RSIS - South Africa 2016 Blog

Update Fifteenth: 9th August

That’s all folks

It's been an amazing two weeks in beautiful South Africa, but today is departures day. Students will be leaving throughout the day and some are already en route home. We wish everyone safe and pleasant journeys home.

Student Blog Update: Friday 5th August

"We woke up with excitement as we were going to the Eco training. We ate pancakes for breakfast and then headed off. Our first stop was in a town called, Graskop where there was lots of souvenir shopping and some of us ended up spending too much money.

Our next stop at a beautiful waterfall and then the world’s third largest canyon called, Blyde River Canyon. It was so pretty. We did some more shopping there and then continued on the road to Eco training.

On the way we saw a monkey cross the road which was crazy. Once we arrived we hopped onto some Jurassic Park style vehicles and headed off on our first safari. We ended up at the camp and all of us were surprised to find out that we were truly 'glamping'. We slept in massive tents which each had two single beds in it with blankets all made up. It was so nice. We were fed lunch which was so amazing and then we split up into groups.

Group one consisted of Maddy, Emily, Kathi, Pratul, Kristen, Juan and Shelia and group two was Saryan, Roberta, Himanya, Gurupkaar, Tam, Chris, and Ash. Group one went on a walk through the bush and group two headed off on the vehicle on a safari. Group one saw four giraffes while group two saw some deer, impala, hippo, a couple crocks, water bucks, zebra, bison and a bunny.

We got back to the camp after sunset for dinner which was also amazing and then we all went to sleep." - Saryan and Pratul.

Student Blog Update: Saturday 6th August

"Today was our second day at Eco Training, and we woke up at 5:30 in order to get an early start on some rehabilitation work on the reserve. We drank tea and got into the cars and headed out. The ride was super cold because of all the wind. On the way, the groups saw rhinos, giraffes, and plenty of impalas. There was already another group of students at the site when we got there, and we worked with them to spread manure and rehabilitate the land.

After finishing, we headed back to our camp and ate breakfast. We then split into two groups and did different bush activities. One group went out on foot and looked at animal tracks and scat, and the other went out in the car and learned different bush survival techniques.

After returning, we ate lunch and began to prepare for our camp out. We left at 4:00 PM for the campsite, which was a large, flat, rock, and laid everything out when we got there. We collected wood and worked to start a campfire. We ate dinner as the sun was setting and began to settle in for the night. We really enjoyed looking at the sky and saw so many shooting stars as we fell asleep." - Kristen and Himanya

Student Blog Update: Sunday 7th August

"Today we woke up at 5:30 am in the rocks and watched the sunrise. After breakfast we headed to a “game drive” (Safari) trying to track animals in the middle of the bush, while the other group walked back to camp. We were fortunate enough to see lots of giraffes, impalas, and buffalos. Unfortunately, we were not able to see lions, since they sleep 21 hours a day and are only awake for around 3 or 4 hours.

Our game drive lasted for about 4 hours, and it was an amazing opportunity to learn more about animal tracks and the wild life, since the EcoTraining program focus not only on finding animals but also teaching about animals’ lives and preservation. At 11am we had our breakfast, which was delicious. The ladies who cook our meals are always happy to talk to us and are always willing to give us information about African traditions.

After breakfast we switched with the other group and went for a “bush craft activity” where we learned survival skills and had the chance to learn more about the land itself. While we went for the bush craft activity, the other group went for an animal track walk. At 3pm we had lunch, toasted sandwiches, muffins and salad. We then had the chance to rest for 30 minutes, before our hike into the bush. One group went for the hike, while the other group went on a 4 hour drive to the northern part of the reserve to try to find lions. Instead of lions the group saw giraffes, impalas, zebras, buffalos and a wildebeest.

We had dinner around 7pm and started a bonfire, where we had conversations about our experience during the weekend. It was a great opportunity to get together as a group and share our experiences and opinions. When the fire went out, most of the students headed back to their tents, while a few of the boys (Juan, Christopher, Himanya and Pratul) decided to sleep outside." - Juan, Saryan, Kristen and Kathi

Student Blog Update: Monday 8th August

"Today was our last day at EcoTraining. We got up at 5:30 am like usual to go on our last safari ride, which unfortunately had to be shorter than usual. Both groups headed out and tried to see some game (animals) before we all had to leave at 10 am. In total today, we saw rhino, impala, giraffe’s and a kudu. One group ended up seeing big leopard prints but unfortunately they ended up not seeing it. After the safari we headed back to camp to finish up packing all our gear. We met up with TK (our driver) and headed out to a famous restaurant called “Harries Pancake’s” and the pancakes were so delicious that everybody had to have seconds and later we did some shopping for souvenirs.

