Students’ experiences

The students from the 2023-2024 OEDNA optional course have much to say about their experiences in South Africa in February 2024, where they had the opportunity to assist local communities. Discover their reflections and impressions on the projects here. 

ECD - Growing together

Preparing Township Children for a Bright Future through Early Childhood Development

The ECD also known as the “Early Childhood Development” is a legacy project striving to provide young children of the age of 2-6 years with quality education. Together with “Athénee Action Humanitaire”, the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve has managed to build a more modern school, allowing a structured school programme. The original school is in Franschhoek’s township and consists of a single room without any windows, one door and a bucket that serves as a toilet. A place that was previously used by parents to leave their children while they were working, is now an educational space run by qualified teachers among others, the principal, Nobathembu Fata. 
To add to this, the kids are made sure to eat healthy and nurturing meals at least once a day which the school provides. Educational outings with the “Steamy” science trailer, the giraffe house or other activities are organized. 

The day of the Giraffe House outing arrived. Early in the morning, we divided into two groups, one of the groups got the opportunity to drive through the townships and visit the old school to get a context of the upbringing of these children. The other group had the chance to directly visit the NGO-funded school just outside the outskirts of the township.  
As we arrived at the school, we were welcomed by the principal Fata and the other teachers, as well as the ECD group of about 15 to 20 children between the ages of 2 to 6 years. At first, the children sat hesitantly in the corner and gave us shy looks. To bring the children out of their shells, the teachers initiated simple songs and dances for the children to partake in. Melodies like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” were known to us and we quickly tuned in. 
After some time, we accompanied the children to their bus that would take them to the main event: the Giraffe House. At the animal sanctuary, the children joined by our group first explored the premises with its numerous animal exhibits ranging from small birds and lizards to massive crocodiles and giraffes. In the late morning, we participated in a reptile show, where the children got further explanations about all sorts of reptiles. Brave volunteers could even interact hands-on with snakes and experience the weight of a python on one’s shoulder. Afterwards, we took the children to a green space in the middle of the park and played them fun songs to which we showed them dance moves. The now ever-so-hungry children were given hotdogs and cold beverages before departing with their bus. 

When I entered the Efata preschool, I had the feeling that the children were well supervised by the teachers. I noticed that the children have a lot of respect for the teacher but also that the teacher knows her students very well. They sang, danced, and reviewed their morning routines. It was cute that the students were shy in front of us.  The visit to the Giraffe House was a very nice activity for the kids. I had the impression that the children were excited to go to the zoo. It was an out-of-the-ordinary excursion that they had never done before and that they will probably never do again. For them, it was an unforgettable school outing that enabled them to learn a lot: On the one hand, they learned about the animals native to their country, were able to touch them, observe them and learn more about their habitats. On the other hand, they learned how to interact with strangers who don’t speak their language and are of a different age. It was an enriching experience, both culturally and socially. They all found a way to communicate with us. They played and danced with us at the end of the visit. You could really see that they wanted to get in touch with us, as they ran after us and came to pick us up by the hand. It was a real interaction between us, students from a classical high school in a rich and developed country, and primary school children from a different culture and with less financial means. It has just been a great success. I learnt a lot from this experience, like being more flexible and living in the moment. We had planned other activities to do with the children, but unfortunately, due to a lack of time and a poor assessment of the children’s skills, we found it hard to carry them out. However, the alternatives improvised on the spot were just as much fun. 
Next time, it would be nice to know the time allowed and the possible activities for the children in advance so that we can perfect the activities and make this moment even more magical.  – Julia 

