn. We each got a child assigned to assist during that session. Everything was new for us so we were hoping to do a good job. We just finished school for primary school teacher and with that background we came a long way during that session. After this day we could really start the volunteer work at the Shine Centre.
For three weeks we did two sessions a day. We got to know the other volunteers. It was really nice to talk with them. You hear all these different stories how the volunteers are, what they do and how they came to work at the Centre. They were also interested in our story. Because we often had the same children in the sessions, we also got to know the children better. We also learned which books they like and how their personalities are. We got attached to the children we helped. When the children came in for the session you saw them looking for a familiar face. When they saw you they gave a big smile or a hug. It felt great to know that they enjoy working with you and are looking forward to that session.
Time went so fast and before we knew it, it was the last week at the Centre. When we were home, in the Netherlands we raised money for the project. We asked the centre what they needed. They said they always need new books for the children, so that’s what we bought. We went to different bookstores and looked for new books. We loved being in the bookstores and looking for books which would fit the centre best. We read all the books and were there for hours. We needed a couple of days to bring the different books to the centre because there were so many.
We also got another idea for our last day. One day a volunteer brought strawberries to the centre. The children got one. It was so special for them because many of the children didn’t even know what a strawberry was. We thought maybe they don’t know other types of fruit as well. So we went to the supermarket and bought lots of fruit, cups, forks and napkins.
Then the last day arrived. We arrived early that day because there were a lot of things to do. We displayed the books we bought over two tables and made pictures of it.
Then the other volunteers came in. Their reactions were so positive. It was nice to hear that we did a good job picking out the books and they couldn’t wait to read them with the children. Then we got a certificate and a letter of reference from Karen. We felt really appreciated.
During the last sessions we asked the children to help us with handing out the fruit. Every child got a cup of fruit. We saw on the expressions that they really liked it! You could read from their faces what tasted sour and what was sweet. Some of the other volunteers talked about the fruit with the children. What is the name of the fruit is and what the taste is called.
At the end of the day we said goodbye to the volunteers. It was a strange feeling to say goodbye because we were there just for three weeks. It felt way too short for us. The Shine Centre is an organization that does great work, with volunteers that makes you want to stay longer. And I know that we will come back if we get the chance in the future.
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