Volunteering Finale – Positive Influence

As tears run down my face on the drive away from Ikhayalethemba, I began to wonder about my life and my purpose here in South Africa. When I first signed up for this opportunity, I was determined to expand my horizon and my perspective; little did I know that my entire life’s been changed forever.

There’s this one kid whom I grew extremely close to in the past 2 weeks. We will call him Nick. He was not behaving well this morning when we were doing “circle time” where we sit around in a circle and sing songs together, so I refused to read books to him. Oh, the things I’d give up for another chance to read Franklin stories or have him sit in my lap and sing Tiny Tim the Turtle.

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How do I just move on to the rest of my life without seeing these angels who’ve been my entire life for these past two weeks? How do I persuade myself to not drop everything I have and just stay here with these kids forever because I’ve grown to love them so much? How do I continue to go on with my days without hearing their innocent laughters throughout Ikhayalethemba?

I know I shouldn’t focus on the things that I will lose, but accepting the fact that I literally will not be able to see these kids’ angelic smiles again is a knife to my heart.


I looked back as they waved goodbye. Because we are not allowed to take pictures of the children, I want to try as hard as I can to remember their faces forever.

However, I can’t begin to hope for the same for them. At the end of the day, it’s not my face or my name that I want them to remember. It’s the colors that we’ve learned, the alphabets and the numbers, and how to write their names that will really advance them with their lives. I just hope that I have made a positive influence on their lives; that would be the most rewarding thing in the world.

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ps. I had butterfly face paint on while I was crying on the ride home. I looked so ridiculous. 


Volunteering Pt. I

December 28th, 2013

Gordon Bay, South Africa


Oh. My. God. I still cannot believe I’m actually here in South Africa.


I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had because of my parents. Not being able to spend Christmas and New Year’s with them is weird and makes me miss them very much.


The past few days have been crazy. First of all, I found out on the 23rd that my team’s Qatar 2022 Women’s Soccer Challenge submission was chosen as one of the top 3 finalists, and we will be flying to Qatar on January 11th. By that time, I was already in New York City, enjoying my time and not expecting to go to Qatar at all. I did not have my laptop with me, or any of my presentable clothes for such a setting. Because of that, I had to bus it back up to Syracuse at 6am the very next morning to re-pack for my trip since I was going to be volunteering in South Africa until January 11th. Took the bus back to New York City on the 26th, spent a few hours with amazing friends in the city and went straight to JFK Airport for my 7pm flight. My flight had a 13-hour layover in London, so I was able to walk around the city and re-embrace my memories for a few hours before another 11-hour flight to Cape Town, which I basically coma’ed through. I was only awake for the food…until I finished it. The girl sitting next to me said to me: “I couldn’t believe you slept the entire way here to Cape Town. I was so jealous of you!”


The customs were not as strict as I had anticipated considering how difficult it was for me to obtain a volunteer visa. The drive from the airport to Gordon’s Bay, where I’ll be staying with the rest of the volunteers, was pretty easy. The driver, a local South African, patiently answered all of my questions as I acted like a 3-year-old boy who had just seen the world for the first time. What really stood out to me was the township (a common phrase used here in South Africa; usually refers to the underdeveloped areas that house the colored and the black communities**) on both sides of the road on the drive out of the airport. The driver explained to me that in each of the small houses (I really wouldn’t even call them ‘houses’ since they are about the size of an average living room), it has, on average, a family of five living in it. While one side lives the black community, the other lives the Muslims. I really could not believe my eyes. They literally live right off the street, and you can see their public bathrooms. I wondered how they could live in such condition, but then I thought if I had grown up in that township my whole life, I really would not know to compare it to. How will I ever be able to go from what I know, how I am living to no running water or electricity? Even such details make me feel so blessed yet spoiled… my volunteer work hasn’t even started yet and I am already changed…



**Just to clarify, words like “black,” “colored,” and “white” are used very commonly and freely here in South Africa; I am using these adjectives to give an authentic feel of South Africa through my blog**





December 29th, 2013

Gordon’s Bay, South Africa


Today is yet another beautiful day here in Gordon’s Bay. I sweated from 7am to 7pm, and I feel like I am getting so fit! Today was an orientation day for the newbies – there are three of us: one girl from the U.K., one girl from Kansas, and moi. In the orientation, we talked about what the project (the orphanage) is like and what the possible weekend trips are. They are beyond my imagination – wine tour, shark cage diving, safari, sky diving, 3-day trip in Cape Town, etc. – am I on vacation or am I volunteering?! Just two days ago, I was terrified of getting on that plane in JFK because I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but whatever I was expecting, this is definitely not it.


I started to think that being here for 2 weeks is definitely not enough for me to fully understand everything… it just means I’ll have to come back!! 😀


We went on an orientation walk today, and we walked by Gordon’s Bay beach, which was super packed because of the good weather! I also tried a Savanna Dry because Maddie Kelly insisted that I try out this cider of heaven (hey girl hey!). At first I thought it was too sweet for my taste, but when the buzz started to kick in, I started to enjoy it (“it” in this sentence can be either Savanna Dry or the buzz). I looked around and saw all these tourists enjoying their family vacations here, and it made me ache inside thinking about the children at the orphanage and all the other children out there who are dying for some care and love.


Working with the children starts tomorrow. I have heard so many exciting and funny stories from the current volunteers already that I absolutely cannot wait till tomorrow when I actually get to meet them!


Ps. I’ve been having the weirdest short dreams since I got here. I hope this continues forever.










December 30th, 2013

Ikhayalethemba (the orphanage), South Africa


Today was my first day at the orphanage!

Before we left our apartment, we had a quick Xhosa lesson where I remember nothing now. Thank God I took notes!

“ndiyakuthanda” means “I love you”

We went on a quick tour around the townships of Zola, where the orphanage is, before actually going into work this morning. We are prohibited from taking pictures because of South Africa’s Child Protection Act, so that is a bummer, but I will be able to get pictures from the organization at the end of my trip in 2 weeks, so that’s when I’ll show my cliché “I’m a volunteer!!!” pictures later.

These kid, oh my god, they are the sweetest little children I have ever met. They embrace new volunteers with open arms, and they are genuinely curious in your stories. When I first walked into the orphanage with the new volunteers, some of the kids ran up to the gate and greeted us. One of them pointed at me and shouted “TEACHAH CHINA!” and that was my nickname for a few hours haha! Now they know me as “TEACHAH FLYYAN”… almost there!

I have never been this tired my whole life; playing with these kids is the most tiring yet the most rewarding experience I have had so far!!


I am so excited for the remaining time that I have here, both exploring Cape Town and exploring myself with these kids. I came here to do some good for the orphans, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they are going to change my entire life from here…