After we were stuffed with the delicious food, we then headed back to the lodge and everybody headed to the pool either to swim or just hang out. Some others started packing since we are all leaving tomorrow, and some are leaving very early in the morning. We then had an amazing last dinner at the lodge, which was a great way to end the trip. After dinner we spend the night talking and hanging out, trying to make the best of our last night together.

We all had an amazing trip here in South Africa and will remember this forever. We will all miss each other very much but we will try to keep in touch. The memories that have been made here in the beautiful country will never be forgotten and we all hope to return here to South Africa soon. Thank you all the parents and friends who have kept up with the blog and for supporting us on our big adventure.

See you all very soon," - Maddy, Gurupkaar, Emily, Roberta, Kathi, Saryan, Himanya, Pratul, Juan, Kristen and Tam

Update Fourteen: 5th August

Team Ndlovu's time on the project site at Entokozweni School has come to an end. It was a highly emotional day as the team said their goodbyes to everyone on the project site and the end of the build was celebrated with lots of singing and dancing.

The team are now en route to their next adventure: camping in Karongwe Game Reserve as part of their Eco Training. The will be accompanied by qualified and experienced guides who will cover a range of topics with you such as:

  • Common trees;
  • Animal tracks and tracking;
  • Bird identification;
  • Animal behaviour;
  • Astronomy (there is a telescope at camp);
  • Orientation and navigation; and
  • Bush skills.

Student Blog Update: Tuesday 2nd August

"Hi everyone,

Today is another workday for us. As usual, we started heading to the worksite at about 7am. We mixed cement, laid bricks and plastered the wall. We are making great progress, finishing off the last wall. At about 11 am, Roberta and Kathi went to Elephant Whisper, so we were down by 2 people. After lunch, a group of four went to the orphanage. They played soccer and talked to the kids, whose names, Gift, Surprise, Innocence, amazed them. Although the kids are all in very difficult situations, they seem to be very happy and content with the lives they are living. During this time there were only five people left at the worksite so they worked really hard and made sure we would finish the classroom on time. At the end of the day, we had finished all the bricks we had. It was great to see how fast we worked.

In the evening, we had a debrief where each of us shared our most challenging and enjoyable moments of the day. We shared a lot of laughter when hearing others’ thoughts. Since tomorrow is voting day for South Africans, we will be taking a break from the worksite and going on a hike up Lion’s Head rock instead. For most big activities we do, we complete a risk assessment for it so we are aware of the possible risks of the activity, so tonight we spent 20 minutes completing the risk assessment for the hike tomorrow. Everyone is excited yet worried for the hiking to the Lion’s Head.

Good night everyone!!" - Tam & Juan

Student Blog Update: Wednesday 3rd August

"Today we got up at 6:30 am to get a good early start to our day. Since today was voting day in the township we are staying in, we had a well needed break from the project.

We decided to go hiking up to the top of Lion’s Head Mountain. This hike was a bit challenging for the group because it was all uphill to the top and most of us weren’t in the best shape. We made sure to have a steady pace by having the weaker hikers lead us to the top. To reach the top we had to go hike up rocks which we found a bit difficult but once we reached the top and saw the view, we soon realized all the challenges we faced were worth it.

Once we came back to the lodge, some people decided to go swimming since the sun was shining and the pool was still cold, but a little warmer than usual. Today we had a pizza lunch at the lodge which was delicious and rewarding after our hike. Then we spent a little time hanging out and just relaxing.

At 2:00 pm we headed over to Mother Esther’s Safe Haven, which is an orphanage located in White River. This orphanage has over 70 kids living there which shocked us. While we were there we played soccer, frisbee and one student played the ukulele for the kids others were face painting and yet another group helping to line their net ball court. This was an amazing experience to see the orphanage and meeting the lovely woman who runs it. It was also great to see how happy these kids were even though they had so little.

