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.