Before meeting the children at the new school, I had the chance to visit the previous school located in the township of Franschhoek. It consists of one room made of sheet metal plates and one single hole that serves as a window. This was really hard to process and a reality check since it was my first time seeing living conditions this deteriorating and bad. The level of poverty there is beyond anything I could have imagined. The moment I entered the informal settlement, I felt bad, like I was intruding. Other things I saw in the townships were people fetching dirty water, chickens roaming around freely in the dirt and a group of men drinking alcohol at 9:00 am.  When I met the children, it was hard to imagine them living in that very township. Despite their harsh environment, they had big smiling faces that showed motivation and enthusiasm. Curious about our arrival, they sang us songs in English that they had learned from their teacher. At school, they learn both English and Afrikaans. Later we visited the Giraffe House, a zoo where the children saw different animals for the first time. When they saw snakes or frogs, they screamed out of fear mixed with eagerness, which made us all laugh a lot.  In Luxembourg, we had planned a few activities for the children such as showing them dances from Europe or singing together. However, in the Giraffe House, we didn’t have enough space or equipment to do all that, so we had to improvise by playing catch and running around with them. This experience has definitely helped me understand what appeals to young children and how to deal with big groups of them.  We spent some time playing with them on a playground, lifting them into our arms, and sharing moments of joy. I loved exploring the zoo, running from one animal to another while explaining to the children all I knew about these animals.  All in all, it was a heartwarming experience for me to be with them, and I sincerely hope that our time together made their day special, just as it did for me.  – Malika 

 Reflecting on our visit to the school, I couldn’t help but feel uplifted by the warm welcome we received from the teacher of the Efata. The well-maintained playground and inviting building instantly set a positive tone for our visit. Interacting with the motivated and caring teachers further reinforced my belief in the importance of dedicated educators in shaping young minds. However, the first of many highlights of this visit was undoubtedly joining in song with the children. Even though at first, they acted in a shy manner, after they warmed up to us, their sheer joy and enthusiasm were infectious, reminding me of the sheer magic that can happen within the walls of a school.  At the Giraffe House, I was surprised that the children immediately approached us after disembarking from the bus. It was a heartwarming moment, as they ran to us with open arms, giving us hugs even though to most of them we were strangers. It made me realise that they were eager to engage and connect with us and paved the way for an extraordinary day. While exploring the animal sanctuary, it was truly a fulfilling experience to learn about the native animals alongside the children. Initially, verbal communication with them posed a challenge, but we swiftly adapted by resorting to hand gestures and body language, effectively bridging the language barrier. As the day progressed, our bond with the children appeared to strengthen with each passing minute. Their initial shyness vanished completely, and they actively sought physical contact, such as wanting to be lifted and holding hands. I had a blast running around with a child perched on my shoulder, accompanied by their joyful giggling noises. At the end of our shared time, our planned dancing activity, even though it ended in erratic children chaotically running around, was a success as the children and our group had a great time.  – Noah 

Other experiences on the educational trip also left their mark on us. These included the safari, where we saw the natural and animal beauty of South Africa, and the Florish morning, where we had a great time with the township mums. The beautiful hikes in the Fynbos also left a lasting impression on us. 

Nonetheless, all the beauty of South Africa also has a counterbalance: social misery, poverty and violence. That’s why education and a healthy environment for children from an early age are so important. Society must be changed by the younger generations.  

We can conclude that a good basic education will enable schoolchildren to prepare for their future and get out of their situation of misery by studying and getting a good job, thus earning enough money to live in better conditions. Indeed, we believe that quality education for children from the earliest age will contribute significantly to the social and economic development of the community. 

CCC - Care Career Connection

Center for disabled youth

The Care Career Connection, also called the CCC, is an organisation, that is holding four days a week, these workshops which cover Kitchen Skills, Garden Skills, and Arts and Crafts. Interlectually challenged and disabled have the chance to enhance their skills for income-generating activities. As we know, the CCC is a social project that encourages greater acceptance in workplaces for people with disabilities. So the CCC includes the social pillar of the UN’s sustainable developpement goals, however do they also include the environmental pillar and the economic pillar ? 

To begin with, we were led to the farm, where we helped with some gardening work. The participants showed us how to plant beans. We worked as a 3-man team to be more efficient. One of planted the beans in a straight line, while the second one swiftly dug  holes with their thumb at regular intervaults and the last planted the seeds. Afterwards, we moved to the tomato patch, where we picked cherry tomatoes from the trees and put them in a big carton. There, we were able to speak more to the CCC members. They asked how different items were called in our languages. We bonded over the similarities and laughed together, while listening to their music. It was a great atmosphere and we all felt included in their group.  

