#B2B2020: Shonagh McConnell Blog

“Be the young, the brave, the powerful” are lyrics which replayed in my head as our B2B journey crept closer. I knew before setting off on this journey I wanted to own every second and make such a positive impact on people’s lives, but little did I realise that they would make such a huge impact on mine.

From seeing the beautiful houses to the cramped shack’s, I had lumps in my throat. Social media only portrays so much but the truth is, no matter how much you think you are prepared, the reality is breath-taking.

“If it’s meant to be, it will be” Previous groups have builtstrong relationships with children out here in these townships but this was not a goal of mine. All I knew I wanted to do was make a difference. When we entered Golden-valley I met the most beautiful boy called Isam. He instantly melted my heart and I am beyond grateful for this life experience. You hear the saying about how they may not be rich in assets or valuablesbut they sure are in terms of heart and love. Laughter after laughter and sweets after sweets, his little smile is now all I can think about, now I wonder when will I see him next?

“Hope that you, spend your days but they all add up” A lyric from my B2B 2020 song that I believe will describe this journey for the rest of my life. Going to the crèche has alsobeen a major highlight. The children were so excited to see us and I genuinely didn’t realise how much I enjoy engagingwith children and how satisfying it is. This journey so far has been absolutely incredible and I am so fulfilled with happiness like never before.

“Hope when you take that jump you don’t fear the fall” our team has worked so hard for this and we are striving to “keep the B2B buzz alive, a quote used by Dylan Mooney in our first debrief. The townships know each year B2B comes and that’s why we understand the importance of getting stuck in and making it the best 2 weeks of their lives. The team has not once held back; I am so grateful to be a part of this team. Yourteam is so important and the feeling of “right place, right time” is very fitting because I wouldn’t want to be here with anyone else. Watching each of them come out of their comfort zone when playing with the kids, facilitating activities in the park etc. it’s so clear that we are all so passionate about this programme and being here in the townships. We are creating moments and memories we will cherish forever.

“Let your smile change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile”. These kids have hearts of golds and it is so clear to see. One example is when the children share 1 bottle of water between 5 or 6 of them, it really melts my heart. In Belfast I very rarely see this, and probably never will. I could never imagine my own little cousin out playing with no shoes on and ripped clothing, as back home I would do anything to see her have the best of everything she wanted. Back home we obviously have poverty but not as extreme as this. You hear the stereotype that Africa is poor, although witnessing first-hand the conditions people live in, a small shack with 6 or more people living in them.  In certain areas the poverty is extreme, it is so unfair. Something so small likeour shoes we don’t even think twice about but half way across the world hundreds of people are genuinely in need of them and we think it’s normal to buy shoes such as designer all for the sake of social media. I am so appreciative for this experience as it has been a massive eye opener.

“The world is standing waiting, for someone to come and change it”. This experience has influenced my decision making in the future. I was aware before that my life would involve effecting change at some level, although over the past few days I know for sure this path is made for me.

It sounds cliché that when I go home ill “appreciate more things”, but I can’t emphasise how much I will. I am so excited for when I return home to spend more time with my family, appreciate little things such as the supportive people in my life who are genuinely there for me because here it’s clear not enough attention is given to people in Blanco. I am taking this whole experience back home to value my education, which at times I take it for granted. Most importantly I am taking home the skills, friendships, relationships and memories that will last a lifetime, because as the saying goes “you will never fully be at home, because your heart will always be in more than one place”.

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