Entering the township of Khayletisha is not something that can be described in a word or a story. It’s a sensory overload in smell, sight and sound – all of which are difficult to savour. The cramped conditions of housing, tins shacks and devastating sanitation, only pinpoint the initial sight. Deeper inside, there is a distinct taste of survival, resting on sandy foundations, no lighting, unsuitable for any kind of being – especially human and thousands of whom are children. These children witness daily struggle, with or without their parents. Many see loved ones suffering from illnesses, such as TB and unable to work or leave township life. Many become adjusted to this way of life, sharing spaces the size of your garden shed with up to 6 or 7 other people. And yet, they smile.
These children attend the schools that Mellon Educate volunteers are working on over this incredible week. These children invited us, along with their families into their homes, to share what they return to every day after school. An education can provide them with a way out – a way of changing their life and opportunity and gradually, with time, a collective sense of responsibility.
Seeing something in it’s raw form makes you realise what we are all doing this for. The overwhelming power of the truth and reality can become desensitised when we think we have ‘seen it all before’ or that someone else is out there fixing it. As we know only too well at Mellon Educate, if we don’t come, it’s very likely, no one else will. So we do – for 15 years we have kept coming, to see the change unfold, to be a part of supporting these children through their learning, through the dust and dirt and extreme poverty that lies beside them every night. In these 15 years, many of us had have heard or been part of initiatives for new housing, new schools – yet no matter whether it be the first time or the tenth building blitz, for an individual to come face to face with a child’s reality and touch what they will be returning to once again this evening whilst we return to our hotel rooms and a buffet, is life changing.
If every person touched the home of a child in this level of need, we would come closer to eradicating poverty entirely. As we empower them, through education, let’s hope we can empower others like ourselves to be active in participating in a global community – a community that gets things done and makes a smile last a lifetime.
Tomorrow – let’s see how our volunteers have mastered new skills and the stories from within the building sites!