Category Archives: Staff Blogs

One week down…

Sunday was a travel day for the EDGE team as they shifted camp to the Garden Route Game Lodge, which will serve as their base camp during the Big 5 volunteer program. For more information on volunteering opportunities at the lodge, please click here.

The town of Knysna has a population of approximately 55,500 people and 75% of them live in an extended township. Spending two nights there (the second night with four of the girls on the team) was a cultural education and we met some lovely people. We were welcomed into the choir practice, given books so that we, too, could sing, and then we sang for them – the school hymn and an attempt at Calon Lan. After we walked back to the home of our hostess (also a community worker, owner of a daycare and all round woman who is well-respected in her community), we talked and listened to wonderful stories of life in the township. What was lovely was that our hostess and her sisters were raised by wise parents who encouraged their daughters to achieve success in whatever way they desired. Despite being raised during the times of apartheid, their parents thought that it was best to not focus on what they could not achieve; instead, to focus on having a good life, respecting family values. Township life is certainly not the goal of most people, but many who live there focus on making the best of life that they can. Hardship happens, and that is a reality, but we met many friendly people, who wanted to chat and ask us about where we are from. There are many levels of living conditions, some come from informal settlements (the children from the Rondevlei School), to solid brick and mortared houses. Our team will see more of the township life when we visit Cape Town – more of the urban variety of this lifestyle.  This experience allows the team to know that Gratitude is an important aspect of E.D.G.E. leadership.

~ Jenny F.

Into the Unknown

The South African experience would not be whole if the EDGE team didn’t try and really live South Africa to the fullest, experiencing everything there was to offer. A group of us, consisting of 4 boys and one of our team leaders, Ms. Ferris, were the first to go out to spend a night in the township. We were all excited as it was something new and we all knew it would be different. I personally had no idea what was to be expected, and this should have made me hesitant, but instead it made it much more interesting. When you go somewhere for the first time, having never even thought about it before, you can see it for what it is with no bias or expectations. Even if any of us had any underwhelming expectations, they would have been shattered with this amazing sleep over.

We all loaded into the car and drove to the house where we would be staying. We were anxious to see what the next step in our Africa trip was going to be. Once we arrived at the house we greeted the women in charge of the home-stay. We unpacked and had a snack before church. The bread and coffee they offered us were absolutely amazing, especially the cheese and chutney that was in it. Pre-church we were given hymnals as they sing in church and we wouldn’t know all the hymns. In true Shawnigan spirit, we sung all the hymns we knew. The four of us sang a lot of hymns ranging from Amazing Grace to the school hymn (There’s a Voice in the Wilderness Crying).

Our brief singing practice was then put to use when we went to church. The service was mostly in Afrikaans, but some of the service and all the hymns were in English. We found out after that because of our presence, some of the sermon was in English. Normally it would have all been in Afrikaans. The Minister talked about some heavy stuff in English, and I don’t really know what he was saying in Afrikaans except for picking out the occasional word I recognized in English or, surprisingly, French. When the Minister spoke, he had so much passion that you could feel what he was saying. The best part was probably the way they all said “Amen” in perfect synchronization and harmony right after the Minister said it. The singing was incredible! The 50 people in attendance sang so loud that I nearly had to scream just to hear my own voice.

Then we went back to the home-stay, but on the way stopped at a shop to try Stoney, an African drink that is probably the best drink ever. When we got back we went in and our host fed us supper, and we talked for hours. The food was amazing, and once we were there it didn’t feel like a home-stay at all. It felt homey, and it seemed like it was a house that you would experience in Canada, and the hosts took such good care of us that we didn’t feel the least bit uncomfortable.

I think this was one of the best things that we could have done because it gave us a chance to experience what it’s like to live as an African, and missing it would have been a huge mistake. It was a lot of fun, and knowing that this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing made it even more worthwhile.

~ Evan P.

