#B2B2017: Melissa Culbert Blog

At this moment in time I am just feeling so overwhelmed and privileged to have got this opportunity to come on this amazing experience and to have got to share it with the group of young people. I have listened to so many of them speak about their experiences in South Africa and about how special it was and I couldn’t wait to experience this for myself. My special journey most definitely started on the first day when we went to aunt Abiels and uncle Charlies church on the Sunday morning. The family who run the church kicked our journey off to a great start as they were so welcoming towards the group and the words that were spoken in the service from Dion just tied in with our programme so it was very interesting to listen to as we could relate. We then went into the scheme for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect but as soon as we pulled up in the combi’s kids were running from all directions, it was magic. We played around, danced, and basically gave them our time, love and care and the smiles on their little faces was priceless. I stepped back a few times and watched the group and they also had smiles from ear to ear I was so proud of them all. When we went back to our accommodation I was just buzzing as I hadn’t experienced anything like that before and I knew how special this place was as I didn’t even want to go to sleep! I just couldn’t wait for tomorrow to come around to get back at it again. Every night was the same, I just couldn’t wait for the next day to arrive to see what challenges were ahead. Each time we went into the scheme or to the valley and also the Square the determination from the group was outstanding, not one of them held back and to watch them set goals for themselves and to go out every day and smash them was overwhelming. I loved being in the middle of all the kids and doing what I do best, building relationships, entertaining them and showing them so much love and affection. It is beyond words to describe how good of a feeling it is especially when they don’t have much but giving them a little time means the world to them, it’s just so special. “Do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are” The highlight of my trip was most definitely the fun day we held on Easter Monday. The team work and commitment that the group shown was amazing as we had over 600 kids arrived and were only expecting and prepared for around 300. Everyone was doing their bit and going over and above and it paid off because the children don’t get anything like this usually and watching their faces was priceless, they had so much fun as did the adults also. The team were on cloud 9 because of the amazing day we did pull off, I didn’t expect anything like it. Entertaining 600 kids all day was most definitely a challenge for us all but having the team around and our togetherness made it easy because we all support one another in everything we do. In the debrief sessions the team showed so much respect towards one another when speaking and so much support it was so special to be a part of. The way we can open up to one another about different experiences and challenges was amazing and for everyone to sit together and take that mask of and be themselves was just powerful. There was one special session that will stick with me forever, I remember feeling so emotional and sitting looking around me when everyone was sitting in silence I was just taking everything in. I had goose bumps throughout my body and just thought to myself this is definitely the feeling people speak about when they say that Africa is a special place, it was just mind-blowing. The quote “nothing special is happening but special things keep happening” sticks in my head. I have learnt that time is precious and tomorrow is guaranteed to know one, as Dion from the church said, his words are words of wisdom I could have listened to him all day long. I have learnt a few things about myself out here that I need to go back home and put into perspective on a daily basis, being out here makes you reflect a lot about yourself but in a positive way. I feel extremely motivated to another level and coming home from this trip I am looking forward to going back and putting all my hard work and determination that I have shown out here back into my club. Every day in Africa there was new learning for me, a big learning point was to realise how special I am. Reading my affirmations from the group made me so emotional, I don’t highlight the skills and qualities that I do show towards others and for everyone else to tell you this is just simply overwhelming. The biggest impact on me to date I think was spending a day in the old people’s home. From working in the health and social sector back home it was a real eye opener going in there. They don’t have half of the facilities we have back home we don’t realise how lucky we are. There was one lady in the home who was telling us her story, she had so many medical problems going on but said she was happy to be alive as long as God was with her. I thought to myself as I was listening to her how selfish I can be sometimes about things back home and to listen to her lying in the bed saying this brought tears to my eyes. Even the conditions of the home itself, I was feeding a lady her dinner and there were ants crawling in it, they weren’t in proper chairs or beds, it was heart breaking but I did enjoy going in and even though they impacted on my life I know I also impacted on a few of their lives. Coming home from South Africa I will not take my family for granted and they will always come first in life. I am coming home with nothing but positivity and hope to keep this up in my day to day life and work. I extremely proud of myself as I put myself out there, smashed my goals and taken the risks and I can’t wait to share these amazing stories with my family. The emotions that you go through out in South Africa is indescribable and I will cherish this forever. I feel like I’m living in a bubble and the minute and never want it to pop! I could easily have spent a month here as the people are so beautiful and they are what you call a community if only back home was the same! The group wore their hearts on their sleeves the whole journey and I am extremely proud of them simply because nothing was too much for them, they took the risk and they smashed every goal that they set individually. They were a credit to work alongside and they each brought their own characteristics to the group which made it special. One thing that I admired about the group was the togetherness and the bond that we had in such a short time, the support network there was unbelievable and I know we can all say we feel more like family now. I hope that they can each take their own learning from this trip and use it back home on a daily basis and I will be there to support them through their journey because this isn’t the end this is only beginning for them. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you” 

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