nkandla-sackracesToday (Saturday) was the best day because it was the activity that my group and I planned for the kids at the Sizanani Center. Magically, and I thank the Lord for it, the weather couldn’t have been better. We planned a huge fun/field day full of activities like 3-legged races, face painting, t-shirt making, cookie decorating, pin the tail on the elephant, etc. It was an absolute hit for both the kids and our Velangaye students. It was so awesome to see students bonding with the kids at the center. And I think the kids at the center really liked having older kids from their community to be pals with them for a couple hours.

Later the kids expressed a true desire to make consistent trips to the center to visit their new buddies. This, of course, made me light up. Like I’ve mentioned before, yes these children have each other, but what they really lack is a friend and mentor they can really look up to. Sure they get gushed over when I, and I’m sure other volunteers, visit, but in the end, we have to go home. Nothing in these childrens' lives is consistent. I, of course, explained this fact to my Velangaye students which I think made them want to visit the children even more. Gosh they are all such terrific kids.

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nkandla-richardsbayOver the weekend, we took 19 of the kids from the center out for a little adventure. Saturday morning we rented two 13 seater taxi's, piled the kids inside and took a road trip to Richard's Bay. For most, if not all, it was the first time they had ever seen the ocean. As we waited for all the volunteers to gather so that we could enter the water in a safe manner so we let the children play in the sand. Bless their hearts they were itchin to get in that water they kept saying, "Please, go in?" "Go in Jessica, please?" Finally when we were all together we let the children run towards the water. Each volunteer was assigned 3 children to keep track of. It sounds a lot easier than it was. It was chaos. Thankfully most of the kids stayed knee deep, however some of them were little daredevils and wanted to go deeper so Max (one of the volunteers) took little groups at a time to get pounded by the waves. I decided to stay closer to the shoreline and play lifeguard just in case. It was stressful to say the least... NONE of these kids know how to swim and the waves weren't anything to scoff at. I kept scanning back and forth to make sure any of the kids weren't being taken under. Thankfully no one got hurt.

After the kids were wiped out from playing at the beach we took them to a conveniently located skate park across the street. As you can imagine, some of these kids had ever even HEARD of a skate park, so we thought it might be fun for them just to watch. At first they just laughed at the all the kids that fell, but after we tried explaining how hard it really was, they took real interest in watching some of the skaters. After a little while, some of the skater kids even offered to show our kids how to skate! It was so cool watching these total strangers reach out to our little darlings. And of course our boys loved learning and thought it was the greatest thing ever.

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nkandla-hivisrealI had to tell a young girl that she is HIV positive today. I can't even describe to you how unbearably heartbreaking it was.

There was a team of caregivers going to a high school to do peer education (teach about HIV/AIDS etc) and then offer VCT (Volunteer Counseling and Testing) so I tagged along. I knew I wouldn't be able to understand the speeches made by the caregivers, but I at least wanted to go to the assembly/panel and see how the students responded and offer my help in doing testing if they needed it.

The assembly was really great. The students interacted with the caregivers, asked pertinent questions and seemed genuinely interested in learning more about the transmission of HIV, testing for it, etc. Towards the end, I suppose the students were itchin to know who the blonde-haired blue-eyed girl on the stage was, and so asked the panel if I would get up and say something to them. Goodness, I was so caught off guard. Of course, I didn't have anything prepared and being that the entire panel was speaking in Zulu, I had no idea what the caregivers had already told them, so I didn't really know what to add. Despite this, one of the caregivers encouraged me to get up and say something, because he said they "just wanted to hear my voice."

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