South Africa Summer 2014

On June 23rd, for the 5th time in ten years, Sandy Spring Friends School students arrived in South Africa for the South Africa Service Trip.  This year’s trip starts at the Amakhala Game Reserve near Port Elizabeth.  The Reserve also runs the Amakhala Foundation, which promotes economic, social, and environmental sustainability in the region through providing environmental education, employment opportunities, and social services for children.  We will be providing updates and further photos for this blog over the next three weeks. (Please note that you may need to hit the Refresh/Reload button on your browser to view the updates.)

July 17th, 2014

For all those who have followed this Blog, please encourage all who travel to South Africa to visit our first destination (Amakhala Game Reserve—noted in our first post) and Ingwe Forest Adventures.

Amakhala Game Reserve (contact Jennifer or Giles Gush at gjgush@imaginet.co.za) and visit their website at http://www.amakhala.co.za/lodges/6-woodbury-lodge.

Ingwe Forest Adventures (contact Debbie Fermore at debbie@ingwe.org.za) and visit their website at http://www.ingwe.org.za/

 

Our Stay at Ingwe Forest Adventures

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The view from Honeybadger Cottage at Ingwe Forest Adventures

For our 2012 and 2014 trips, the SSFS South Africa Service group has stayed at Ingwe Forest Adventures which is a gorgeous 500 acre leopard and animal preserve and retreat center. It is a wonderful organization run by Debbie Fermor. (Ingwe’s mission is “to create a place for both adults and children from all walks of life  to enjoy various learning experiences that focus on developing excellent teamwork and leadership whilst gaining knowledge about the surrounding environment and how they can contribute to its’ preservation.”)  In addition to providing us with superb lodging and food, Debbie has proven to be a guiding light in giving us valuable knowledge about Kurland Village, leading us in team building exercises and hikes (and incredibly fun July 4 games), and as a kindred spirit, lending us encouragement to carry on with our intense two week camp. We also would like to thank Debbie’s son, James Fermor, who gave us round the clock help, provided us with World Cup TV coverage, and who led us on an amazing hike through the Roberg Nature Reserve. Debbie’s husband, Mikey, also braaied some awesome ribs one evening and was called into duty to help us install a basketball pole and backboard in Kurland Village to replace one that had been knocked down two years ago. Our food was prepared by Debbie and lead Chef Doreen Rex. It was scrumptious. And Doreen and Joanie Korkee helped with all housekeeping duties.

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Joanie Korkee, James Fermor, Debbie Fermor, and Doreen Rex

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The original “Air Hockey” at Ingway

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Anna McKay and the gang playing dice and eating frozen chocolate with a fork, knife, and Santa Claus hat.

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Trevor, Anna, Lily, and Lizzy in an intense game of “Noodle Hockey.”

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Asa, James, Daniel, and Debbie cooking boerwors at the braai (farmer’s sausage on the grill).

Final Festival Day at Kurland Village

On Thursday, July 10, we organized a festival day for all of the Kurland Village students who had participated in our two week school holiday camp. The morning began with 20 track races. Winners received Obama key chains that had been crafted into ribboned medals by Taylor and her team of SSFS students. Then each of the five camp groups (led by Asa, Taylor, Alex, Daniel, and Julia) demonstrated their group cheer and dance.

Athletics (Track and Field)

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Girl’s 4×100 relay start

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Boy’s 4×100 relay finish

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Runners with their medals and new Under Armour shirts

All Kurland students who participated in our two week camp received athletic gear, SSFS clothing, and art supplies to encourage them to continue pursuing these activities and as a reward for committing to participate for 10 days. We want to thank Michele Winger in the SSFS bookstore, lacrosse coach Karen Cronin and Under Armour, Tanya Loh for the 100+ USA fleece jackets, Jeff Rohrman and Potomac Soccer, Soccer Association of Columbia, Coach Greg Zecca of Southern Maryland Select Lacrosse and many SSFS families for donating these items.

Drama and Arts

After the races and group dances, the whole festival group (well over 200 people) went to the community hall and watched Kurland students perform fractured fairy tales (Sleeping Beauty, The Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, and Goldilocks). Congratulations to Anna G., Sam, Nai’ya, Ilie, Lily, and Trevor for superb guidance and direction.

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Sleeping Beauty is awakend.

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The Big Bad Wolf blows a house down.

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The final dance!

