A FEW HOURS RELIEF FROM MISERY
PROJECTS ABOARD volunteers spent an amazing sunny afternoon on a muddy field singing, dancing, face-painting and playing football with 50 refugee kids.
French volunteer Gautier says “it’s the first thing I’ve done here that really made me feel useful”.
After a lot of hard work, the kids’ day was a huge success. Canadian volunteer Alex was the driving force. She wanted to do something fun for the kids after meeting them at the refugee camp while monitoring conditions.
“I wanted to give them something to look forward to as opposed to just monitoring, to provide some kind of happiness even if it was just for a moment…the smiling, happy faces of all those children jumping about was so good to see,” she says.
Monitoring conditions in the camp is a big part of the Projects Abroad Human Rights Office’s week and involves talking to refugees about their conditions and treatment, as well as working towards establishing and developing their future. Interns’ reports aid the South African Human Rights Commission in liaising with the Department of Home Affairs, and so give voice to these vulnerable people.
But change is slow and each time the interns visit, people become increasingly disheartened if nothing seems to be happening.
“In a way we gained everything and nothing; seeing the kids’ energy and enthusiasm was so inspiring, especially when everything seemed chaotic and we didn’t know what to do. But it was only a snapshot of happiness, just a moment,” says Alex.
But interns are still positive and treating the event as a learning experience.
“We saw what can be done, and what should be done – next time,” says Alex.
American volunteer Sami says “it was a dream come true from the time I put that book in that girl’s hand to seeing those kids dancing and singing. Even if it was just for an hour or two, the pain and misery wasn’t there,” he says.
Though volunteers keep coming and the work will still continue, the sad part of Projects Abroad is that we all leave at some point. The opportunity of meeting so many interesting people from many different countries and cultures is great, but with people coming and going all the time it’s hard to say goodbye.
Spending time with the refugees and getting to know them tugs at the heart strings just as much; seeing little pockets of exciting progress in a sea of bureaucracy makes it difficult to walk away.
Alex expresses the resounding words on everyone’s hearts;
“But their future is so ambiguous. We’re leaving and what’s going to happen to them?”