#B2B2016: Declan Thompson Blog

All I can really start with this blog is honestly just describing this unbelievable trip as wow! When finally arriving in Johannesburg after a long 11 hour flight from London it started to feel a bit real but still couldn't believe that I was in this wonderful place called South Africa. Having to get one more flight to CapeTown once i got off the plane i literally just got this buzz and this feeling I think I will never get again. I was just so happy about being here and couldn't believe it one bit that after one year of hard work and group sessions we as a team have made it to South Africa. There is something in this place that just makes everything around you so positive and just full of happiness. I am yet to find out what is making me feel like this, its starting to look like there is something in the air that makes everyone like this as everyone i seemed to see was just full of life and happiness. During the bus journey to George from CapeTown i just kept saying to Dynsey Im so happy and i don't have one clue why. Its quite crazy the way you could feel like this when your just on a bus driving on the roads without doing any work yet so i was wondering if I'm feeling like this now wonder how I am going to feel when we as a team start to get stuck into the township and start to experience on what South Africa is all about.

The first day of the group heading to Blanco and there is no other way to describe that day as speechless and out of this world. Emotions for the group all day have been all over the show whether it was being excited or nervous of what it was actually going to be all about, the group were just so buzzing to get out there seeing how hard we worked to get here the atmosphere around the group was just amazing there is no other way to put it. To get the day started Pierre got us in for a group session before we got out to the township to try and prepare us for going out but he said something to us which really got me thinking but it was along the lines that it was scientifically proven that if you are running a marathon and you feel that there is no energy left in you to run anymore your mind is the only thing telling you that you cant do this as your body can run up to 7x more than what you really are. Its really saying when you feel like giving up, don't give up as you can still keep going even if you think you can’t. Its all about the positive mindset and I feel that is the key. It had another meaning of when we were going out to the township not to hold back one bit and give it everything you have got at 100%. He was also making us do Ice breakers that we would have never done before which would have been taking us out of our comfort zone such as blowing onto an egg with just one nostril and trying to get it to move across the ground, but the real meaning on the ice breaker was that before you go and jump into stuff, just stop and think for a moment and see if what you are about to do is the right thing and is there other solutions around it.

After the session we finally got the the point where we as a group have worked for this very moment for a year were heading to this special place called Blanco. While driving towards Blanco i start to see all these houses you would say are owned by rich, well off people then as we drive up i cannot help but sit and look at this township in Blanco called Golden Valley. As we start to drive up the hill at the start of the township i can’t stop to think that people actually live in these horrible conditions, i have just seen but still seem to be going around with a smile on their face and just full of life. While getting out of the back of the van I see some child and he just runs and jumps into my arms like he has known me his whole life when really this was the first time we have ever seen each other. This was just unbelievable as this kid put every bit of trust he had in me when he didn't even know me. The group then all got together and started to head to the park and this is where we were just going today to get settled. All i can see in this park is just broken glass everywhere and there are so many kids running around with no shoes on and not one care in the world . We all get ourselves settled and all i can see is a whole load of happy kids who are just full of life and joy like everything that is happening and that everything around them is normal and it doesn't stop them running mad just loving the life that they have. I then bump into this kid called Waldi and we just started to pretend fight, it just brought so much happiness and joy to me. I was finding it very hard to understand how just playing around with a kid and making their day can have such a huge affect on you. After a while I then bump into another kid called Foley who also wanted to pretend fight so I now had Waldi and Foley onto me (which resulted in me getting beat up and having to accept defeat). While playing around i couldn’t help to do anything but smile and not think about anything else apart from happiness. We then bump into another kid called Rivaldo who was quite shy and lonely walking about with a stick so I got him to join in and play with us 3 but he wasn't all for it at the start but after persuasion he finally joined in and i felt quite proud that I was able to get him to come out of his comfort zone to come and start playing games with us when he has never met me before in his life. After playing around we just sit down a bit out of the way and we were all constantly just laughing and enjoying ourselves. I was showing them all the stuff on my phone and I have never seen kids so fascinated about a phone in my life. But then again that day made me think about the times when I was younger when none of us had phones and to enjoy ourselves we went out and socialised with each other and made up our own games just like the way these kids do. It was an amazing feeling and it made me realise there is more to life than just a phone, while driving back to Pierre’s house i just couldn't get my head around how these people live and with so little, they are the happiest people ever it really has just blown me away.

Another day in the township i was so buzzing to get back out into it but for some reason i just couldn't get myself into it. I was feeling very strange about myself, i just felt very lost and i don't even know why, but i was still so happy at the same time. That changed when Sean brought us up to the park for a group work session with the teenagers in Blanco. We where put into groups of two with one person being from Belfast and the other from Blanco and all the task was to get to know each other. I got paired with a girl called Garcie and while we were talking away getting to know each other she was telling me about that over here education is so precious to people and that she is really going to try to be a lawyer that is her dream. it really made me think that back home a lot of us take education for granted including myself but now that has changed as it made me realise there are people out there who would do anything to get education, but simply cant whether its because they cant afford it or because they don't have a pair of shoes. We get opportunities handed to us left, right and centre, we should be grabbing each one with both hands when we are just letting it slide.

The next day back in the township i was buzzing to get out and stuck in. I wasn't long in doing that, half of the group went to the food clinic with Stella to feed the ill and the other went up to the park to clean it up. After doing the best we could with the cleaning i just sat on the hill and just went into my own we world and couldn't stop thinking on how special this place really is. From constantly asking others what South Africa was like to it being my turn to experience what they have in this wonderful place was just an amazing feeling. I always thought that when my friends where telling me on how their experience here was that they where going a bit over the top on how they described it, but hell i was wrong as i totally know where they are coming from now, if someone was to ask me how my experience has been over here i would be able to talk all day about it. After i got up from my day dream i see this little girl who was called just coming over to me and just clung on to me and wouldn't let go, she stayed with me for the rest of the day and i wouldn't have had it any other way, the feeling was just incredible. I bonded with loads of the kids a lot but even though i only seen this girl once this was the day that stood out for me. It just made me so happy after finding a bit more about her and what her background was like, I needed to give her all attention and love as possible as she wouldn't get it any other way. The experience just made me very proud of myself, and that I was able to make that kids day.

Leaving Blanco was tough for me but not as tough as it was for some of the team as I was very happy knowing that my heart has been left in such a special place and i will be more determined than ever to get back out here. The thing we as a group done for Lyndon’s mummy was just phenomenal that is the only way to put it and to make it even better that it was done in such a beautiful place. What we done out there has made me realise a number of things on finding out a lot more of who i really am and what i want to do with myself that was the main target but I have took in plenty more stuff from this trip that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Ermin and Graces own personal life stories who were able to be so strong and tell us it, i really think they are two amazing people who I cant wait to get to know a bit more. From listening to Ermin’s story to what we did for Lyndon made me realise hugely how much i really do love my mummy and I am most certainly going to appreciate things a lot more back home as tomorrow is never promised for nobody. I strongly believe that this journey is just the start of it all for me and i really cant wait to see what the future has ahead for me, this unreal experience has most certainly changed me in such a positive way.

“Capture it now, relive it forever”

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