My Year of Service

By Kamogelo Masoko

While a lot of people have been living an ordinary life, as ordinary citizens, I have been living an extraordinary life. I have been blessed with the honour and privilege of serving my people, communities, and my world as a whole. In February 2013 my journey as a City Year Service Leader began, and after my training was completed, my teammates and myself were assigned to Somelulwazi Primary School, in Freedom Park, Soweto.

Since joining City Year, my life has changed tremendously. I walk to and from Somelulwazi Primary every day, rain or shine, as taxis, cars, buses, bicycles and motorbikes furiously pass me with amazement and amusement. My teammate Zanele joins me on these walks, and both of us get a chance to demonstrate the City Year founding story of Moccasins, which is adapted from a Cherokee prayer, and goes as follows: “Oh great spirit, grant that I may never criticize my brother or sister until I have walked the trail of life in their moccasins.” Zanele and I put ourselves in our fellow South African’s shoes as they go about their daily commutes, walking and traveling through hardships and happiness.

My role at Somelulwazi Primary, is to facilitate English lessons with grade 7 learners during our after-school programme, which we call the City Year Children’s Club. I also spend time with the learners during the school day to provide them with one-on-one support. The kids that I work with are an inspiring reason for me to serve in Freedom Park. I love the three days a week that I get to serve my community and country, and spend quality time with children of Somelulwazi. As well as tutoring and mentoring the kids, I also help with preparing and serving food for their lunch. My team also spends time working at Freedom Day Care, which takes care of smaller kids. We wash dishes, help with cleaning and prepare and serve them food.

The City Year team serving at Somelulwazi Primary provides hundreds of children with a reason to smile, and gives them an extra incentive to come to school every day. Even though primary school kids are sometimes challenging to work with, I can always see potential in them. They face vast difficulties, and the way that I see it, I can play a part in helping them overcome those difficulties so that they can be successful and happy. After all, it is what we do, not what we say, that ties our humanity to one another. Freedom Park may be my first assignment as a change-maker, but it will most definitely not be my last.

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Going Above and Beyond

By Titus Macuacua & Victor Maseko, 2012 Service Leaders

A particular young boy in our after school programme at Lawley Primary, loves City Year and always tells his mother, who works at the school, about the activities he does with us. One day his mother, Mrs. Kgosana, came up to us at lunch and said, “Just know that we as parents and the community are really grateful for what City Year is doing for our children. My son who is in grade 6 cannot close his mouth about how good and helpful you are to him.”  She then kindly asked why City Year is not in high schools and we replied, laughing, that the answer to that question was above our pay grade. Mrs. Kgosana started telling us about Nomathemba, her 16 year old daughter in grade 10, who was failing maths. She asked us, “How can you help me to help my child out of this misery?” We said that we would think about it and talk it through with our Site Leader Alexi, to see if there was anything we could do to assist.

The next day as we were about to wrap up, we heard a knock at the door and saw Mrs. Kgosana standing there with her daughter at her side. She said, “I am leaving her with City Year. See what you can do.” We were shocked and confused.  We had not said yes, or even had the chance to speak to Alexi! But, we decided on the spot that we were going to help this girl, even if it meant staying behind every day after our work with City Year was complete. We decided to initiate our own programme, which would run immediately after the City Year Children’s Club, between 4:30pm and 6pm. Without wasting any time we started tutoring the young girl the same day that her mother brought her to us.

First we motivated her, and made sure that she started off with a positive mindset. Then we started with the basics. As time went by we watched her progress. She came to us for help with her own sums that she was working on at home, and also the ones that she got at school. Nomathemba stayed motivated and slowly started to love maths. We continued working with her for about 5 weeks, until she could no longer attend because her school had started their own after-school programme. When she left, we asked each other whether we had made any difference in her life.