The third phase of the festival included a spirited six team World Cup soccer tournament and a 3 vs. 3 basketball tournament and then a 5 vs. 5 full court basketball showcase game (with the new pole and backboard and hoop that had recently been installed by Bim, Mike Fermor, and John Koopman). Congratulations for two weeks of fantastic soccer coaching (Jake, Jacob, Elle, Anna M., Taylor, Julia, Erik, Daniel, Rohan, Trevor, and Alex) and basketball basic instruction and coaching (Justin and Skye). As the students went from event to event, they filtered into the art room to see the wonderful Kurland student pieces that were displayed by are skilled art teachers (Claire, Lizzie, and Ilie).

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Warming up before the match

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Kurland handshake after a game.

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The Champions, with coaches Roland, Erik, and Daniel

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Kids making string bracelets

Sandy Spring Chaperones And Other Essential People:

Meano, Karen, and Scott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Carneal, Karen Cumberbatch, and Meano Solomons

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Katharine Carneal and friend

Bim teaching dance

Bim Schauffler teaching the waltz for the drama production

Thank you to the four chaperones (Bim, Scott, Karen, and Katharine) for leading the trip.  Special thanks go to Scott for developing such strong relationships with two wonderful communities in South Africa, The Amakhala Foundation and Jennifer and Giles Gush and Kurland Village.  Much of the joy that we observed in the people we served as well as those who cared for us is the result of Scott’s tireless commitment to this project that he began in 2006.

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Meano (left) and his village soccer buddies 2014

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Meano (center, back row) and his village soccer buddies and Scott and Luke Carneal, 2006

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Drama helpers Ricky and Meredy

We would like to give a special shout out to the many Kurland older teenagers who helped us teach and run the camp. Soccer: Byron, Roland, Dylan, Burton, Raul, Arnold, and Nato. Drama: Ricky, Caitlyn, and Meredy. Basketball: Bradely and Bernard. And of course, we want to give a huge thank you to Meano Solomons (our 2013 SSFS Gap year graduate) for helping us to run the whole camp. Many of these Kurland teenagers participated in the first SSFS trip when they were 8 to 10 years old. What a wonderful cycle to have them go from players and actors to teachers!!

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SSFS guys and girls with the Kurland guys prior to a final soccer match between SSFS and Kurland Village

 

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John Koopman and Lily with Scott

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John Koopman with colleagues Steven and  Jonathan

We would like to send out a special thank you to Benjamin Louw, Crags Primary School Principal, for giving us the use of the school and an extra special thank you for John Koopman for putting in countless hours as our daily buildings and grounds supervisor.

Robberg Peninsula July 5th, 2014:

These pictures from our hike in the Robberg Nature Reserve near Plettenberg Bay speak for themselves.  Enjoy!

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The Robberg Peninsula

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Overlooking the Indian Ocean

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Seals on the rocks

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Seals, Cormorants, and Loons going after a school of fish.

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Waves breaking on rocks on the southern shore of Robberg.

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The final leg of the hike.

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Waves breaking and sand blowing over a dune on the southern shore of Robberg.

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Walking in the light on Robberg Peninsula!

July 7, 2014

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At the end of our first week of camp, we find ourselves inspired by the Kurland Village kids, yet ready for a weekend’s rest.  Over the first week our camp has served approximately 200 kids.  The younger ones come in the morning for a rotation of art, drama/dance, games, basketball and soccer classes.  Five Sandy Spring students lead groups of 25 – 35 students through the rotation each morning.  The students working on soccer have also formed soccer teams that practice in the hour before lunch and will compete in a final tournament next week.  In the afternoon, older kids come for sessions that focus more on soccer, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, and athletics (track and field).   Additionally, in the afternoon, smaller groups work on a drama production and some work on music while others finish art projects started in the morning.  Each day is exhausting, but our SSFS students find the work ultimately inspiring as you can see from their comments below.

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After being assigned as a group leader, I was nervous about how the kids would react towards me.  I hoped that I would make a really strong connection with them and I think I have done so.   I honestly cannot wait to go back to camp each day to see my kids and I miss the ones who don’t show up.  I am starting to think about how we have to leave them in a week and how it will be impossible to say goodbye to them.  I hope when I do leave that they will have had as much fun as I have, and that they will miss me as much as I will miss them.  I really don’t want to leave!” Taylor Gunter

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“I was the leader of the white team and when the teachers asked us to come up with a group name, the kids almost instantly came up with the name “The White All-Stars”.  This showed me that the kids of my group were very self-aware.  From this point, I was no longer concerned with their will to preform at the highest of levels possible.  I knew from their choice to label themselves as All-Stars, these kids knew that they were here to buckle down and make something in the art room or score five beautiful goals on the soccer pitch.  This is the kind of people these kids are and can be.  They want to arrive and immediately get to the activities for the day.” Asa Schauffler

