#B2BSummer16: Chelsea Dunwoody Blog

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"

I took my single step 4 years ago when I began R-City. As an ambitious young person, this started my journey of a thousand miles leading me to South Africa and helping me prepare to fulfil my full potential and peruse my career in youth work.

From my 1st experience in 2015, I knew I had left my heart across the sea where the children laugh and people sing “Hallelujah”. South Africa is my home away from home and here I am back in the place where the people will hold my heart forever!!

Arriving in South Africa felt quite different for me this year, mainly due to the reason that it was 3 o'clock in the morning and it was freezing cold. When we walked out the doors of Cape Town airport, although I was wrecked and to cold to move my toes, I was buzzing to be back in Africa and already couldn't wait to get stuck into what I do best, and also pick up from where I left off last year. One of the main things I was looking forward too was the amazing views from the mini bus window and some of the small conversations that we had on the drive from Cape Town to George. But wasn't I disappointed when I was realised it was pitch black outside and all everyone (including myself) wanted to do was sleep. Considering it was early hours in the morning and we could just about see out the window, we were greeted by the breath taking sight of Khayelitsha one of South Africa's largest townships, this was when it hit home for me and I realised this is it, the moment I have worked for is finally here and I was ready to grab this opportunity with both hands and not let go.

The day I had waited a year and a half for had finally arrived. We were making our way up the hill into Golden Valley. As we were driving up the hill, I was feeling all sorts of different emotions and had hundreds of different questions in my head. one of the main things that worried me when first going into the township was, would the young 7 year old boy "Zaywinn" that I had built a strong relationship with the first year I was in Blanco remember me? As I walked down to his house his wee group of friends greeted me in the street and when they realised it was me they all ran to his house shouting "it's Chelsea, it's Chelsea" next thing I know this not so small now 8 year old boy came running towards me and jumped straight into my arms. To think that not only Zaywinn, but his group of friends were able to remember me a year and a half later lets me know that I must have done something right and impacted on them in some sort of way for them to react the way they did when they seen me.

Zaywinn is the most loving, funny, smart and kind-hearted 8 year old I have ever met, and I am privileged to say I got to build upon the relationship we had last year. Due to having such a good relationship with Zaywinn, and Pierce having a strong relationship with his younger sister Muna, we were able to visit their house and meet their family.

Zaywinn's mum Henrietta couldn't thank us enough when we first visited the house with some presents for Zaywinn and Muna. She told us how we have blessed not only her children's lives but also hers and she couldn't wait to get to know us better, over the month we would be spending in Golden Valley. We visited Henrietta frequently and exchanged phone numbers and pictures with her. Then one night when we were at home pierce received a text message from her asking to phone her, the conversation that we both thought would have been short and sweet turned into Henrietta opening up to us and telling us something that we never would have expected, hearing her tell us what she did made me think of Zaywinn. Although Zaywinn is a year or two younger than my own two brothers he reminds me of them and partially I think that's why I enjoy spending time with him because I also love spending time with my two brothers. When I heard what Zaywinn has been threw and has to face on a daily basis, it broke my heart as I could never imagine my own two brothers having to go threw what he does at such a young age. It also allowed me to realise why he acts the way he does when he's round other kids and also me, considering that I only had a limited amount of time to spend with Zaywinn I am proud to have seen him grow into a strong and out-going boy from last year until now.

Not many people will know this but before coming to South Africa I was finding it hard to decide if i really wanted to go to University and was continually asking myself "was youth work really the career for me?" Due to working two jobs and also studying for my A-Levels I think I lost sight of what I really want in life. Being out in South Africa for this month volunteering has allowed me to regain my energy and motivation for youth work and helping others. All I needed was a tiny push and luckily Blanco has did that for me. During my time out here I've also realised how hard it can be for a youth worker, not just in South Africa but also back home. For example, if something doesn't go to plan may it be during a group work session or on an international trip, all a youth worker has is their mind is to think of something on the spot which can resolve the problem. As my journey is now coming to an end I am excited to get home and start the next chapter of my life.

During my month out in South Africa I also had the opportunity to work with the R-City Blanco group, this group of young people have inspired me to be the best I can and to not let anyone tell you that you are not capable of something. One of the sessions we facilitated to the group was an identity session. Within the session the young people had to draw a map of Blanco and circle three places on the map which was important to them and then discuss why. When Davian spoke about his map and the places that were important to him this, was one of the stand out moments of this trip for me. Davian had only knew us for such a short period of time yet he felt comfortable to open up and discuss his life and the problems he faces, he also spoke about his ambitions and what he wants to achieve in life. For me this was astonishing, as despite everything he's been through and is still going through, he battles on and works as hard as he can to get to where he wants to be.

The group of people, who I have the privilege to be in South Africa with, are all amazing in their own ways. From Pierce and Largey lightening the mood with their terrible singing and dancing, but also being my shoulder to cry on and having words of wisdom when I can't seem to find them for myself. Then having Katie and Tori by my side when I need some reassurance, a simple conversation about how I'm feeling or help to budget my money so I don't spend it all on chocolate. I believe that the 5 of us have lived this opportunity to the fullest and have created many memories that will last a life time, may it be travelling to Mossel bay and Port Elizabeth or visiting Outeniqua Mountain and it's beautiful rock pools or doing the World's highest bungy bridge. I certainly won't forget any of these special moments and the many other memories that have been made throughout the month.

South Africa ceases to amaze me, from walking into a garage and having people stair at you because your in flip flops in the winter or are wearing the same clothes as the 4 other people your with, then simply driving 10 minutes down the road where the kids are running around a field barefooted with ripped clothes and cannot be more thankful for having you in their presence.

In my eyes South Africa is the worlds greatest place and I am privileged to say I lived both experiences to the fullest, learnt news things and met some amazing people along the way

You might see this place and find no worth, but it's our little piece of heaven here on earth.

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