Shortly after we stopped working with Noma, while helping in the schools kitchen, Mrs. Kgosana told us about how disappointed she was that her daughter could no longer attend our classes.  But she smiled at us and said “For the first time bafana bami bengiqala ukubona uSbongile ezimisele ngomsebenzi wakhe wesikole kakhulu ngezibhalo” which means “For the first time in my life, I have seen my daughter practicing maths and taking her school work seriously”. We smiled and both said, “WE HAVE MADE A DIFFERENCE.” We managed to change Noma’s attitude towards learning, as well as her negative mindset towards maths, and we have given her mother new hope that her daughter will make it.

 

I Gave A Year And Was Rewarded With Hugs

By Faith Marira

I am proud to say that I spent a year serving at Tshebedisanong Primary School, in Central Western Jabavu. I joined City Year South Africa to give back to my community, because I am passionate about community development and helping children.

For most people Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s are ordinary days, but for me those are the days I spend serving at Tshebedisanong. City Year taught us at the beginning of the year that we can make a difference, even if it is only to one person. In our case making a difference meant helping children with their homework, smiling at them, playing with them and being role models.

A young girl in my grade 6 class never misses the City Year Children’s Club, because she says she loves having fun with the Service Leaders, as well as reading. Ever since she joined the City Year after-school programme she is at the top of her class, and dreams to be a social worker when she finishes school. “City Year is the best” she says. “I love my facilitators, sister Faith, brother Earl and brother Sandile. They always help us with our school work”

Sibongile brings joy into my heart. Every time she sees me before class begins, she runs up to me and HUGS me. Month after month has passed and every time I see her, she runs up to me and gives me the biggest hug she can. I’m touched by her love. All I’m doing is helping these kids with their school work, and Sibongile has given me something I never expected, a warm and genuine greeting every time she sees me.

I learned this year, that it is the little things that change our lives. City Year South Africa taught me about the ripple effect, and Sibongile showed me the ripple effect – the true spirit of Ubuntu. I’m grateful to City Year for giving me the opportunity to have met the children from Tshebedisanong. Children like Sibongile. I gave a year and I got a million hugs. Something that I never thought could happen to me.

Nkosinathi’s Story

Nathi and Menzi at Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School

My name is Nkosinathi Ndlovu. I am 21 years old, from Jabulani, Soweto, and I serve at Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School in Pimville, Soweto.

My service journey began in 2011 when I was still in college studying Business Administration. I was the Student Representative Council president and would assist management with campus projects. When I was not on campus over weekends, I would just sit around the house and do nothing constructive.

A friend of mine, whose name was Phumlani Mkhize, was a City Year Service Leader. He was an idealist who always encouraged me to help and give back to our community, but I was very cynical and uninterested at first. Eventually he convinced me to spend a day serving with him at Siyavuma Primary School, which is near to where we live. As we entered the school gates the security welcomed Phumlani, and the first thing I noticed was the laughter and joy on the kid’s faces when they saw him. I watched him facilitate and play games with the children, and I joined in on the action.

On our way home Phumlani started telling me about City Year and some of the
things he did during his year of service. I was so interested and intrigued by the whole concept, especially after what I had just experienced at the school, that I decided to apply to become a Service Leader. Once I had submitted my application, I was called in for an interview and shortly thereafter was accepted into the programme.

My first day in the community of Pimville was nerve wracking. We had no idea what to expect as a team, but the staff at Winnie Ngwekazi were very welcoming and soon enough we managed to adapt to the different dynamics and conditions of the school and community.

I started working with grade 5 learners in our City Year Children’s Club (CYCC), which is an after-school programme where we assist kids with their homework, reading and math’s. I absolutely loved working with the kids and I formed a special bond with a young boy named Menzi Ngubane. He was very brilliant and energetic, but lacked self esteem and rarely participated in any of the activities we had planned. Each and every day I would spend 10 to 15 minutes of our programme encouraging Menzi, but his behaviour remained the same, and I started to feel that there was no hope of changing his outlook. I continued motivating him every day, even though I felt discouraged, and then gradually I noticed his condition becoming better and better. Suddenly it struck me that he had been listening to me all along! Now Menzi is actively engaged in all the CYCC activities and his self-esteem has visibly improved.