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This morning we went back to Stepping Stones Primary School and continued our work clearing the reeds. We had another opportunity to take on a teaching role by explaining to the kids how a wetland works. We helped the kids make a model wetland in a bottle and explained the importance of maintaining South Africa’s wetlands. I loved doing this, and today just added to the enjoyment I’ve been feeling. I feel the kids are extremely appreciative and very grateful for everything we have to offer them. I may not have made a difference that will change the world forever, but I’m satisfied to know that the kids I’ve interacted with will carry this experience with them for a long time to come.

Later, in the afternoon, we went to Plettenburg Baai and hiked along a ridge that overlooked the Indian Ocean. There were breath-taking views that emphasized South Africa’s beauty and made me feel incredibly fortunate to be here! I loved the walk to the beach and especially when we ran into the water and got knocked over by the massive waves.  The strong force of the waves and distinct taste of salt made me feel alive. Although it was tiring, everyone had a really fun time. Fast forward back to the house – we ate an amazing Cape-Malay dinner and then ended the night off with a “jam sesh” in the kitchen. Today was filled with fun from the beginning till the end!

~ Nahanni D.

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It is fantastic to see the team coming together. It is even more exciting to witness their interactions with the other guests in the house. There are about ten other 18-20 year olds from Australia, England, Ireland, Germany, Canada, USA, Malaysia and Holland. In the evenings, the kids are having so much fun telling jokes, singing songs and turning the kitchen into a dance floor! It’s loud, but lots of fun.

Tomorrow we have some time in the town of Knysna before we head to the Knysna forest to camp for one night. The forest is said to be full of ferns and has 800 year old trees. There are also free roaming leopards and elephants in this ancient forest. We might miss our blog post on Friday, but will make up for it on Saturday!

~ Nigel M.

Fishing and Dancing

OMG today was another amazing day :D. We started off with another early morning, and headed off to the wetlands to collect fish samples and then measured and counted the fish. We moved through three different areas and we collected samples nine times. It was a great experience, and I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. Later we moved on to a township! Wow, that was incredible. We watched a group called “Young Minds,” who are a dance group that have only been practicing for 3 months. They were soooooo good !  Our team then had a dance lesson from their instructor. That was a lot of fun. Today was a great day, and I know tomorrow will be even better. Woot woot!

~ Kennedy W.

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I was in the group that went to the Rondevlei School today where we spent time with the kids and taught them the fundamental meaning of the three R’s: recycle, reuse, and reduce. The kids really enjoyed it. Mamma Africa (Karimah) was enthralled with the kids and was one of the most energetic instructors. Their response to us was amazing, and it was great to be with them. As an African, I feel fortunate that I can help fellow brothers and sisters build a family. It was real. The best thing was seeing the smiles of young kids who know that they have nothing, but they live life to the fullest – that’s the greatest thing of all.

~ Bongani M.

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When it was suggested a few months ago that our students could be involved in a meaningful way assisting scientific research, I must admit I was skeptical. Today, as I watched Aaron rowing and Evan tossing the long fish net out in the water, followed by Lizzie, Kennedy, Brooke and Kat hauling on the nets, and then identifying and measuring fish before returning them to the water, I was finally convinced. Every one of the students fulfilled all of the roles of scientists in action. The National Parks researcher was genuinely grateful for the help – and the incredible experiential learning that occurred was a wonderful bonus.

This evening we had a surprise added to our program. We watched, we listened, we danced and thoroughly enjoyed the energetic and artistic efforts of a young group in a local township as they pounded their feet and summersaulted on the concrete pad between two houses. EDGE of Africa is supporting this energetic group because the cultural and artistic experiences that they are learning and sharing are wonderful for their audiences and themselves as growing adolescents.

~ Jenny F.

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I was so proud of our students as they worked with the kids from the squatter camps at Rondevlei School. They put so much energy into their lessons and tried hard to make meaningful connections to recycling for these disadvantaged children. Their lessons were a success, and were full of dance, song and laughter. As you can see from the photos, there was love pouring out on both sides and our students made instant connections with the children.

~ Nigel M.