I tried my hardest to get selected for the B2B programme for 3 years and got knocked back twice, which in itself was completely heartbreaking for something that I had put so much time and effort into. Many times i considered it just wasn't for me, but through the stories I had been told from past participants just got me on the edge of my seat time upon time, to where I would never forgive myself if I didn't go for it one last final time… then after so much effort I was finally selected to see what all this fuss was about.
Being my usual self when travelling through our day and a half, an extremely tiring journey, all I could think about was “what if it doesn't meet expectations”, this was quite simply due to thinking past participants had overhyped the programme. The extent of how wrong I was cannot be explained through words, from my first moment getting out of the combi and standing in the township, this irregular, abnormal (in a good way) feeling completely blew me away without even doing anything yet. The first day was the beginning of a life changing journey the group nor I will ever forget.
Stepping out of the combi, looking round the township with the sun blazing down upon everything, from shacks, dogs, to the 80 strong horde of children that came sprinting to us from the bottom of the street. In the space of a minute, I can speak for myself and everyone who has ever had this experience with B2B, that you experience every emotion you have ever felt in your life, as well as prejudgments and everything else in that short space of 60 seconds disappeared. The amount of children that ran towards us without shoes, clean or non-ripped clothing, and seemed to be covered in dirt to every single inch of their bodies was unthinkable, for it to be 2016 and this to still be a very rife problem in the world was mind blowing , but what was even more astonishing was the smile from ear to ear that each and every child had, honestly indescribable. At home, if there were to be a family member to try and hand me over a child to hold or look after, I would look at them as if they were mental and query as to what I should be doing every few seconds. Although at this moment and time I clicked into gear without thinking, and everything just seemed to come naturally to myself and automatically began to grow bonds and relationships with the children. I was expecting hostility and tension from the whole of the township due to the massive tensions between blacks and whites. Yet once again my expecations were blew away. The ambiance and welcoming from the whole of the township honestly left me dumbfounded but electric at the same time.
We took the children up to the park, and I had already began building a friendship with an 11 year old named foley.
Foley was the first child I began to bond with, and I think this is because he reminded me of myself at a young age; always up to something, and being nervous around new people. Throughout my whole experience in the township I have been stuck at the hip with this kid. His aura that he gives off is mind blowing, he is the sort of kid that looks to me as though I am some sort of role model towards him and regardless of how down you could feel he is the sort of kid that can instantly make you feel electric. One of our days we were told we were not going to the township and we would be going to to the skeem (more hardcore township where the living conditions of the local people is massively amplified compared to the main township we visited). The whole group was on a downer as we all wanted to go back and see the kids we had built connections with in the other township, and to our advantage we had to go to back to the township although this was for a more serious matter, which was to pay our respects to Ermin’s mother. However I had anticipated that I would not see Foley as there was another youth group in the township, but as soon as we got out of the combi I seen Foley sprinting towards me and not leaving my side unto I once again left the township. the connection I have built with Foley is indescribable and just makes me think about life back home and reflect on my family life on how I should be this way with my brother and not constantly going at each other over pointless things.
The first day that I landed in the township and was at the park, I looked around and young child caught my eye in an instant. There was this young child around one sitting in a pair of pants, t-shirt that looked as though they hadn't been washed in months and no trousers or shoes, standing at the back of a crowd of girls who were getting a massive amount of attention while he seemed to be sort of an outcast at the back, and my heart sank… I completely zoned out and my attention was solely concentrated on this child. I always said that I would not break but I was extremely close on my first day, my heart was in my mouth. I rushed over to him and spent my whole day with him, although a massive hinderance was the language barrier, I speak English, and he couldn't even understand or speak English or Afrikans which is his own native language. Although through body language the bond and connection enhanced very quickly, when I put the child down to do anything he just backed into me and and wrapped his arms around my legs and wouldn't let me move, which honestly tugged on my heart strings, the bond was instant and automatic, there was nothing forced or unnatural. This was the last I would ever see Waynei, every time I go into the township since I have went out of my way to find him and regardless of what I do, he is nowhere to be found, I have felt lost and not able to think straight as i am always worrying because of lack of information on his whereabouts and health. I just hope to see him before we leave for cape town.