Then, went to the kitchen where we helped baking and decorating cookies. We had some interesting conversations with the members and competed on who made the prettiest one. The kitchen team is in charge of processing the plants from the farm and turn it into a marketable products, like cookies, chili – and local fruits jam.  These are being sold on local markets for profit. The CCC puts a lot of emphasis on education and honing the skills of their members. It was a calm environment, and we all appreciated the relaxing atmosphere in the kitchen.  

Next, We were led to the knitting team. A group of people were already working when we arrived, so we sat next to them and did our best to help them. They had tools to help knit neatly. They knitted half an hour, while the woman in charge showed us their final creations, which were hearts or christmas trees out of formed wire. We went to a box with their crafts and admired them awhile. Some of us students, have chosen to buy earrings or other stuff, which our new friends also crafted themselves 

Finally, after having participated at each workshop, we were able to enjoy a snackbreak in the kitchen with Ingrid with whom we had some engaging conversations. She let us taste their chili jam, their jam of local fruits and some of their cookies. The food was absolutely delicious, even if the chili jam was too spicy for some of us. While most of us stayed in the kitchen , out of the sun, some of us joined the CCC members outside and spent their break with the members. At first, it was hard to interact with them but then we bonded lots over sports, like rugby. We were able to get to know some of the members in a personal way. Later, we played some football while listening to some south african tunes under the shining sun. Unfortunately, our stay there was short lived but we left giving each member a high five and with lots of good memories. 

We met Ingrid the initiator of the CCC during snack-break, as already mentioned. She is strongly involved in the project management, because she’s a mother of two disabled girls. The older has been diagnosed with autism and the younger one with down syndrom. Ingrid is fighting for a more equitable world, not only for her children, but for all young disabled people. She thinks everybody has the right to education at their level, which is not guaranteed in poorer families in South Africa. Her older daughter has a university degree and learns Japanese. Ingrid loves to mention this, which reveals how proud she is of her daughters. Her daughter’s success is undeniable proof that efforts are never wasted in education.  

A celebratory meal was held in Franschhoek with all of our project partners, there some of us took the time to talk to the career counciler and a teacher with whom were able to dive deeper on how the CCC functions. The CCC is an organisation that specialises in helping mentally challenged individuals through academic support and help them find job opportunities, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The CCC values the personal development of their members in the hopes of preparing the young adults for society. Being intellectually challenged leaves them with limited opportunities, so the CCC focuses on teaching them independent-living skills, how to behave in social environments, important social skills and giving each participant the opportunity to gain skills to seek a job which they are passionate about. The passion of the teachers really came through during this conversation, which was truly moving moment. 

This trip to South Africa has truly left me with some precious memories which I’ll remember for the rest of my life. To begin with, I have really enjoyed visiting the different projects we support with AAH, in perticular I enjoyed interacting with the disabled at the CCC. It was a suprising moment for myself, since I was able to connect with the participants through a football game during lunch time. Even with the language barrier, we were able to share a special moment. In addition, the 5 day roadtrip was lots of fun. We visited some truly special places, but De Hoop Nature Reserve had blown me away. It was truly special seeing the untouched parts of South Africa, being able observe such a bright night sky and spotting lots of wildlife like an octopus on a beach. The south african nature had captivated me like no other. Finally, I personaly appreciate having been given the opportunity to see some of the ugly truths of South Africa. Way too often, the world’s problems are being overlooked on purpose and it’s important to raise awareness and educationg the people.  All in all, it was a journey like none I’ve been able to experience with lots of memories I’ll cherish.  – Arsène

I got many precious memories from South Africa and the following three are the one I selected for this blog. Firstly, Flourished had truly moved me. Sophie, the project manager, explained how most teen-mothers were raped and have to bear an unwanted child. I could never imagine my entire world, as well as my ambitions, to be torn apart to take the responsibilities of a mother at 18. Secondly, I loved to go to the beach, trying to swim in waves bigger than 4 men. The sea swept us away and forced me twice to roll with it. I liked the adrenalin kick. Additionally, the beauty of the littoral was peculiar, how the different colours blent together. Thirdly, the district 6 museum and the art museum moved me to the core. I could not believe the harm inflicted on the residents. It blows my mind, that the different skin colours lived happily together before Apartheid. Later, in the art museum I saw an intense red painting. It drew me in its story and I felt it must be about climate change. After a long analysis I confirmed my intuition. In conclusion, in South Africa I learned patience and gratitude, I learned that being delighted about little things is the way to happiness.  – Alice

