I cannot believe that my last day at St. Martins finally came and my 6 weeks here in South Africa are finally over. Looking back on the past 6 weeks I cannot imagine experiencing a better or more life-changing trip than I have. I have learned so much about myself and other cultures and people throughout this journey and I am incredibly grateful to be granted with such a wonderful opportunity.
Unfortunately, I did not become fluent in Zulu as I said I would in my first post, but I did try to pick up a few more phrases. It got to the point where I would try to practice my Zulu by greeting people at the plot by saying “sawubona, unjani?” (hello, how are you?) and the caregivers and children would reply in English because they knew I could not speak very well. This impaired my learning in the end, but it was probably for the better because if I continued to try and speak Zulu I would end up saying complete nonsense.
My last day at St. Martins was very very cold and because I had already given away my jacket to a little girl I resorted to walking around with a blanket wrapped around me all day. Everyone kept joking around with me by asking if I joined the Sotho tribe because they wear colorful blankets around them during winter due to the cold climate of Lesotho where they live. One thing I don’t think I will particularly miss is the cold days, heatless nights and frigid winds. I am very much looking forward to going back to the heat of summer on the east coast.
I began the day by teaching some of the caregivers how to make string bracelets as well as painting their nails. They were extremely pleased when we finished and I allowed them to keep the nail polish and left over string. I basically got trampled over when they were trying to grab the different colors from my bag.
After that Joe and I handed out some yellow St. Martins jerseys, shorts and socks to the children and the caregivers to keep so they will always have something to remember us by. They were so happy to be given this clothing to keep because in the past they had to return the uniforms after each soccer tournament to ensure that we would have enough for the next one. Even after everyone got a jersey there was still two giant duffle bags filled with uniforms leftover that will allow St. Martins to have more soccer tournaments in the future!
Once everyone had their new gear, we gathered them all in the dining room to show them a video. Because the children and caregivers LOVE posing for pictures and then looking at them, I made a 20-minute video highlighting my 6 weeks at St. Martins. Unfortunately, the blinds were not ready in time so we made makeshift blinds with trash bags and blankets to make sure that it would be dark in the room. We set up the projector and speakers and began to play the video. They loved seeing pictures and videos of themselves dancing and singing on the big screen. Once the video was over some even requested to see it again and many stayed and laughed just as hard as the first time.
I have also put the video on YouTube and here is the link if any of you want to watch it!
Here are some pictures of the newly painted St. Martins building!! It is very bright and colorful and now you can see the fun colors on the building from far away! With handprints scattered throughout the walls it is now very clear that this is a safe place for children to play.
It was definitely a weird feeling leaving the plot and saying goodbye to all those smiling and beautiful faces that have had such a large impact on my life and not know when/if I will ever see them again. I know that they have greatly changed my life and I hope that I have been able to make a difference in theirs as well. I really hope that I will be able to return one day to St. Martins and work again with those amazing people.
I would just like to say“Ngiyabonga” (thank you in Zulu) to all of the people who followed me on this journey and made this wonderful adventure possible through funding or support. Especially, everyone who donated so I could bring soccer supplies to St. Martins, Providence College, the Father Smith Fellowship, Father Robb and the rest of the selection committee and of course my parents for allowing their 19 year old daughter to venture to a foreign continent!
I really hope that another Smith Fellow will continue the work that Joe and I have done here in South Africa next summer. If they do chose to go to South Africa they should know that they definitely will not be disappointed because it is an amazing country with even better people to fill it!!!