#B2B2019: Joe McCoubrey Blog

My journey has been nothing short of special so far. The first day coming into Blanco I was getting butterflies as I didn’t know what to expect. This was going to be a completely different programme from my 2018 my choice programme experience. We started by getting a quick tour of both town ships, the scheme and the valley. Visiting some shacks that the people here in Blanco live in and the conditions they live in are very sad. It just makes me realise how lucky I am to have a stable house back home. Two of the kids I met in the scheme Lukey and Angalo live in one of the shacks we visited while on the tour and it wasn’t until the second day that I found this out. This just made me feel very sad seeing how happy these two young lads can be with so little in their lives. These kids are constantly smiling and are grateful for everything as small as a bottle of water. When you buy one kid water your first reaction is that they will automatically drink it all because of the poverty and its small things like this we don’t appreciate back home. In Blanco the kids will share it with one another, it’s just amazing! Being pre-selected by my team to get back to South Africa, for me was the best news I’ve ever been told. The reason for this was it had such an impact on me in such little time in 2018 on the My Choice programme. Coming here for two weeks and starting my journey I’m very excited for what lies ahead in the next two weeks because I’ve the opportunity to develop myself as a person through building relationships and stepping out of my comfort zone. There is a lot of mixed emotions amongst the team; we are seeing and experiencing things which we have never before. Talking in debrief sessions is a great way for us to relate and support each other. We realise we are privileged to live the lives we live compared to the kids in Blanco. A lot of the team was nervous coming here to Blanco, as they didn’t know what to expect or how the community would react to us. Hearing members of my team pointing me out for their stand out person was an unreal feeling, knowing I was only being my true self and having a laugh with the two lads I built a close connection with. When finishing todays debrief It was very emotional, as we got the chance to hear Henrietta’s life story (a member of the Blanco Golden Valley community) and how she’s had so many ups and downs in her life but yet so happy. We are very motivated to show the kids more love and attention, as we don’t fully know how they are being treated when they aren’t with us. There is so much energy in the air, we are buzzing for our journey ahead as a team because we have the opportunity to strengthen our relationships with the people of Blanco. A major difference that I have noticed in South Africa and Belfast would be poverty in the majority of communities throughout Africa. 90% of the Blanco community have no electricity in their homes, no running water and there is also only one toilet for the community to share. With the levels of poverty in mind there also comes some smells that we’ve never experienced before. Another difference would be the crime rate in South Africa compared to Belfast due to gangs, rapes and killings. Beyond all these differences the people here in South Africa always seem to be smiling and are always willing to greet one another. This is something that will always stand out for me. The main thing that I will be taking home with me is to try my best to keep my mask off and take the risks of working outside my comfort zones. I feel this is me at my best and my happiest. When I arrive home I will also be showing my loved ones a lot more respect and appreciation, because time is so important and can make a big difference. “Everything starts with a dream, then becomes reality” (if you can dream it, then you can do it) 

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