For the Building Blitz week in 2016, 270 volunteers made their way out to Khayelitsha, South Africa from the UK, Ireland and worldwide – and 99 of them (including myself) were first timers.
Over £800,000 was raised by everyone involved in the Blitz this year, which is an incredible amount. This money not only helped us achieve a tremendous amount of work in just one week, it helped us change the lives of the local children forever. Each volunteer directly affected the lives of 10 children – now that is a pretty cool thought.
But rather than write about my experience and time in South Africa, sharing the pictures tell a much bigger story…
Day 1: Arrived on site one to the walls of one block, the foundations of a second block, a run down play area and a dirty courtyard area.
Shack visit: Walking through Khayelitsha to see where the children lived that would be attending the school we were building. Words can’t really describe what this was like. Seven people lived in a tiny shack with one bed and communal room with no windows, just gaps in the timber that is flooded with sunshine or rain.
The contrast: A picture says a thousand words and for me this photo really does say a huge amount about what we learnt whilst we worked on the school and went into the township. The uniform, the smiles, the dancing, but when you start to look more closely at this photo you will see some of them have no shoes on – normal for the children in Khayelitsha.
Day 3: We were fortunate enough to take an hour off from building in the middle of the week to go and spend some time with the children in school. It was amazing to spend time with them, singing, laughing and to hear about what their favourite subjects were.
Day 4: Having spent the previous days on site brick laying, roof tiling, plastering and much more it was time to start bringing the construction site to life with painting. A team of volunteers worked on various paintings around the school to bring the school to life for the children from this wall design, to black boards with colours and shapes to inspirational quotes as people come into the school.
The final day: We were ahead of schedule and completed more than we had set out to do. We left site one with a play area, a sheltered break area for the children to play and eat lunch, five classrooms, a library and toilet facilities. This was an absolutely fantastic achievement.
The Building Blitz has been one of the best and most memorable weeks of my life. It was really tough work, emotional, rewarding and great fun. What was achieved in that week was absolutely incredible – the volunteers are some of the nicest and hard-working people I have ever met. It was amazing to meet the children from the township and see their thirst to learn and how smiley they all are despite their living conditions. I would thoroughly recommend this experience to anyone reading this.
A huge thank you to everyone who made this possible, and to Rooster Punk for giving me one of the best experiences of my life and the opportunity to change 10 of these children’s lives to give them hope for the future.