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“At first, I was extremely nervous about the responsibility of leading such a large group of kids whom I had never met.  Could I stay enthusiastic and positive during each of the activities?  After the first two activities my worries were quickly put at ease.  I have the older kids with about 25 boys ranging in age from 12-14.  The kids are not only enthusiastic about soccer like I am, but they were almost more excited to be in art and drama.  I have developed some really strong relationships with a few kids, and they have taken a liking to me.  They even started to call me King Daniel after they decorated a crown for me in art.  I have learned a lot after only a week of working the kids, and I am looking forward to the next week.”  Daniel Petrucci

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“Having a group of kids was pretty overwhelming at first, especially given the language barrier, but as the trip has gone on it’s become a lot easier to communicate, teach, play with, and learn from the kids.  It’s also become more evident who the natural leaders of the group are, for example a nine-year-old named Tamryn who has been a lifesaver when it comes to translating.  I think it’s pretty amazing how things as basic as art and soccer can bring together people from opposite parts of the world, and I’m excited to see where this next week takes us.” Julia Roome

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“Driving into Kurland, I had no idea how I was going to handle leading a group of 20-30 kids that were complete strangers to me, but with the amount of energy and excitement they brought it has turned into a great experience.  We all share a love of soccer, which made interacting with the kids all the easier.  All in all, this week has been one of the greatest of my life.”  Alex Rubino

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“One of the most gratifying aspects of our service is being able to provide the kids with the ability to be expressive in their work.  Towards the beginning of our classes they seemed to follow our examples more strictly when creating art, but as we have progressed many of the kids have developed individual styles.  Through activities such as bracelet-making we have been able to offer guidance and room to explore.  Seeing kids flourish in that kind of environment is amazing.” Lizzie Ames

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“It was so rewarding to help kids put on their bracelets that we’d taught them to make.  It was really sweet when two of the kids told me that they had made me a bracelet as well.  I really love spending time with these kids.”  Claire Youmans

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“In Basketball we taught the kids the fundamentals of the game, from shooting to ball handling to passing.  While the kids proved to be a challenge at times, I enjoy them and they are a pleasure to teach and communicate with.  I am really glad to have this opportunity to come to South Africa and coach such a great group of kids in my favorite sport.  It is an experience that I will never forget.”  Skye Merida

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“I have never had to create a camp like environment for 20-30 different kids every 45 minutes.  It is an interesting and fun opportunity.  I would recommend this trip to everyone because it is a once in a lifetime experience.”  Justin Cumberbatch

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“Playing music and singing with the kids is truly unbelievable.  Music is so universal.  We were able to sing songs like ‘Radioactive’ by Imagine Dragons and ‘Stay’ by Rihanna without a problem.  The language barrier disappears completely and it honestly creates an amazing connection between me and all of the kids who are so eager to play and learn music.”  Ilie Lichtenstein

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“The best part of the trip for me is getting to know the kids in Kurland that are our age, not by teaching them but by teaching the younger kids with them.  There are just some things that teens will always connect on no matter where they are.  Making friends with these people is something I won’t forget.”  Sam Chih

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“The children were surprisingly enthusiastic about observing and learning tap and gumboot style dancing.  Although it was frustrating at first, trying to get the children involved in incorporating their own moves into the dances, they eventually gained confidence and even led the class, teaching me, the teacher, how to dance.”  Trevor Kunz

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“Playing with the kids in outdoor games every morning has been a very unique experience.  You can count on them to always be extremely rambunctious and wild, as little kids are, but it can be interesting to try to manage them when they do not even necessarily speak English.  Nevertheless, it is always extremely fun and worthwhile, and I am often giggling because of their ridiculousness and enthusiasm – like when we have relay races with gigantic shorts practically bigger than they are, everyone gets a good laugh and it is something I would not miss for the world.” Lily McAdams

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Introducing ultimate Frisbee to the Kurland kids has been a growing success.  At first they were very tentative, but as they developed their throwing skills and realized the similarities with rugby, the kids have taken to it quite easily.  We are now starting with games that will better their skills then we move into playing full scrimmages each afternoon.

