Stand UP South Africa: First Day of Service & Animal Spotting

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
Wow, what a week it has been already and it’s only Tuesday!  Sunday we left Olifants River Safari and headed to Kubu Lodge a few hours away.  We spent a few hours at a wildlife sanctuary where they raise cheetahs to release into the wild and rescue other animals such as lions, rhinos, and leopards.  It was pretty incredible to see these animals so close, but also sad to learn about some of their histories and unnatural threats they face.
Monday we started our first day of community service and it has been AMAZING!  We began service orientation Sunday night with a conversation about the service and what it means to do international service.  Then on Monday, we started our day at the site of a previously completed service project by the same organization to see what the end product would look like.  It was a beautiful and colorful garden for a school to grow their own vegetables, both to provide for their students’ meals and also to sell to the local community to raise funds for the schools.  We are happy to contribute our time and energy to a sustainable project that will help the next school in so many ways while beautifying the school grounds as well. Then we arrived to a joyful welcome at the school we would be helping complete their garden.  Community members and other volunteers greeted us at the entrance with music and dancing.  They ushered into the courtyard where we danced together, wow what a surprisingly lovely welcome!  From there are, we were set.  We split into 3 groups doing various things to finish their garden: shovel dirt into wheelbarrows and dump it in the tire planters, build the perimeter fence, and paint the keyhole gardens and fence.  All of us worked hard to make our work as good as possible while learning new skills like sawing, painting, and fence-building.
Oh and we definitely don’t want to forget to mention our new little brother, Jeffrey.  He’s an 11 year old from Canada that is also volunteering with Eco-Children this month.  We work alongside each other and when we get a free minute or two he completes a Rubic cube.  Whoa!
After we worked at the service project Monday, we went to visit an elephant sanctuary that was home to 2 elephants that were rescued from culling in Kruger Park years ago.  We were able to touch them if we wanted to.  As a group, we tried to learn about the sanctuary and their work and acknowledged the complexities of having animals in a sanctuary versus the wild.  We ended the day by being paired up to have more personal conversations about the trip and about ourselves.
Tuesday was similar to Monday in that we spent the morning doing service at the school.  We finished building and painting the fence but also worked on weeding as well.  Tuesday was a bit different in that we went back to do more service after lunch and since it was the first day of school there were many MANY more children around, so we had so much fun interacting with them!  We danced, played soccer, and taught each other games.  Not to mention there was a lot of hair braiding and touching.  We had a great dinner in town to end the day.  Can’t wait to get back to work and see more animals tomorrow, woo!

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