I enjoyed in particular working with the children throughout every project we did.  First of all, I am really grateful that this year the men of our group had the opportunity to participate at the Flourish visit. There I met a young boy, Lincoln, with whom I played the entire time while the mums participated in the activities. I had as much fun as he had and I really enjoyed playing games with him, carrying him around on my shoulders and throwing him in the sky. I was happy that I could leave him with a memorable experience and so were the mothers. I also really enjoyed taking care of the babies and keeping them calm during the afternoon. They were so cute and adorable. I noticed that the mothers were always surprisingly happy when I asked them if they wanted me to take care of their children.  Another memorable experience was the giraffe house outing with the children from the ECD because they were so open to play and communicate. I found it adorable how much fun they had when we played tag all together and when you took one in your arms the others all ran and asked for their turn. It was really a beautiful experience.  – Amer

In conclusion, the amazement we felt in South Africa is difficult to summerize. We made new friends and cherishable memories, which matured our view on the world. We recognized the complexity of harmonizing each pillar of the sustainable developpment goals. We saw how the environmental issues affected the health of poorer communities, and thus prevented them from regular wages. We understood that if we wanted to lift the living conditions of South Africans in general, we had to tackle every issue at once, as Edulink tries to do it.  

When we focus on CCC, we can see that the project englobes every aspect of the UN’s sustainable development goals. As already mentioned, CCC is a social project, which empowers disabled people in their independence. Thanks to CCC, disabled people can find jobs and make their part in the South African economy. Additionally, CCC sells their food goods to invest in their company and grow all their plants in the most enviornmantally-friendly. Hence, in our eyes CCC manages to include every pillar of the sustainable development goals in their project. 

Earthlings Walking group

People helping people

The Earthlings are an outdoor club, which the CWBR supports. They take children and teenagers on walks in nature to educate them about their environment. Joslin Abrahams was instructed thanks to the CWBR to become a tourist guide. Today, Joslin is the coordinator and main facilitator of the initiative. The CWBR introduced her to their networks. The Earthlings are in a partnership with the CWBR through the Edulink project. Thanks to the collaboration, the impact in these communities grows day by day.

Even though, we as Athénée students have so many opportunities to help our NGO (through charity run, Christmas markets…), to actually be in South Africa hit me differently. In the morning, our class walked to the forest, where Emogene and some children were already waiting. When everyone arrived, Emogene introduced himself. After the introduction in the forest, a student had to count us, so that we wouldn’t loose anyone during the walk. After the introduction, Emogene talked about some trees and the animals. During the rest o he walk, we talked with the children all the way to the end.
First thing I want to mention about the walk in the forest with the children and the teacher called Emogene, is the fun we all had. The joy due to the connections we were able to build, even in such a short time. Already in the very beginning, when Emogene asked us questions, I didn’t know the answers, but the little boy next to me whispered me all the correct answers. I believe it was a good experience for our class as well for their group, to learn that we can all share different things. We, as the NGO, are not superior nor are we only there to give but also to receive. Secondly, an important thought that crossed my mind is, that not only kids in preschool are able to be open and share love without judging us, but also, the young people (from 5 to 14 years) were able to be open minded. I found it lovely when they complimented and played with my hair. I felt love when we were all holding hands, hugging, kissing and when we were taking a lot of pictures all the way down to lunch. I felt sincere joy, finding my inner child again and running through the forest with them. I truly found their honesty beautiful, for example when we were talking about the animals, we have in Luxemburg compared to those from South Africa. They found it fascinating and weird at the same time that we have foxes but no elephants. And last but not least, it was heartwarming to see that this project gives them a lot of opportunities to have in the present and in their future. I heard some kids’ dreams and what they wanted to be. The children told me they were really thankful for this club because they gain a lot of knowledge at every outing. To hear that our projects from the NGO are actually helping them, made me want to give them more opportunities so that one day, South Africa will be shining bright like all their smiles. – Tiara