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“The drills that we use are very useful for the growth of the Kurland kids skills.  At times the drills get a little out of control, but we always find a way to make them work. I have seen a wonderful amount of improvement this week.  Working with these kids has been a great way to show me how to deal with younger kids.  I hope that these kids are inspired by the soccer, and pursue soccer when we leave.”  Erik Carneal

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“Working with the little kids in Kurland has been amazing.  Anything you ask them to do, they do with 100% effort and passion.  Watching them play soccer and have fun gives me satisfaction and makes me happy to know that we have taught them well.”  Rohan Sharma

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“I was nervous about playing against the older guys because I did not know how good they would be.  It turned out that they were not as good or strong as I thought they would be.  They are really fast, but they do not have such good foot skills.  Everyone is really nice and I love playing against them.” Jake Crim

“I have watched our group play with both the ‘big guys’ and the ‘little guys.’  After doing so I have concluded that soccer needs no language.  It is it’s own language.  It is an art form.” Jacob Petrucci

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“The progress that the girls have made in soccer is incredible.  From the first day when some girls were afraid to play to the end of the week when we had girls help us push for more space because they want to play even more, the difference is amazing.  These girls have grown in skill and the belief in themselves that they can play and deserve to play just as the boys do.  Overall, this has been a very successful week.”  Anna McKay

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“Many kids have been running with us and all of them are happy.  In Kurland even though they don’t have a nice track, everyone just runs through the village and enjoys the moment.  We should all appreciate what we have, especially when there are so many who don’t have what we have.”  Anna Guo

 

July 3, 2014

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On Sunday, June 29th, we went for a hike to the mouth of the Salt River near Nature’s Valley in Western Cape South Africa.  The hike took us up from the beach at Nature’s Valley through thicket mixed with many wild flowers and spikey aloe with bright reddish-orange candle- like blossoms scattered throughout the trees.  After reaching the ridgeline, the trail then dropped down to a stunningly beautiful tidal lagoon at the mouth of the Salt River.  Once at the lagoon, we lounged on the rocky beach for an hour or so, and some even went for a swim while others looked for rocks and shells along the shore.

Following the rest on the beach, the group walked out the rocky shoreline of the lagoon and then followed a coastal trail back to Nature’s Valley with steep climbs and tide pool covered ledges.  The walk highlighted the spectacular dimensions of this landscape with its soaring cliffs, steep gorges, crashing waves, and the myriad of marine life from sea anemone in tide pools to Right Whales breaching amongst the waves.    We are all in awe of the natural beauty of this landscape.

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The hike to the Salt River lagoon was great for slowing down and just talking with my friends after an extremely busy day meeting the kids in Kurland Village. It was a nice way to refresh ourselves and be ready for the first week of teaching.” Alex Rubino

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“Swimming in the cove was the first time swimming in the Indian Ocean for many of us, and it may have been the last; not because of lack of opportunity, but because of the cold temperature.” Jacob Petrucci

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“A well deserved rest on the shores of the Salt River.” Katherine Carneal

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“The breathtaking view made me realize that the world is so much bigger than just what’s around me at home, and it inspired me to see much more of the beautiful world I live in.” –Nai’ya Willis-Hogan

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“Climbing over the massive rocks and passing by the tide pools was a truly amazing experience as we were able to explore the fascinating environment in a unique way.” –Rohan Sharma

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“Once we turned the corner coming out of the woods we were up against the Indian Ocean, the massive waves lapped up almost to our feet as we climbed up and down the rocks of the coastline.  Our height above the water in combination with the staggering power and strength of the tides made me feel extremely small.” Asa Schauffler

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“This was easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Sharing it with my friends just added to the amazing experience.” Ilie Lichtenstein

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“It was terrifying to almost step on an octopus, but it was amazing to feel it grab my hand.” Claire Youmans

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“A fantastic hike with a fantastic view.” Sam Chih

 

June 30, 2014

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The South Africa trip has now reached our final destination, which is a place called the Crags in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.  This is a landscape with a narrow plateau that separates the coastal mountain range from the sea.  The plateau ends, and the land drops abruptly to the spectacular rocky shoreline and coastal beaches.  Rivers and Streams crossing the plateau have cut deep rocky gorges that make for spectacular views from the highway and wonderful hiking opportunities.  One might say that this is where Utah meets Hawaii.
On Saturday July 28th, we went to meet the kids at Kurland Village, where we run our camp, and both introduced ourselves to the kids as well as some of the activities we will be doing with them.  The pictures and student reflections that follow show the kids first experience and their thoughts about working with the children of Kurland Village.

