Here we are. Day Nine, in South Africa possibly the best place I will ever visit in my time of living. So the start of today was hard as we had to be up at half 7 and be ready for half 8, because we where told that we had to leave at that time but we where delayed for at least an hour and 15 minutes. Even though that brought a kind of downer on the group as we where already raring to go and get started and because of the fact we wanted to take in every precious second that we had left in the wonderful place that they call Blanco. Even though it was tough for everyone to sit about and wait, the group still had that buzz about them almost as if they couldn't wait to get started. As we where just about to embark on one of the most challenging and tough things we will ever do in our lives. It was time for the young offenders centre.
Whilst walking down the drive way to get to the combi, my stomach started to get those sort of feelings you get when your anxious and almost scared of what lay ahead of you. But i also had that feeling of pure excitement, as we where going into the world of criminals as you would say. But pulling up to the centre it almost looked as if it wasn't an offenders centre but more of a care centre, as it looked like a kind of nice building. Even though there was an electric fence around it, it still painted a picture to me of a care centre as the sun was shining, the birds where singing and the group was buzzing just to get started. When we entered through the gate of the facility we where stripped of our phones and money, just anything precious for reasons i do not know. When walking up to the guard of the prison he welcomed us so many times over and over again. Even gestures of such little meaning back home like saying please or thank you, never goes a miss out here. Anything that we give to them, do for them or even say to them is always greeted at the end by saying thank you, almost as if they are respecting you in a way that you have never felt before.
The jail itself was quite a nice place, and walking down into there every day lives of constant surveillance just made you feel a bit uncomfortable and nervous as the prisoners where also watching us like hawks. The prison guard let us into the courtyard where they where already playing about with the rugby ball. But when we got into the courtyard it was time for the prisoners to get a snack, so we through the footballs down and started to kick them around ourselves. But then suddenly it started of with one of the prisoners coming over and getting a touch of the football, to about 10 prisoners within 10 minutes all coming over to interact with us. Then once they where finished with their snack we where told that we would be going out on to the big field that they use to play rugby and football. We sort of started of in a kind of anxious situation as no one really knew what to do. But as time went on we interacted with them and started to knock the football about and get a bit of crack flowing and a bit of enjoyment. We played a 10 aside football match with them, which by the way in the future don't play football with dynesy as he is absolutely brutal. After the football match we got to run our sports day which we had planned over the past few months, it was great to see the young offenders get great enjoyment for our activities. But we didn't know at the time, why these people who where the same age, younger or older than us where in this jail. So thats what we needed to find out, and we done so by going into a workshop with them and learning more about them and what they where in for and what where they planning to do with themselves when they got out. Some of these people where in for the likes of rape, murder and stealing cars. Which made me feel scared and sort of worried about what these people where thinking whilst committing these offences, i was scared because i sort of thought to myself i am in the same room, sitting at the same table as a rapist or a murderer. I mean if thats not something to be scared about then your as hard as Gerry Magees head (and thats hard).
The day had a sense of meaning to me as there was people who where willing to commit these crimes and laugh about it. Whereas if i committed something like that i wouldn't be able to even call myself a man, id be more like an animal. Even sitting there staring at there tattoos and asking what they mean gave you a sense of taking part in there lives and showing a bit of interest in their lives.
Throughout the week there has been mixed emotions for me as it has brought out a side to me that i never knew i had, a side that makes me think more about the surroundings and about whats going on around me and start to paint pictures of it in another way. It also has made me think a lot about back home and just how much that you need your family by your side. No matter what the conditions you and your family live in all that matters is that you stay by each others side and have faith and hope in each other. As even if your family have very little you should count yourself lucky that you are one of those people who actually have a family, and that means that you should show all the love and effection that you can to them because life is too short to take family for granted as they should be your number one priority in life. Being out here and seeing families that are less fortunate, just makes me reflect on my life and my family as i didn't know that inside me could be full with so much love for that one group of people who i am genuinely proud to call my family. Even though they are a pack of nut jobs they are my pack of nut jobs who are without a doubt the most wonderful and inspirational people to ever walk the Earth.
You get satisfaction of doing something good, even if it is only handing out food or showing your love and affection to the people of the township. The first day in Blanco was the most memorable day i think for me as it wasn't all about going in and getting a few pictures took with the kids and people of the township, but it was about getting stuck in and getting my hands dirty for once in my life. In doing so, i went straight to wee Henry. He's the main man, and i asked him does he need any help as he was building a fence around his garden so that the dogs couldn't get into it. And in doing so i almost felt like i needed to make that change in myself when i do return home, to do more things with myself as i have now learned that i have the ability of hard work dwelling inside me. And anytime i want to let it out i can, so i need to realise that potential within me and start to build on it. In doing so i want it to give not just me a feeling of satisfaction, but also give the people that care about me that feeling to. As i do need to start being more of a role model towards my two younger brothers as it is my job to do that now, because i almost feel like i am the man of the house and it is time for me to start taking some responsibility and action towards that. In working with Henry, i felt that point of satisfaction and responsibility in doing something as i took a lead role in that and kept my head down and worked on even though the heat was at about 27 degrees.
But as the days go on and start to draw closer to the end of our trip, i am still buzzing to go to cape town now. As whatever we do out there i will give my heart and soul into it and make sure that all goes well. In Cape Town i hope to achieve even more satisfaction and responsibility as you can never be done learning. Even if you think you are at your peak of learning, you can still reach on and take in more things that you can even possibly imagine. And i have learned that throughout the week as it makes you think so much about back home and what you use to be like, but now it is time to make a change within yourself. And it is time to start thinking more about who you are and what really is it that drives you and pushes you to be that person that you either are or that you aspire to be.
Being there in the township of Blanco gives you that feeling of doing something good and knowing that you've done something right to be here. Our team here in Blanco are the best bunch of people i have worked with in my whole life, and i am sure that they always will be. Because even though we where faced with obstacles along the way we fought for ourselves and for our team, as it isn't always gonna be smooth sailing through life and you will be faced with some of the biggest waves you will ever see….. but what you learn when you are out here is that you should never give up on you, your family or anybody for that matter. As through life things should gradually fall into place for you piece by piece. So if you where to give it up hope before you even started to believe in yourself then you wont make it though life, so be tough, be positive and be strong. Keep that smile on your face the whole way through life and you will make it beyond your dreams!
Live life and learn, learn life and live!