It was four months ago that I first emailed Baphumelele and provisionally arranged to go out and volunteer for eight months from September. Little did I know the whole process for acquiring a volunteer visa for South Africa is designed to make you lose interest and patience hopefully before you start poking pins in your eyes … but for some one who is so determined and can keep focussing on the bigger picture it just felt like lots of little tests to cement the desire to fulfil my dream.
After the rigmarole of the actual journey to Cape Town, and the initial settling in issues, I started trying to get stuck in and making sure the staff would let me help them – whether it be with the administration or the children; I was ready to go!
Three days later I was starting to twiddle my thumbs somewhat and started to wonder why they had wanted me to come out here at all if they didn’t have anything for me to do. It soon came out that a lot of people get very ill when they first come out to South Africa because of the change in climate, atmosphere and particularly the intense working conditions at the children’s home. Ah, so it was starting to make sense now … maybe I should just heed their advice and chill; I wouldn’t want to get ill!
The discussions so far about my role here have mainly been about stabilising/organising the income generating projects so that they do just that; generate income. My primary concern is with the farm where there is a large plot of land with four phases of beds for vegetables. My challenge thus far is to work out what we should really be growing/what will grow in outrageously sandy soil and salty water, how long they take to grow and how often we can re plant seedlings to keep a constant flow of vegetables – enabling us to sell frequently. Phew; quite a challenge! At last something to get my teeth into … but the farm is 30 miles away! First step: internet based research until further notice.
Ten days later I really should be the Mrs Greenfingers of Khayelitsha, but I am sure the information available about growing vegetables in Western Cape is almost non existent. Information on UK – check, USA – check, South Africa – very limited forums! A lot of information I was able to gather from UK websites; like “What makes spinach bolt” and “Can you eat vegetables once they have gone to seed” so I must say I have definitely learnt a lot but putting it into practice will be a whole different ball game!
My first weekend had come and gone and I still hadn’t been to the farm again to actually see whether any of these veggies or ideas would work there. More research required and I was finally feeling like maybe I was grasping at straws to find work to do to feel I wasn’t wasting their time. Now I am on week three I can safely say that Friday was the most productive and gripping day for me – things really are progressing – we won’t recognise the farm once I have had my five months here!