Recently I gave my kids an assignment to write about who they want to be when they grow up. On the day of submission I looked at Menzi’s assignment and he had drawn a picture of a City Year Service Leader with the title: “My role model Nkosinathi Ndlovu”.

I’d give 10 more years to serving my city, just to be a hero to someone 10 more times.

The Story of Xolisile

By Rejoice Baloyi

“My name is Rejoice “City Year” Baloyi, the daughter of Putting Idealism to Work. I am 21 years old with a positive attitude and I am full of determination. I demonstrate Spirit, Discipline, Purpose and Pride.” This is how I prefer to introduce myself while I am serving at City Year. I committed this year to service because I believe that I am a change-maker.

I have a story about a young, humble and respectful girl called Xolisile, who is a learner at Lawley Primary School, where I am currently serving. Xolisile’s class has one of the lowest pass rates in mathematics and English, so at the beginning of the year, I made it my mission and goal to help them improve as much as possible. I noticed from the beginning that Xolisile had loads of potential, but needed a little bit of help. After attending the City Year Children’s club (After-school Programme), learners including Xolisile showed a significant improvement in their marks, with over 70% of them passing the tests that were prepared for them by their teachers.

One particular day I was excited, and looking forward to seeing the learners. I rushed to class, did some icebreakers and then began with the lesson that I had prepared. While I was busy interacting with the kids, I realized that Xolisile wasn’t in class. I asked her peers where she was, and they informed me that she was in hospital. Hearing that was a huge shock. I spoke to Xolisile’s class teacher, who told me that Xolisile was having heart problems. The first thing that crossed my mind after the teacher briefed me on Xolisile’s condition was whether she was going to make it. It felt like I was having a bad dream and that at any moment someone was going to wake me up.

A week passed and I learned that the operation to repair Xolisile’s heart went well. I was so relieved to hear that! Three weeks after the operation, she was back in class and I was extremely excited to see her. Seeing her smile again was overwhelming. Unfortunately now she was struggling a lot more than she was before she had the operation. Her concentration level was very poor, and I noticed that she wanted to give up, but I couldn’t let that happen! I paid extra attention to her, and constantly motivated her, simply because I sincerely believe that she has unlimited potential within herself.

Hard working Xolisile is now on par with her peers in mathematics and English, and I am happy to say that I have made a difference, not only to her, but also to most of the learners in my class. Thanks to City Year for giving me the chance to spread my wings. I am now one of the young change-makers in South Africa and the world!

Making a Difference at Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School

By Wayne Tsotetsi

The first day that we spent in our school, got me feeling both anxious and excited. I couldn’t wait to see Winnie Ngwekazi and its learners for the first time!
The principal made it very clear from the start that we had to give her good results when working with her learners and the school. This meant that we had to perform at our level best.
Our recruitment of learners for the City Year Children’s Club went well, and even though we didn’t get quite as many learners as we had hoped for (because of other after-school programmes running concurrently to ours), that didn’t keep us from working as hard as we had promised. Our team arrived early every day and assisted in the many tasks that had to be done at the school. We helped with look and feel and we ushered, swept and cleaned chairs when the school hosted parents meetings. We also helped with the feeding scheme, relieving some of the stress from teachers since they already had so much to do with so little time. The attitude of the principal and teachers quickly changed towards us. They began to communicate more with us and acknowledged how passionate, and creative we were when helping at the school. This also motivated us into doing more for the school. Today the teachers offer to help us instead of us helping them. Before the school embarks on any project they consult us, so that they can hear our views concerning what they what they want to achieve.
The effort that we put into the school helped build our relationships with the staff and today we work together to achieve one goal.

Introducing the 2012 Corps

This awesome video, which was shown at the recent National Leadership Summit in Washington, DC gives a sneak peak into the first few weeks of the 2012 City Year South Africa corps.