I have the coolest internship in the world.
Before writing this blog, I went through my photos from the past two weeks, searching for that perfect picture I could write about. A picture is worth a thousand words. I skipped through gorgeous panoramas of the ocean, hilarious photos of my group and I adventuring, and those random pictures you take just to send to your best friend. I passed over this one the first time, but after reaching the end of my camera roll, went right back to it. It’s my favorite one.
Two weeks ago, I had the express privilege of running a very informal training session with two groups of ladies from the Dikgale community in the Limpopo province. The picture you see above was taken from the session with the second group, at the Tsogang Drop In Centre. The lady to right of me in the picture is a gem. Maria is one of the sweetest people I’ve met in a long time, and man, does she have those centres on lockdown. Maria is the field coordinator for all sixteen of the Lonely Road network Drop In Centres - childhood development centres meant to focus on afterschool care for orphaned and vulnerable children. Maria was also the reason the sessions went so well. I don’t speak Sepedi well - okay I don’t speak Sepedi at all - so Maria was my partner in crime for the day, helping to explain the model to the women during the sessions, and joining in the group’s laughter when I spoke too quickly in my American accent or got caught smiling giddily.
The timing of the sessions was clutch. The day before we got to Dikgale, eight of the sixteen centres got word back from South Africa’s Department of Social Development (DSD) that they would not be receiving any further funding. It’s a huge blow, considering that the DSD is the primary source of funding for the food, electricity, gas, stipends, and all other operational costs for the centres. From an outside perspective, it might seem like the lack of funding would mean the end of these drop-in centres, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The ladies that care for the kids at their centres care. Arriving around 8am each morning, they prepare meals, water gardens, take care of countless toddlers, wipe noses, teach english, play games around the yard, change diapers, check on the mental well-being of each child, and so much more. For them, adding secure funds for the centre to their list of daily to-do’s is no big thing.
So two of the centres, Morarompa and Tsogang, decided they wanted to sell second hand clothing to raise money for the centres. Yesterday was the two-week check-up for the pilot run of this program. The ladies are killing it. Tsogang has already made around 1000 rand in profit (a little less than 100 USD), and Morarompa isn’t far behind. We have a week left in the pilot run, and I am already looking forward to heading back to Dikgale next week to do the final inventory and revenue counts with the caretakers.
I think that it has been a learning experience for us all. I know that I have learned and grown and changed over the course of the past six weeks. One of the greatest takeaways has been the power of greeting others openly with a smile and a laugh. I’m trying to work through the fact that in a week, my time in Dikgale is over. The best solace I can find is,
I will come back.