Cliante is the most recent connection I have built, she comes from one of the most deprived families in the township, this makes me feel extremely sad. The day I met her we were cleaning the park and she had a friend who was helping us, this child was no more than 10 years old and was lifting empty condom wrappers as if it was a norm. The whole situation just made me think about the loss of innocence within the township as there is nothing to filter out things that children should not have to experience which gave me quite a sickening feeling. I called to Cliante’s house to give clothes to her mother to help her out yesterday and the nerves had taken over, this is because her mother looked like a drug addict and quite hostile. A massive problem within the community is drugs, it actually gets to the point that the children parents sell their clothes in order to supply their drug supply. The whole of last night it was stuck in my head and I am not one to show emotions which I deem as “girly” but I could not get Cliante out of my head and it is obvious that I care for her and want to help her in all in all means that I can. Today after we visited the young offenders home we went to the township and I seen Cliante standing there waiting on me and as soon as I approached her she opened up her jacket and showed me she was wearing one of the t-shirts I had got for her. You could not have wiped the smile off my face, I was ecstatic the only way I can describe how I felt, is that I felt like a proud father.
Mila is one of the most happiest and smiling children in the township, she has a smile from ear to ear that could light up a room. When she smiles it completely lightens your whole mood and you seem to just instantly forget the hardships that the children face everyday, she is honestly one of the most amazing people I have came across in my life.
Ermin (AKA Buffalo Head)
Ermin is a fundamental member of the B2B team, he is from South Africa, and without him this experience would never be the same. He has been the reason for so many laughs and tears within the group over the last couple of days. His mother sadly passed away before christmas and we decided as he does so much for us the least we can do is go and pay our respects for the woman who made him all that he is today. The day that we said our respects was completely heartbreaking. There are members of the B2B team who have lost mothers in the past and can directly relate to everything that Ermin was feeling. As I looked around the grave at my team I couldn't help but feel the heartache and experience the feelings that Ermin was going through. Half of the team were in tears, and the other half were in my position, having that lump in your throat when someone or something was toying with your heart strings and emotions. Ermin is one of the most important people on the B2B programme in my point of view, and he is an outstanding role model for me and anyone who has the pleasure of knowing him.
Today was one of the most eye opening days that we have had in Blanco. The boys of the group visited a young offenders home which blew me away. There were 8 of our team members, Joe, Dynsey, and Stephen in a room with 71 young young offenders, with offences ranging from housebreaking, raping, murderer and drug related issues. The nervousness and tension in the room was frightening, and it began to become even more of a daunting task as we had to split ourselves into 2 groups as well as the offenders as one group went outside and put on activities, while my group had to sit inside and talk to them. I got the short straw and ended up indoor, in a smaller group of 9 young offenders and myself, I came across the hardest task i have had to face yet in Blanco. Without any icebreakers or games in order to connect with the young people we were through into the deep end. 9 sets of eyes trained on me at all times, a massive language barrier to overcome and people who thought they were too cool to get involved. This was debatably the most intimidated I had felt in my whole entire life. There is stepping out of your comfort zone, and then launched out of your comfort zone with both feet first and I think its safe to say you’s will know how I felt. There was only 2 people in my group willing to respond and try and give a lot of detail and talk to me properly, the others, were busy trying to intimidate me which made me feel very uneasy, but pumped at the same time as I am a very competitive person and I was now hit with a massive obstacle to overcome. As I gathered more information and they began to let their guard down, you couldn't help but feel sorry for some of them and understand that for some of them it was just a spare of the moment mistake. My group then went outside and conducted some games with the young offenders and put on some games to play with them that really lifted the mood and broke down a lot of barriers between us and them and we began to get more information out of them regarding their feelings which was a massive step in not just the relationship between us and them but also in my own personal development as I overcame one of the hardest challenges I have ever faced.
Through every challenge and experience I have faced in South Africa it has been massive for me as a person and building my own person character. I am the sort of person who does not open up about my feelings and am quick to take things for granted although in such a short amount of time i have learned so much from experiencing life in a different light. I have learned to be a lot more appreciative and stop taking stuff for granted. As well as trying to find ways of building upon any strained relationships that I have either in my family or other relationships with people as the most valuable thing in the world that you only get a selective amount of is ‘Time’. This to me means that you will never be able to gain more time regardless of any actions you do or don’t commit, so use the time that you have wisely and do not hold back otherwise you are hindering yourself and wasting precious time.
South Africa; a place I can only describe as surreal. I have always known that coming here as part of B2B would be a life changing experience, although how life changing it has turned out to be still has not been fully realised, as when you think the trip has reached its climax, there has always been something better to blow it out of the water time upon time again and we still have a week left.
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place… like you'll not only miss the people you love, but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and at this place, because you'll never be this way ever again”