Mzuvele South Africa 2018
It was hard to believe that after a year of intense planning, 21 of Garforth Academy’s students would be flying halfway across the world to Durban, South Africa. Yet, on the 7th April 2018 that’s exactly what happened. Garforth Academy and Mzuvele High School have been in partnership since 2008; there has been multiple trips in the past to the school as well as the Mzuvele Choir and Staff coming to visit us here. Mzuvele High School is located the KwaMashu Township of Durban, South Africa. It is estimated that 57% of the population in South Africa live below the poverty line, evident in the high numbers of unemployment, lack of proper education and transit camps. To put that in perspective, it is 3.5 times more likely to be unemployed and would be expected to make 69% less income in South Africa than in the UK.
Our main motivations to go were to install Wi-Fi throughout the school, donate laptops and projectors and to renovate classrooms and ultimately the school itself. With our ambitions came a lot of fundraising. We hosted many a ‘sock and bun’ sale and received sponsorships from very generous companies, grants from the governments as well as a donation from Delta who gave us an incredible £250 per student. We also managed to gain the support of the school with the Year 7 and 8’s hosting a sponsored silence to help pay for the equipment we would need. Many thanks to everyone who helped!
Despite all our planning and preparation, no one could prepare us for when we were actually there and immersed into Mzuvele student life. When first arriving at the school I’m sure all of us on the coach were experiencing an uncomfortable mixture of uncertainty, nervousness and anticipation. However, upon arriving and meeting Mr P (One of the teachers who took us under his wing) all of these were replaced with a sense of welcome, excitement and eagerness to crack on.
We quickly learned that South African culture is all about respect and honour, the way you treat others gives you respect, not your reputation in general. We were even told that in Durban it is rude to not acknowledge someone if you see them, even if they are a stranger. Mr P then told us about when he came to the UK and being shocked that no one was talking to him in the street. It became very clear from the minute we met the students it would be hard to not create friendships with them all. From the first day of painting to the last day of fun at the dam, we quickly bonded and became a paintbrush wielding force to be reckoned with! Students such as Cupcake, Andrew, Zoo and XO gave the trip true meaning, and we were no longer doing all this because we felt they ‘needed it’ but because now we felt they deserved it. Hearing the stories of the friends we’d made, then seeing how optimistic they were made us realise the magnitude of our trip and the effect of what we were doing.
For me, I had so many highlights. visiting the orphanage and meeting the kids; dancing on classroom tables with Cupcake and Zoo; playing volleyball by the dam; being taught Zulu by Andrew and just generally being immersed in their lifestyle for a week was something we won’t ever forget. The trip has had a lasting impact on us all, something I don’t think any of us truly expected to happen.
The week we there went too quickly to seem fair and the tears on the last day spoke for themselves. None of us wanted to leave and we felt we were nowhere near done. We all made our own memories on that trip, but without a doubt it has made us more conscious of our own privilege and we no longer take our lifestyles for granted. The trip, although charity in nature, was in no way a one way street. Just as they received help from us, they taught us so much about humility, gratitude and positivity in the face of injustice. Thank you to Mzuvele High School and everyone involved in making the trip happen.