In 2008 Simon Hasler, founder of Opus Gold, spent 2 weeks helping children in Africa as part of Project Volunteer. It was a great and rewarding experience for all involved. Simon returned, along with the other volunteers in 2009 to see the benefits of their work.
Here is Simon’s memories of the trip:
On the 2nd trip I took a team of 6 to an orphanage in Francis Town, near the Zimbabwe border. Taking a chef, nurse, social worker, 2 sports coach’s and me to helped the staff and children.
The objective is to help out at the orphanage in many aspects. We arrange activities for the children during the day ranging from sports to arts and crafts. Some children were taken on a safari. In the evenings we put on a different children’s movie for the kids and the house Mums to come and enjoy, sweets included.
Some examples of other work done
The chef, David Clark trained at the Ritz in London, set up a ‘Saturday Kitchen’ type arrangement to help the House Mums get the most out of the food they had. Having seen the ingredients, including the meat they had to feed the children with he recognised these were of generally low cost, low quality and low in quantity. He therefore went to work helping make the most of what they would have available each day.
He noticed each house had its own food processors kindly donated many years ago. Although in principle this was a good idea no one had shown them how to use it, so they had remained in their boxes.
David then showed them how to use it to make greater nutritional and more flavoursome food for the children. For instance using breadcrumbs to boost the volume of food, low cost and easily done with a processor.
He then observed them using it themselves with his guidance, sampling the results each step of the way.
He left them to their own devices to see the results, which were amazing. The Mums recognised that these machines can not only make their lives easier but helped produce better food for the children.
My personal task was to help the teenage boys. Having visited them in the teenage section of the orphanage it was clear to see that they had received little care over the year, due to limited staff numbers and budget. This had lead to them living in terrible conditions, including rat and cockroach infested kitchens and overall disorder. I worked with them collectively to clean up and help them understand the value of working as a team to keep order. Although daunting at first, when you get to know the boys you realise they are like any other group of teenage boys around the world. Perhaps a bit moody on the outside but still young and needy on the inside.
Having got stuck in with them to clean up, they could see that hard work brings great rewards. They have no parents to guide them so they have to manage themselves in what are challenging conditions, including the natural higher archie you would get when 20 plus boys aged between 11 and 16 are living together. The promotion of self encouraged and motivated and a team ethic had the quarters cleaned up by the end of my stay there.
Then the self rewards and self congratulations helped them realise they can work together to help themselves collectively. What you don’t normally see with teenage boys is the warmth and appreciation they can offer when someone gives them time and guidance. The thanks I received from them after helping them clean up will always stay with me. It made my initial apprehension and tentative steps into their world seem all the more rewarding for me personally.
The following years report from the team that returned to the Francis Town teenage quarters was that they kept up this work ethic and continued to live in good conditions introducing a rota for cleaning work each week. One of my proudest achievements in my life.
Project Volunteer is a great organisation, please take a look at their website to find out more: www.project-volunteer.com
They are always on the look out for volunteers and their next trip is September 2013, please see details on their website if you think you may be interested in helping out.
All photos from www.project-volunteer.com