 

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“Sorting through the donations was an arduous task, but nothing in comparison to the difficulty of trying to get groups of around twenty kids at a time to focus on art, especially when they speak a different language than you. It’s only been one day of teaching art to these kids, but it feels as though it’s been a lot longer, and I adore how excited these kids are about art. I’m looking forward to spending more time with the kids in Kurland.”

 

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“There was a lot of excitement and anticipation regarding Kurland and the service we were doing, and it came to a head in this moment. Arriving at the village there was a feeling of everyone holding their breath, but as we drove through the village itself to get to the school it turned into a sigh of relief as well as a breath of excitement; it was the start of a great day.” Lily McAdams

 

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“In Kurland Village girls soccer is not encouraged, so a lot of the girls were very surprised that they had a chance to play soccer without the boys telling them they couldn’t or taking over the game completely.  The girls were so eager and willing to learn, and Anna and I were able to help them feel comfortable with playing and they started to really enjoy themselves. I am really looking forward to the upcoming days playing soccer with the girls.” Elle Wassertzug

 

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“After first introducing myself to the kids, all I knew was that they wanted to play basketball and do it fast.  I had no idea whether or not they knew how to play, but after I split them into two teams, they came alive and started playing.  It brought a huge smile to my face every time I saw them shoot the ball.” Taylor Gunter

 

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“The kids here speak a different language and they are not used to being coached.  This makes the job pretty difficult.  However their smiles and the way they look up to us makes the work much easier.” Jake Crim

 

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“The girls that we played with were so excited to be there and have older girls who were also excited to be there.  How excited they got after we started anything made us want to play for hours.” Anna McKay

 

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“When we return from our ‘work’ in Kurland village, it feels as if we have entered into a completely separate and far away place.” Jacob Petrucci

 

Over the first week, we will not be taking cameras to Kurland Village during the camp time, as they are a distraction to our work.  Therefore, please do not expect a lot of photos from Kurland Village.  We will, however, try to update you on life at Ingwe, our residence, as well as the local wildlife.

 

June 27, 2014

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The group traveled to Patterson to do service work with kids at the Isipho Safe House, which is supported by the Amakhala Foundation.  Our group brought donations of winter clothes, shoes, and sports equipment for kids ranging from infants to teenagers.  The SSFSers worked with the Isipho gardener preparing beds for planting, installing playground equipment, sanding and varnishing windows, and painting counter tops.  Finally a number of students played games with the younger children, while others organized a soccer scrimmage with the older kids.  To quote Jennifer Gush from the Amakhala Foundation, “The work you guys did today amounts to ten less major tasks that the Isipho staff has to worry about.”

 

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“Even though I couldn’t speak their language, I discovered it was easy to communicate because we all love soccer, and they were really excited about the soccer stuff.” Alex Rubino

 

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Harry the gardener was really invested in gardening, so it was fun to learn from him.  He put a different perspective on doing manual labor to support a community.” Lizzy Aimes and Ilie Lichtenstein

 

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“The kids were really energetic and were eager to play with us.” Justin Cumberbatch

 

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“We weren’t thinking about how hard the work was, but only about how helpful we were.” Rohan Sharma

 

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“The kids really enjoyed helping us to fill the tire sandbox.  We enjoyed making the sandbox and hope that they thoroughly enjoy the sandbox in the coming years.  It was a joy to work with these kids.” Asa Schauffler and Trevor Kunz

 

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“I really enjoyed varnishing the windows and helping out at Isipho Safe House.” Claire Youmans

 

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“Happiness is so simple here.” Anna Gao

 

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“Despite the language barrier, we were able to use games and our actions to communicate with each other.” Nai’ya Willis-Hogan

“It was cool to learn the games that kids here have created.” Skye Merida

 

 

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“In the beginning we only had a few girls, but then we were joined by some of the women that run Isipho Safe House, and we all played together.” Anna McKay

 

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“It wasn’t about winning or losing.  It was about playing the game.” Erik Carneal

 

June 23, 2014

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“We finally got to Amakhala after a 23 hour schlepp.” Sam Chih

 

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“Bouncing along in a Landrover is a bond-building experience.” Lily McAdams and Asa Schauffler

 

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“Being 20 feet from such a powerful animal is an amazing thing.” Anna McKay

 

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“Giraffes in the distance was the highlight of our first morning.” Lizzie Ames

 

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“Nothing like a nap after a fresh ostrich snack!” Justin Cumberbatch

 

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“Laundering donations in the bush!”

 

 

June 19, 2014

The South Africa Service Trip group with their bags of donated items!

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