During the walk, the sun was shining, but the trees kept us in the cool
shadows. Emogene, the guide, explained the forest to us. We spent the whole morning with the kids. The children and teenagers were shy at the beginning (so were we), but later on we opened up to each other. The young people were between 5 and 14. Emogene talked about the trees and the plants, which was very interesting. The flowers were beautiful. I learnt a lot about the nature in South Africa. I talked to two girls and two boys. I mostly talked to the girls. They were nine and ten years old. We talked about school, languages and our favorite animals. They liked to run. Everyone was smiling. I saw two chameleons! I carried the girls, and they liked being tall and seeing everything from above. They were fascinated by the binoculars and didn’t want to let go of them. The guys in our option had to carry the children. The children were literally overtaking them. At the end of the afternoon, they were exhausted. We ran a lot, because we were a bit behind schedule. We saw a pretty water source on our way back. We ran and laughed so much that my stomach ached. I tried to be faster than the children, but I wasn’t. At the end, we had to say goodbye. It was rushed, and everyone got a sandwich. We hugged each other goodbye, and we waved to each other.
I really liked the walk in the forest with the children. Emogene was hilarious and his explanations were really interesting. It was really fun, and the girls were really fun. I enjoyed meeting new people and learning from them. The children were very cute. The chameleons were even more impressive in reality, even though they were very small. It was a very enjoyable experience. Sadly, the goodbye was rushed. After this morning, everyone was exhausted and happy. I think that all of my classmates really liked meeting theses children and young people. – Isabelle

The walk with the Earthlings was a walk through a national park where many different species, plants and trees could be seen and admired. Everyone in our class socialized with the children to make the walk enjoyable. We had binoculars at our disposition, which we used to show the children how they worked., and they could be used. Some children did not always have the english vocabulary to express themselves and they talked in Afrikaans. Since we were behind schedule, we had to walk faster, so many of us challenged them to race, which was very effective. Two chameleons were discovered by Emogene and we all had a small petting session with the animal. At the end of the walk, everyone said goodbye and left with new memories.
My personal experience with the Earthlings was a rather positive and refreshing one. We learned a thing or two about the trees in the forest, but the main focus was to socialize with the children from all ages. Personally, I chatted a while with two girls, aged 14. They told me that they often do such outings during the year. I tried to explain to them how to use binoculars by demonstrating with mine. I tried to explain how the lenses worked and the magnification worked. They sometimes used Afrikaans which I had trouble with understanding, but we found common ground by hand gestures and English key words. What I enjoyed a lot too was when the whole group had to crouch under a tree and a picture was taken of each of the participants (thank you Bevan for taking the pictures). Even though we were a bit behind schedule during the walk, I had a lot of fun running with the children and seeing how fast they could run. This was easy for them since I am not very athletic. Many of the children from all ages just ran ahead of me and then looked back and laughed since they saw me staying behind and already out of breath. As the trip came to an end, we discovered a chameleon, and everyone got to hold it. It was fascinating to see the creature walk around on my hands and to try not making it run up my arm. Many of the older children took pictures to commemorate the moment. As we found our way back to the vans, we took a quick group picture, collected all the binoculars and said goodbye to everyone after having a small bite of sandwiches. – Julia

The CWBR, which we are very thankful for, helps so many lives including those of the Earthlings. We all really appreciated the opportunity to be in South Africa and to meet so many new people. It was a true learning experience, and we will never forget it. Thanks to the members of the CWBR: Mark, Celine and Bevan with whom we have shared great moments. We also thank Sophie from Flourish, Ingrid from the CCC, Emogene from the Earthlings and all the other volunteers, like the ones from Luxembourg: Prudence, Kaleb, Anne and Alix. The children and the people in general really opened our eyes about how privileged we are. These moments that we shared with all these people are really appreciated by us. We hope that all the next generations will love this option and South Africa as much as we do. Our visit to South Africa and everything we learned about this interesting country is something we will always look back fondly to. We were very grateful to meet the Earthlings and to learn about their work in bettering people’s lives. The trip influenced our outlook on life in general. Some of us got inspired to wanting to work as a volunteer after graduation. We notice the impact the trip had on us regularly. We think that everyone went trough a personal growth thanks to our experiences traveling in a different country. The trip taught us greater independence, more appreciation for what we have and taught us about partnerships. The south african children and teenagers benefit from this exchange too.

