So far, I’ve been at Samara for a week and a half, and this is my first time on this continent. From my first day, I’ve been swept up in the activities, starting with an Easter party for some kids from Vuyani Safe Haven. It was incredible to see the smiles on their faces when they found the hidden chocolate bunnies. For most of these kids, it was their first time leaving the town of Graaff-Reinet. Several of them have foetal alcohol syndrome and others have been abused in their homes. Vuyani takes in these children to keep the safe while their parents get back on their feet. It is a fantastic project and makes a big difference in the lives of the kids there.
Helping the community isn’t all we’ve done since I’ve been here. We’ve planted Spekboom in erosion areas to stop the soil from being washed away in the rains and we’ve done a bird survey to see what species live on the reserve. We’ve fed Sibella, the cheetah, gotten up close to an aardvark, and unexpectedly had a porcupine come into our kitchen.
One of the best moments was when we climbed up one of the mountains on the reserve, following game paths and climbing up rocks. It was one of the most demanding hikes I’ve done, but also one of the most rewarding. Once we reached the top, we could see over the whole valley and most of the reserve; it was absolutely stunning. The hike down was as much of a struggle as the hike up, slipping and stumbling our way down the slopes, we finally reached the vehicle as the sun began to set. It was a great experience, but it became less great when we found out that the water pump was broken and we wouldn’t be able to shower.
Going three days without running water (after 2 days with intermittent power and constant rain) was not something I hope to experience again anytime soon, but we got through it and it really wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Cleaning piles of dishes with rain water and driving halfway across the reserve after a sweaty morning run to take showers and getting drinking water is no problem with a little music and a positive attitude.
Since the moment I landed at the airport in Port Elizabeth, I’ve been amazed by the beauty of this country and the wildlife here. From cattle on the side of city streets and buffalos in the volunteer camp to the most incredible sunsets and the wind in my hair as we drive down the main road, there is not one thing I haven’t enjoyed while being here. I can’t help but smile when I think that I’m really here and it’s everything I hoped it would be. I’m so happy here and I’m excited to see what the next two and a half weeks have in store.
Seraina, 19 ~ Samara Volunteer