It is almost time for me to go home, which means I have been a volunteer at iThemba Projects for about four months. My biggest fear these days relates to trying to answer the question, “Anna, did you make a difference?”
I left my home, my family, my boyfriend, my friends, and my country to go to a place where I didn’t know anyone and had never been before. As I packed up and traveled all the way from Denmark, I had one goal: I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t know for whom, and didn’t really know how, but I wanted to make some kind of difference. I just finished High school in Denmark, and remember sitting with some of my friends talking about the following year. Almost everyone wanted to travel, and we were excited about experiencing the world after many years of school. The others wanted to go back-packing and to see a lot of different countries – the more the better. When I told them I wanted to stay one place to get “under the skin of a culture” and make a change, a lot of them thought it was a bit naïve. But I stuck to my plan and went to South Africa with the hope of making a change. So have I made a difference?
Only time will tell if I made a lasting difference, and certainly I wasn’t a part of any huge changes. Even though four months sounded long to my friends, in the big picture, it is just a short time. But here are some things that give me hope that in this short time I have made some kind of difference:
- When I come to the schools every week to teach, and see the smiles on the children’s faces.
- When I talk to the teacher about next week’s lesson, and she replies “Thank you so much. I’m learning so much”.
- When the students at After-School-Art-Club stopped laughing at their art and started looking at it with pride.
- How the student’s eyes’ shined when I told them I would make an art-exhibition with their artwork.
- When I do warm-up-finger-gymnastic with the fourth grade students at Mountain Home, and they all ecstatically raise their hands to be chosen to lead the exercises.
- How they hug me when I leave.
- When the teacher at Nobanda excitedly tells me about an art course she went to but already knew a lot of the material because of our lesson planning/couching sessions together.
- And afterwards when she says “I’m actually starting to like teaching art.”
- When the teachers gave us a juice and snack break at St. Raphael’s crèche while we were painting a mural there.
- When I do all the hard work of my preparation with a smile and commitment.
- When I give Thulani ideas for crafts to do in his Life Group.
- When they call me Anna-Banana at the office – followed by a giggle.
Yes, when I reflect on all these little things I’ve been privileged to be a part of, I believe maybe God has used me to make a difference .
We’ll miss you Anna! Thank you for serving with us with thoughtfulness, cheerfulness, and SO much creativity and love!!