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An unforgettable experience in Capetown

Here I am back in my office vaguely staring at my screen. My thoughts are in Cape Town. I think of the dear children of Philippi and the townships, the wonderful conversations I have had with unique people, the countless moments of laughter and the great cooperation. The time in Cape Town was very, very impressive, emotional and unforgettable. 16 people between 26 and 62 with completely different backgrounds together with the people of Philippi and SASDI showed what synergy and working together is.

This experience is difficult to express words and pictures, but below my attempt.

Monday: Action!

Monday morning after a good breakfast we drove from our beautiful and clean hotel to the poor farming community Philippi. Two totally different worlds and yet so close together. Arriving at Philippi, we were greeted by an extraordinary woman, Helen. She is the principal of Philippi Children's Centre and lives on the premises of the school.Helen worked first at a rich private school, but her heart is so large that they particularly wanted to help poor children.

After a number of briefings and introductions with other stakeholders, we split into three teams. The assignment: renew, tile and clean the kitchen, paint the classroom form the inside and the outside and paint the nursery and renew the ceiling. The A-Team consisting of Constant (BA), Courtnay (Amy), Wim (Hannibal), Koen (Face) and I (Murdock) went to do the nursery.

As we were working via Prince2 (project management methodology) each team got a team manager assigned, a planning and a number of management products were developed (lessons log, issue register, risk register and configuration item records). With great enthusiasm we rolled up our sleeves and starting working. The condition of the nursery was very bad and very dirty. The ceiling was full of mold, along the walls there were many small granules which appeared to be rat droppings, the mattresses were soaked in urine and there was not cleaned for many months. There were also dead rats and nests in the attic.

Having emptied the room, Koen and I went to get the ceiling boards and the others together with our South African colleague Edward started preparing the ceiling. It soon became apparent that we were the screws were too short and thanks to the heavy rainfall, we learned that the roof leaked. This led town expansion of our scope namely to repair the roof.

In addition to the nursery, I have worked a lot of hours in the Classroom with the Arjan's harem team. From fourteen windows paint had to be scratched off. Due to the limited tools we started a job which in the course of the week proved to be unfeasible. Therefore an exception report was written. Nevertheless we had a lot of fun. Especially Sandra and I rammed it while singing and screaming: Waazzzaaaaaahhhh!

The first day was a busy and hectic day where we needed to adjust to team cooperation and the South African way of working. (Too) many assumptions were made and the two biggest issues for the next few days were especially quality and communication. In the evening we dressed up in orange to a pizzeria where we had a lot of fun. After dinner some went to celebrate Queens Day, but I decided to rest. However Wim, Arjan and I ended up talking to Peter till 01.00.

Tuesday: blood, sweat and tears

The first day was a busy and hectic day where we needed to adjust to team cooperation and the South African way of working. (Too) many assumptions were made and the two biggest issues for the next few days were especially quality and communication. In the evening we dressed up in orange to a pizzeria where we had a lot of fun. After dinner some went to celebrate Queens Day, but I decided to rest. However Wim, Arjan and I ended up talking to Peter till 01.00.

Many children also have the fetal alcohol syndrome which makes them mentally and physically at birth already so behind that their future is bleak. The baby I hold below has this syndrome. He is 1 year old, but its development only 6 months. When I held him, we did have eye contact, but it seemed like he was looking through me. Very apathetic. This was 1 of the many moments I was quite emotional. This intense experience led us to work even harder. Wim was repairing the roof, Edward and Constant continued with the ceiling. Koen, Courtnay and I started sanding, cleaning and leveling the walls. The day ended with a dinner, as our great momma Ans celebrated her 53st b-day.

Wednesday: kids and community tour

And then it was Wednesday. Today we had only half a day because in the afternoon we went on tour community. This was again an emotional day. For the first two days the kids were not there yet, but Wednesday they were everywhere. Most were very enthusiastic and you noticed that they were in need of love. They were constantly lifted and cuddled. Later in the morning the children sang for us and we briefly played with the kids. So sweet. It was wonderful to see how everyone was enjoying. The picture with Ans speaks for itself.