Flourish - Young Mothers’ support Programme

A glimpse of the world of a teen mom living in South Africa

On our fourth day in South Africa, we left early to go to a restaurant where we would meet the mothers from Flourish an organization which located in Villiersdorp who supports young mothers and focuses on first thousand days after and before birth. The first 1000 days of a child‘s life gives the foundation the opportunity to establish a perspective for children‘s academic success health and general well-being. Flourish helps moms to optimize this little window in a fun and memorable way. The young and mostly uneducated mothers learn what to not to do during pregnancy such as smoking and drinking alcohol. Nonetheless, they show them the damages these actions could cause which is essential for them to understand. The founder of flourish, Sophie, quit her job as a primary school teacher because all her life she wanted to help kids have a better life but the realized that at that age the damages have already done. She decided she needed to take action in the early stages of the child’s life. Hence the foundation of Flourish.  

At the restaurant we prepared our several activities such as hand-washing, science projects, magnification and playtime with the kids. During the activities we had the opportunity to interact with the moms and their children. The idea with hand washing was to give them the feeling to be seen and feel clean and that somebody looks after them. Furthermore, we wanted to switch the roles between black and white people because something which caught our eye was that the blacks were often the workers while the white ones were the clients. 

The Steamy was there to give them a glimpse of science, to educate them on how their body works. A Microscope was also on the place so they could see how it works but also so they could see the microworld. A telescope was also on site which gave them the opportunity, to watch through it.  

During the activities we had the opportunity to interact with the moms and their children. Some were more relaxed and outgoing than others. To my surprise some were as I old as I am and already had kid. It put me in a state of shock knowing I could never take over that responsibility of raising a child at this age. Knowing that they have a hard life and are sensitive to specific subjects, for instance the relationship to the dad I had to be cautious about what I want to ask. Therefore, it was hard to start a conversation because one didn’t want to invade their privacy and make them feel uncomfortable. Nonetheless, seeing the smiles on the mother’s faces was profound feeling of happiness since we were able to fill their day with joy and less stress. As someone who has a cousin who was a teen mom it’s reminds one of the hard challenges and the difficulties the mothers have to face on a daily basis. After handing out the food parcels, the taxi arrived for the mothers but there wasn’t enough space for all of them. So, we waited till the taxi dropped off the first lot and returned back to the restaurant to pick up the other ones. Afterwards we drove through the townships where the mothers lived in. Sophie, the founder of Flourish, then shared the information with us that that week 6 rapes had being reported at the police station which impacted most of us girls emotionally. Furthermore, the hard reality hit that everywhere plastic, and rubbish was laying around since there is no strict recycling policy. The smell was nearly unbearable and everywhere dogs were either laying or walking on the road. It was shocking to see the real damages the floods had done to the shacks by nearly wiping them out in September and October of 2023. One night we had diner with everybody who takes part in the organization. One of the helpers from Flourish who used to take part in the program had joined, it was interesting to hear about her experience and how it helped her mentally to cope as a young mother. She said:,, Being a young mother having support from a man(dad) is important but they don’t always understand you so you need the feminine support who gets you and what you are going through.– Bronwin 

The day we went to meet the mothers, I was quite nervous because I couldn’t imagine what will happen or how we should act. Fear was also part of my feelings, i didn’t know how to act, what can I ask, what would be inappropriate, what not. So in the beginning the atmosphere was a bit vulnerable and we all tiptoed around but with time, we and the mothers became more comfortable, the activities definitly helpt with that. With the activities we came closer with the mothers and slowly, we also knew what to ask and what not, example questions about family was not something we asked because we never knew what the answer is going to be. So I asked more questions about their school life, if they enjoyed it what was their favorite subjects, one mother said it was history because she enjoyed that she coud write so much to questions and also how a lot of things were connected. Some mothers didn’t talk as much one of the more young mothers didn’t speak a lot what was shoking she was around my age, If I imagine that I had a child now, I don’t now how I would act, I am absolutly not ready for somthing as a child because to some point Imyself still am one. Sometimes the mothers were not alone but accompanied by aunt’s or grandmothers, speaking with those was a bit more easier because you could just simply ask about their grandchildren and about their life due to their age they could talk quite a lot about it. Day as whole was very emotional, also later as we visited the townships, it was emotional because we saw under what conditions the mothers lived an also their children. I am very happy that I could experience this, talk with the mothers and see that people my age experience life in different countries different and are in different life stages.  – Mathilda

