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From Winchester College to the Western Cape: Our Trip to Visit the SOS Africa Children

01 Jun 2016

In April 2016, six students from Winchester College travelled from their respective corners of the world to meet in the beautiful city of Cape Town. Rory Bedford, Christopher Cheng, Joly Scriven, Fedor Misyura, Gareth Tainton and Tom Saer chose to volunteer for the charity SOS Africa and here are some extracts from Rory’s accounts of the trip…

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“On arrival we were greeted by Anna, who is in charge of managing SOS Africa’s projects in the Western Cape region. She took us to a school named Tereo, where we would be working for the first few days. Pulling into the school we were overwhelmed by all the pupils rushing out to greet us; their curious little faces all peering up at us. School was just finishing for the day, and we were introduced to the six kids who were staying for aftercare. Their teacher, Chloe, absolutely poured her heart out to them, giving them all the hugs and love they often don’t get at home. In class we enjoyed making posters and painting, learning about how to improve the environment, and reading stories to each other.”

“The real fun, however, was play time. We had jousting wars with the kids on our shoulders and swung them around in circles until we felt dizzy. The joy I experienced in that playground was far beyond getting that new iPhone for Christmas; we were simply in the moment being kids again. The bond we made with those six children was truly special; despite our numerous differences, there were no boundaries stopping us all from becoming great friends.”

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“Later in the week we went to a different school in Grabouw, just outside the township, where SOS Africa has one of its main aftercare centres. This centre has about twenty kids who have all been with SOS Africa longer than the Tereo children, and the results of a few years with the charity are truly astounding. They are all polite, friendly and come across as well-educated and all-rounded. We enjoyed playing football and rugby with them, and helping them with their homework. Chris had brought a couple of keyboards, so we also spent ages trying to teach them catchy pop tunes. They also all lined up to have a go on my saxophone, with mixed results!”

“A memorable aspect of the trip for me, were the concerts that we played. We played music to the afterschool centre in Grabouw, and to the entire school at Tereo. These children are rarely exposed to a large range of musical genres, especially a live performance on Western instruments. We must have had almost a hundred children at Tereo jumping around us as we played, with some even showing off some impressive break dancing talents! It was truly a celebration.”

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In addition to the time they spent with the SOS Africa children, Anna also organised a volunteering placement at a local soup kitchen established 20 years ago by Joyce, an inspirational lady who provides a lifeline to impoverished families. They also spent time with a local couple Garot and Amie, who long ago decided to devote their lives to the community and have since adopted twenty children and continue to provide invaluable support to local people. After having witnessed some of the harsh realities endured by South Africans on a daily basis, Rory’s accounts also questioned why South Africa’s state and society continues to fail the people who need its support the most, whilst suggesting that amidst the suffering there is also hope:

"So how can a whole society collapse so rapidly? How can we all enjoy our luxurious lifestyles while these people are being treated so badly? I think the answer to these questions may come from those who we have met along our trip. People like Garot and Amie, who are not only dedicating their lives, but putting themselves in potential danger, all in an attempt to salvage an entire town. They are the last glue keeping that town from anarchy. People like Matt and Claudia, who put all of their efforts into building and maintaining all of SOS Africa’s projects. They strongly believe that, although South Africa may have lost a few generations, the only way to save the next is through education. People like Joyce, who, in light of a terrible tragedy in their lives, decide to dedicate their time to making other people’s lives better. And people like SOS Africa staff members Anna and Chloe, who are out there every day giving these children the love they need whilst teaching them how to cope in life. These people are the desperately needed light at the end of the tunnel."

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As well as being touched by the lives of the inspirational people they met, Rory and his classmates have also left a legacy of their own. Before they embarked on their adventure, with the help of their families and friends, they raised over £3000 for SOS Africa’s operations in the Western Cape. These funds are already being put to good use, providing vital supplies to SOS Africa’s Aftercare Centre’s in the region and trauma courses to provide vital emotional support to some of our more troubled children. We would like to thank Rory, Christopher, Joly, Fedor, Gareth and Tom for their commitment to our cause and for the lasting impression they left on our staff and children after such a short time; they would love to welcome you back in the not too distant future.

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