After lunch we went to our first destination Sakhumzi. There we met Queen and Mama Amelia. Over 40 years ago, Amelia Posa took care of her first orphan. A letter to Nelson Mandela finally gave her the deserved attention and support. SASDI supports her now, so they she can almost start her well deserved retirement.

The next stop was Mfuleni where SASDI realized its first Early Childhood Development Centre. We got there a little tour and lunch. There were also two performances that blew us away. Awesome! The last visit we had was a Homestead in Khayelitsha, a large (construction) project for street children. Khayelitsha is the largest township and has the poorest communities with more than 50% unemployment. In the evening we had dinner at SASDI Trustees, Ian and Ali Corbett. On behalf of the group I gave a highlight report presentation and Ian presented us with the ambitious plans around the Starting Chance Campaign. 30 Early Childhood Development Centers in 5 years! Respect!

Thursday: ”in the moonlight”

Today was painting time in the nursery. With the ceiling we also made good progress. Setback was that there was still no power, so we had to hire a generator. We used it exactly 0 minutes as it was broken. Fortunately we could continue with a cordless drill. It was quite hard work, but at the end of the day we had the desired result. This time we sang for the kids. “in de maneschijn” ("In the moonlight"), “hoofd, schouders, knie en teen” ("head, shoulders, knees and toes") and we finished with the polonaise. Wonderful to see how much fun everyone had. In the evening we were again invited to dinner. This time at the Philippi's fundraiser Jane and her husband Peter. Shortly after we left Houtbay to another hotel.

Friday: The final stretch

The last day was intense. It was all a race against the clock to get it finished, because they came at 13:00 assess the project. Wim and I worked on the cornerces, Ans and Courtnay cleaned the windows. In a number of windows I stapled gauze against the many flies and mosquitoes. Constant and Koen helped Arjan with painting the classroom. The electricians installed the new lights and fans and I decorated the nursery with the stuffed toys I took from Holland from my children. Included. The A-Team did it!

The three projects were satisfactorily completed and was concluded with a number of emotional speeches by Helen and Peter. On behalf of Stuart Hendry from SASDI we got a certificate for our community service. The children gave us a small gift and we also gave the staff and kids gifts. It was a big party with boerwors, salads and children having fun and playing everywhere. And then the job was done. Very unreal. We were appalled and at the same time we realized how hard we had worked and how tired we were. Relaxing was not an option yet, because Saturday we had to give a presentation at the University of Cape Town. As a team we prepared for this and at ten o'clock we were ready. After some pizzas and wine we all went to bed.


Final presentation and relaxation

The presentation went very well. Peter gave a concise summary of Prince2 and after that Arjan, Constant and Nicole presented their findings of the project. Ian and Stuart were very impressed and indicated a strong need for such project management skills. The rest of the day part of us chilled in Hout Bay and another part went up Table Mountain. In the evening we had a big braai and I went with eight others to Club 31, a nightclub on the 31st floor of an office building. It was not quite light when we came home. After a few hours rest, we went to climb Table Mountain yet. Some chose to take the cable car to go, but the real diehards climbed of course. With the hard work and little sleep it was a difficult climb, but very cool. In particular, the top view. Wonderful! Back down by cable car, grab our bags, drive to the airport, return the cars, buy souvenirs, airplane in, sleep, airplane out and say goodbye to a group of beautiful characters.

Back home en back to work

An hour by train and a the end of the afternoon I saw my kids and wife again. On both the kindergarten and nursery I stood there with mixed feelings. How rich and wealthy we are! Che squeezed me completely when he saw me and when Louie heard my voice he spontaneously walked in three steps towards me. This was the first time he did this. I have some days to "relax" now, because next week a new adventure starts: from Philippi to Philips.


Big thanks for this unforgettable experience: Peter, Izabella, Sandra, Ans, Loek, Koen, Hetty, Arjan, Wim, Constant, Lazlo, Dylan, Paul, Nicole, Viola, Helen, Mama Amelia, Stuart, Ian, Ali, Matthew, Jonathan, Edward, Adre, Taryn, Kissmea, Courtnay, Chelsea, Jane, Peter and last but not least: the kids!

I am very proud of what we achieved in such a short time! I hope that our financial and physical contribution has made a visible impact on the kids’ future!


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