On Saturday September 13th, CIEE staff, students and local student volunteers spent the morning volunteering at SOS Children's Village in Tlokweng. It was a great opportunity to give back to the community in which we work.
Here’s what’s in this issue:
SOS Children's Villages is an international non-governmental organization started by an Austrian man named Hermann Gmeiner in 1949. SOS stands for "Sociatas o Sociale," a Latin phase meaning the "Helping Hand Society."
In the aftermath of World War II, there were many orphaned children in Europe with no one to care for them. Gmeiner realized the importance of creating a community of love for every child. Instead of opening individual orphanages, he created a system in which children are grouped in villages. Each child lives in a family unit---a home with an SOS mother and siblings, who are other children in similar situations. Multiple families then make up the village.
In 1955, SOS Children's Villages expanded from Austria to France, Germany and Italy. In the early 1960s, it moved beyond Europe to Asia.
The first SOS Children's Village in Africa opened in Côte d'Ivoire. The SOS Children's Village Association of Botswana was founded in 1980. The first village in Botswana was opened in 1987 in Tlokweng, a village on the outskirts of Gaborone, Botswana's capital. In 1998, a second village was opened in Francistown, about 400 kilometers north of Gaborone. The third village was opened in Serowe, about 300 kilometres north of Gaborone, in 2008.
The mission of SOS: "We build families for children in need, we help them shape their own futures and we share in the development of their communities."
The vision of SOS: "Every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security."
As the SOS Children's Village in Tlokweng is a 15-minute combi (mini-bus) ride from University of Botswana, we planned our volunteer day there. The Tlokweng site is also the largest in Gaborone, supporting 192 children and youth. Out of the 192, 126 live at the village full-time. The remaining 66 are older youth that live outside of the village; most have finished Form 5 (high school) and are in technical schools and other institutions of higher learning.
Before the Fall 2014 CIEE students even arrived, CIEE staff had been communicating with SOS staff to secure a date for the volunteer day. We also determined what kind of themed activities we should plan for. An important aspect of volunteering is its sustainability. We did not want to just cook for the children at SOS, for instance. What would they learn from that? We wanted to impart knowledge that they would take away from the time with us. We decided to break the SOS kids up into their particular age groups and have them cycle through three stations: leadership, crafts and health & wellness.
CIEE students and student volunteers signed up to lead a particular age group and station based on their interests. The group leaders were then responsible to plan the activities for their group.
A week before our trip to SOS, CIEE staff and students made signs for the different stations, to be put up all around the village when we arrived. We also did a site visit to see the venue so we could better plan the layout of the different stations on Saturday.
After all of the planning, we headed over to SOS at 8:30 am on Saturday, September 13th.
Upon arrival at SOS, we went toward the playground to set up our sessions. The library was right behind the playground and provided the perfect space to split the students up into groups.
The craft groups moved into the library and got started right away. Unfortunately, because of privacy considerations, we are not allowed to show any photos with full faces of the SOS children.
CIEE students led interactive sessions on coloring, making paper airplanes, expressing oneself through artwork, and making other fun games, such as the one shown below.
Although the inside crafts were going smoothly, the outside activities were not going to plan. Another international sponsor had planned to have a volunteer day that we were unaware of. They brought a clown and bouncey castle which made it difficult to begin our sessions on nutrition and leadership. Luckily, SOS staff assisted us in assembling the rest of the kids. We were able to carry out our activities with the kids for a couple of hours.
In Diamond's health and wellness session for the 16-20 year olds (pictured below), she focused on positive body image and staying active through dance.
The human knot is such a fun communication and group bonding exercise that two groups decided to use it - Ashley, with the 13-15 year olds and Sierra, Chelsey and Angie with the 10-12 year olds. The purpose of the human knot is to untangle the group from each other. Individuals in a group form a circle and hold hands with other members of the group. They then must communicate effectively to reform the circle without letting go of each other's hands.
Lauren and Carol played some games with the 7-9 year olds (shown below). The games focused on leadership skills. Lauren and Carol tried to cultivate these skills using teamwork exercises, such as moving across the ground while only stepping on the pieces of paper.
Zoe and Sierra then helped the 7-9 year olds into big plastic bags for the "sack race."
Meanwhile, Erin was with the 3-6 year olds, teaching them "duck, duck goose" and doing their own sack races.
Back in the library, Gaone was teaching some of the kids how to play table tennis. But she wouldn't let any of them win!
Although the logistics were not conducive to carry out all of our planned leadership and health & wellness activities, it was still a great morning. CIEE students and student volunteers were able to connect with the SOS kids and remind them that there are people out there supporting them.
It was also a great learning experience for the CIEE students. They learned other facilitiation techniques from the clown and other volunteers. They also gained a better appreciation for the importance of patience and flexibility.
But our day wasn't over yet! In the spirit of health and wellness, we had purchased toothbrushes, toothpaste and sanitary pads for the SOS kids. After everyone ate a light lunch, we told the kids a bit more about CIEE and gave them the various items. We handed out the toothbrushes and toothpaste publicly, but gave the sanitary pads to the house mothers to be passed out privately, in order to avoid embarassing the older girls.
We assembled in front of the kids in order to distribute the donations. CIEE Program Assistant Amelia Plant explained that CIEE brings foreign students to Botswana and that we came to spend a bit of time with the kids at SOS. She also reiterated the importance of taking care of yourself, such as brushing your teeth every day.
From left: CIEE Program Assistant Amelia Plant, CIEE students Erin, Todd, Diamond and Ashley, CIEE Program Assistant Tanya Phiri, CIEE students Alaina and Chelsey, the clown, and SOS staff member Punah Thato
All in all, everyone had a fun-filled day. Some CIEE students formed bonds with the SOS kids, and continue to return to SOS to tutor during the week.
Until next time, sala sentle (stay well)!
Our group! From left to right, back to front: CIEE students Braeden, Carol, Molly, Sierra, Zoe, Chelsey, Todd, student volunteer Lera, CIEE students Mariah and Katherine, student volunteer Laone, CIEE students Erin, Lauren and Jenna, CIEE Program Assistant Tanya Phiri, CIEE-affiliated volunteer Kagiso, CIEE students Shunese and Alex, CIEE Program Assistant Amelia Plant, CIEE students Alaina, Gabby, Mikayla, and Ashley, CIEE intern Gaone Manatong, CIEE student Diamond, and student volunteer Oratile.