During our diner in Franschoek, we talked a lot with the young mothers. I enjoyed talking to them because they were very open. They asked also a lot of questions about Luxembourg and they were shocked that in Luxembourg it is relatively safe to walk alone at night as a girl. Than one of the mothers said that her sister was coming from a party at night and she got robbed. They also wanted to know how Luxembourg is, they were very interested. We said that it is a very international country like South Africa. They didn’t expect that. One mother said that she went to school and she learned Afrikaans and English and knows a little bit of Xhosa. She said that the two languages are very similar. We said that in our school, we have nine classes per grade and they were very surprised about that because their school was very small. There are around two classes per grade. On the way to Villiersdrop, I was very shocked about the fact that six rapes are officially reported by the police. The activities helped as to get closer with the mothers and the experience with them was very catching and emotional. A lot of them have a very difficult life and I could never raise a child a this age. They do a great work and are very brave. I got very inspired by their joy of life because they have a much more difficult live than me. Their children also look very happy. It made me very happy to see that the mothers felt comfortable when we washed their hands. It was like a time out for them to relax. I also got very emotional when I heard about their experiences and stories. It was a very good experience and it was a lot of fun. – Nathalie

We left our accommodation in Tsitsikamma and drove quite long till we finally arrived in a Wildlife Reserve where we went for a Safari. There we first saw elephants which where rescue elephants additionally we also saw an ostrich and the guide told us that they are quite dumb because they forget that its being chased and then we predators catch them even though ostriches are extremely fast. Their brain is smaller that their eyes. The guide told us that ostriches are becoming fewer and fewer and are threatened with extinction. We learned many interesting facts about the animals like for instance hippos don’t know how to swim or that humans and these so-called poachers are the main cause of the endangerment of many animals. Moreover we saw lions that were rescued by the game reserve. We saw the safari was the highlight of our trip because for a lot of us, it was the first safari. 

In a nutshell, Flourish aims to help young mothers who find themselves in a fragile situation and guides them through the whole process of the beginning of motherhood. As a group of three young girls we learned the to be more appreciative of the access to education and medical help in Luxembourg and realised that the needs of the mothers are more urgent than the media makes it seem. 

STEAMY - mobile science trailer sponsored by A-AH

The STEAM-Y Science Trailer sparks the interest in science in young people. STEAM-Y is short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics for Youth. A majority of South African schools do not teach natural sciences, or they do not have the appropriate material. As a result, only few students decide to follow scientific studies after graduation. The trailer is equipped with many books on the biodiversity of the Fynbos. We used the STEAM-Y on our activity with FLOURISH. Together with the mothers we discovered the human body and showed them the power of magnification using binoculars and microscopes.

In my opinion, the project offers a very interesting opportunity to young people from poor and developing backgrounds. Indeed, many young people no longer attend school for various reasons. Many of them are less educated because of the lack of motivation due to the «school holiday» imposed by the covid pandemic. The fact that workshops are built in such a way that the direct and active participation of young people plays a key role, motivates them more easily to take an interest in science or the arts, fields that are not dealt with in class. Since the activities can be adapted to the age group and their interests, we really have the opportunity to guide young people in the right direction for their future. This project is, in my opinion, a springboard for young people to go back to school, to follow vocational training or simply to be interested in their environment and nature. What struck me when we organised the STEAMY activity for young mothers, the partner project Flourish, was the fact that many young mothers never had the opportunity to look through binoculars. When they are shown how to manipulate them, their eyes begin to shine with joy as they look at the picturesque landscape of the area around Franschhoek. In addition, we explored together with mothers, the physiology of the human body. As a matter of fact, this made me very happy, since I was able to transfer my knowledge acquired in biology. As the groups of participants are relatively small (+/-30 people), apprehensions between participants quickly disappeared and open discussions, beyond the scope of the project, often took place. – Jeanne

