Over the past month or so I have begun my volunteering in the mornings. Trying to keep busy I have volunteered at Amasango Career School, which is the school for street children. At Amasango, about 65% of the students live at the shelter across the street, and the other 35% seem to be the less fortunate ones who still live at home. There is approximately 140-160 kids enrolled at Amasango and on a good day 90 will show up for school. I’ve enjoyed my time there immensely though it does wear on me both physically and emotionally. One of the “jobs” I've taken on is almost as there pseudo gym teacher. The built up energy these kids have is insane, the only issue is focusing that energy into a structured activity. We play all types of sports, there two favorites being soccer and handball. After school (even during school) the streets of Grahamstown are flooded with these kids of all ages. They beg for change from university students coming out of the pubs and bars till the morning. They’ll stand outside the grocery store and ask for a loaf of bread. During the day they will wash your car for you if you park on one of the main roads while your inside a store, then hope you pay them for it. Some even sell bouquets of fresh picked lilies and ______ for 5 rand about 50 cents.
Many of these kids have been made orphaned by AIDS, some of whom were even born with HIV. The ones who live at home often come from broken families and are being brought up by a 17 year old older sister or what's often the case a grandmother and a 18 year old brother whose an alcoholic or drug addict. Many of these kids are sent on the streets to beg by their parents or older siblings who then take the money turn around and spend it on drugs or drink.
I could tell story after story about my time at Amasango because there is never a dull moment at . I’ve seen a 12 year old pregnant girl barely make it to her check up. I've wiped the puss from the cheek of a third grader who had her tooth pulled the day before, and by the next day it was infected. I've even seen multiple kids taken away by the police often for no reason at all. The stories just go on and on, so I'll just tell about my first experience there. Matt Kellen invited me to tag along to a readathon he had been invited to they were hosting at a local auditorium. it was one of my first days in South Africa and Matt had been invited because the NGO he works for Gadra does a lot of work with him; his landlord and our good friend is the founder and principal of the school. As soon as we got to the auditorium it seemed every student ran up to Matt yelling his name asking him who the “big guy” was (me). As soon as i whipped out my camera i stood in front of about 35 models posing. When we got inside all the students were sitting to the right of the stage in fold out chairs, there was another set of rows to the left but in front of those looked like a table and chairs had been left over from a wedding the night before. Being the first to arrive an Ms. Jane being the amazing women she is insisted that we sat front row as “honored guests”. Feeling a little guilty considering this was the first time i had even been in any township let alone any school in South Africa i took a seat. Then there was a serious of introductions mostly done in Xhosa and then each grade had a separate reading demonstration/performance. Each grade went up and did a demonstration/performance in Xhosa then once they had all gone then each grade went up and did a different one with different students in English. I was amazed by the energy, enthusiasm an to be honest the showmanship of some of the performances. Some of the older grades did dramatic monologues or little skits in English which blew me away.
After the readings, skits and monologues there was some other artistic performances. A group of boys did a choreographed kind of dance called Gum-boot dancing. Gum-boots are what we call goulashes and men have been wearing them to work here for decades much like men in the states wear Timberlands. The dance was not only very impressive it was hysterical . I loved it. After the Gum-boot dance a group of girls no older then 14 got on stage ad performed a traditional Xhosa dance in traditional Xhosa wear. After these performances there was a runoff of thank yous by Ms. Jane.Then a number of speeches given by the other honored guests (all of which were in Xhosa). These were representatives from groups like The Eastern Cape Department of Education and The Department of Arts and Culture. Then at the very end a group of students got on stage and played the marimbas as everyone took pictures of the guests presenting Ms. Jane with a two large mobile bookcases.
I was truly blessed to have this experience with in days of being in South Africa. I also am thrilled about the rest of my year spending as much of my free time at Amasango and with these amazing kids.