“I’d prefer to see something once rather than hear about it a thousand times”. I came to South Africa with high expectations as all my friends have a special place for Blanco in their hearts, but Blanco has gone above and beyond anything I could ever imagine and now holds a huge special place in my heart also. My B2B journey so far has been completely magical. From walking around the scheme on our first day I’ve felt a rollercoaster of emotions however, my main feeling now is comfortable. I feel like this place is my home. The community of Blanco have been nothing but welcoming, heart-warming and respectful. For people who have absolutely nothing they’ve been able to give us their all. We kicked off our journey in the Blanco townships with a tour around the scheme by Aunt Abele, it was there I met the most special girl in the world - Layla. She heard that B2B were near and came running out of her shack to find us. She had no shoes on, an old pyjama top and a pair of shorts with holes in them. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve got a baby cousin younger than her who has the privellage of being able to play dress up with as much outfits as she wants and would still ask for more. However, Layla didn’t ask for clothes, shoes or even sweets. All she wanted was to be held. Having the opportunity to just show her love and affection for a few hours a day has built one of the strongest and warmest connections I’ve ever felt. Layla speaks the minimum basic English but she doesn’t need it as her smile says 1000 words and is completely infectious. A lot of people talk about the “Africa feeling”, mine hit me yesterday when I was at the toilet with 3 girls from the Valley and I was using the hand dryer to dry my hands. A young girl called Nya (Trouble) grabbed me as tight as she could when she heard the loud noise of the hand dryer. I could see the fear from the unknown in her eyes. I watched the two other girls Shanni and Layla run back to their cubicle with fear and right then I got my Africa feeling. These children, between 6-7 years old didn’t know what a hand dryer was and it’s something everyone back in Belfast uses on a daily basis. It made me feel spoilt and greedy as I would never ever give a hand dryer a second thought and these children kept washing their hands repeatedly just to have the “opportunity” to use it. I always knew South Africa was going to be extremely different to Belfast however I never thought the difference would be this intense. I’ve saw the most thankful people live in unacceptable living conditions. Watching the people of Blanco who we’ve grew closer to every day, leave to go back to a horrific shack the size of my bathroom which they call home makes me feel sick to my stomach. I’ve had my own room with a double bed since I was 7 years old and these children are sharing a one room shack with up to 8 other people. They’re messy, unhygienic and uncomfortable to even look at never mind live in. However, as long as they’ve shelter they don’t have a single worry. It makes me feel selfish and angry at how unfair the life for a majority of people is out here. And that’s the sad reality of what I didn’t want to believe Blanco was like. There are so many aspects of learning I will take back home to Belfast with me however, the main one would be to show all the communities within Belfast that you can love and respect someone no matter their religion, race, ethnicity, social status or any difference they may have to you. I hope one day instead of using these characteristics as a method of separation we can use them to unite us. In a world where you can be anything, be kind. I can only dream of how much I wish Belfast could be more like Blanco but when I’m home I aim to teach the younger generation the importance of life, what to value and how to not let not having the latest technology or any materialistic thing destroy your happiness. There are people here who are happier with much less than what I have back home. “Blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family”. We have not only grew as individuals but also together as a team. It’s been amazing to watch not only myself create and build new friendships with people I haven’t been close to during the preparation period for South Africa but also the people in my team. New friendships are blossoming and we’re becoming closer every single day. Every day is a barrier broken and I’m so excited to see how much of a family we really are at the end of our B2B journey. “I hope you have an experience that altars the course of your life because after Africa nothing has ever been the same”.