Our experience with the STEAM-Y was such that we took the van to mothers in order to have a discussion around the human body and our respective knowledge on the subject. The STEAM-Y is a pickup truck that is equal to a kind of Alladin’s den for everything that is biological
material that can be used in nature. Binoculars, microscopes, a computer, globes, books and many other things. During our activity with the mothers, we used the skeleton and a bust in which the organs are detachable to explain human digestion. Our exchange with the mothers was about human anatomy and digestion. We tried to pass on our knowledge to the mothers, who often had to stop school prematurely. We did our best to create a discussion, they asked us questions and we answered as best we could. This created an atmosphere of conviviality during the 20 minutes we spent with each of them in smaller groups. My personal feeling during our time with mothers was initially a feeling of intimidation, but then astonishment and gratitude. I felt intimidated because I didn’t want to look like a know-it-all or as if I was looking down on them with the knowledge we had. I didn’t want the activity to turn into a lecture or a lesson. The surprise that followed is due to their attention and interest they had in the subject. They listened to us, but they also asked us questions on the subject or even questions that intrigued them. We were doing our best to answer the questions. And my initial apprehension arose. The moment spent with them will forever be a memory that I cherish, being and living in the moment was something that I had forgotten over time. But this encounter made me realise just how important it is. – Judicaëlle-Lan

The activity with the STEAM-Y trailer is one of my favourite memories. I have always been interested in natural sciences and fortunately the education system in Luxembourg allowed me to pursue my interests. Therefore it is upsetting to realize that not everyone has the same opportunities. Especially young children should be supported during their time of coming of age. I got to meet very kind mothers of all ages and discovered the human body together. We decided to explain the process of digestion, because the topic concerns everyone and nutrition has a big influence on overall well-being. I noticed that some mothers recognized the organs and they were proud to share their knowledge, which made me very happy. The workshop on the binoculars helps discovering the beautiful landscapes, fauna and flora of South Africa. It was fascinating to help someone see the world from a different perspective. I can only imagine how many students have been educated by the trailer. I hope the STEAM-Y will reach even more people in the future and inspire them for the incredible variety of natural sciences. – Luca

Although we had visited the majority of the projects and could put into practice our knowledge acquired during our preparation for school, we took advantage of the diversity of the surroundings to visit some tourist sites. During our Gardenroute roadtrip we visited the Cango Caves, caves with impressive rock formations. These caves were discovered by shepherds in the 18th century. In addition, we spent a night in the De Hoop Nature Reserve which is part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage. At night, we were able to admire the stars of the southern hemisphere, totally different from those of the northern hemisphere. In that reserve we came in close contact with emus, springbok and even zebras as they can wander freely in that space. Through a maritime walk, we discovered the exceptional and unique marine fauna and flora of South Africa. We were lucky enough to see starfish and octopus, as well as other coastal fish. In the afternoon, we visited Cape Agulhas, which is the southernmost point of the African continent. At this point, the Atlantic and the Indian overlap. When visiting Agulhas, we again realised the distance between Luxembourg and South Africa. However, once again, it is not the distance that prevents us from doing good to others. After a short stay in Franschhoek, we headed back to Cape Town. A visit to Table Mountain was a must. However, dominated by its neighbourhoods (e.g. Bo-Kaap) and picturesque beaches and its breathtaking views, Cape Town faces major social inequalities between affluent neighbourhoods and informal settlements, agglomerated around the metropolis.

Alternative education is possible in South Africa thanks to the STEAM-Y mobile trainer. The various activities allow young people to get insight into different fields of natural sciences. Most of them have never used tools such as binoculars or microscopes. Therefore it was even more heartwarming to see the happiness glow in their eyes when they learned to look at their environment from a different perspective. The discovery of the human body also caught their attention and the youngsters learned important lessons for life. This innovative project is possible thank to the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve which is financially supported by our NGO Athénée Action Humanitaire. On a more personal level, the trip allowed us to broaden our horizon. All our experiences enriched our knowledge and the people we met taught us important lessons. However, the education was reciprocal as we also had the opportunity to teach others. During our outing with the ECD, the day we spent with the mothers from Flourish and the visit of the CCC facility everyone benefited from the cultural and educational exchange. All in all, the trip was highly educational and these memories will last