We were really sad to leave but we knew that at least for the small amount of time we were there our presence made a difference in their day and they in ours. Once we got back to the lodge we just chilled out while others took showers.

For dinner we had a barbeque (chicken, steak, sausage as well as homemade bread!) so we sat outside on the picnic tables eating, talking and laughing. After a great dinner we had the pleasure of having a drum session. Each of us sat around the fire playing the drums and having a good time. Although it was fun, the smoke from the fire got in a lot of our eyes which was distracting while playing the drums. Later we headed to bed because we have an early start to our last day at the project. Talk to you later," - Maddy & Gurupkaar

In loving memory of Round Square Student Rachit Grover

Rachit Grover, a student from Vivek High School tragically died in April 2016 in his home country of India as a result of injuries sustained in a road accident. Rachit had registered to take part in the RSIS South Africa project as part of Team Ndlovu as he wanted to “do something for society” and was keen to work very hard with “endurance and commitment”.

Rachit made it well known that should anything ever happen to him that he wanted to help others through organ donation. Five people have been helped.  

Round Square, Entokozweni School and everyone involved in this special RSIS Project are proud to dedicate this new classroom in Rachit’s memory.

Student Blog Update: Thursday 4th August

"Hey friends and families,

Today was our last day at the worksite, thus it was hard to not only say goodbye to the kids from the school we were working at, but also to our co-workers and the place itself. We did plastering until our first break while also laying the last few rows of bricks in order to complete the last wall. During our break we were able to spend our last recess with the kids, playing games, singing songs and learning dances. Plenty of photos were taken, none of the kids were camera shy! After the break the kids prepared a farewell ceremony, in which some of them were performing either dancing or singing to show their thanks to us and even though the kids were restless it was good fun to see them all singing along to about 10 very different songs.

Sheila (our leader) surprised us all when she asked if we could all come up and say our own little thank you, our names and where we were from. It was nerve racking but once again got us to step outside our comfort zone and it was great that we had the opportunity to thank all the student and teachers for letting us be a part of their school for a couple of weeks.

In the afternoon a few were allowed to visit the orphanage that is around the corner from the school. They had lot of fun playing soccer and Frisbee. It was also an eye opening experience to see how the boys lived their lives.

As the day rolled by the group came back and the last bricks were laid on the wall. Finally, the entire classroom had been finished. After some celebratory dancing we started the clean-up and wrapped up for the day. We took lots of photos in front of our work and with our builders who we also gave each a small pack of items for their children. We also had the heart breaking job of putting up the plaque in honor of Rachit who sadly couldn’t be a part of our team due to a tragic accident, but we know that his positive spirit will continue in all those who learn in the classroom we built.

After showers and a fish and potato dinner we started packing for eco-training tomorrow! We are all super excited. Goodnight everyone!! xxx" - Kathi, Roberta and Emily

Update thirteen

Student Blog Update: Monday 1st August

"Hello everyone, today was our first day back at the project after having a day off. We woke up at 6:00am and had breakfast. After breakfast we made our way to the worksite. Sadly, today our six group leaders and Emma had to leave as it was the end of the leadership program. Though we only knew them for a week, it was really hard for us to say goodbye and there were tears shed. Still the team members worked really hard and almost finished the last wall there is and all of this at record speed (though it rained at the worksite today).

After our last lunch with the leaders, four members of the team went to an orphanage that was down the road from the site. They played soccer with the kids and left some donations. We then finished up for today and went to a corner store for a quick snack and then took a stop at a spot on the roadside on the way back to the lodge for a couple of snaps.

Back at the lodge we were debriefed by the team leaders (seniors) and then we had a movie night where we watched Invictus which everyone enjoyed, though many of us were too tired to stay awake through the whole thing.

We are looking forward to returning to the site tomorrow to continue working and hopefully finish in record time." - Kristen and Himanya

Update twelve: 1st August

It’s been a busy few days for Team Ndlovu who have been on the project site for five days now. Construction of classroom two has been going well and the team have been making great progress.

Travel Safe Leadership Students

Today also marks the last day in South Africa for Student Leadership Interns Hazel, Max, Danielle, Manav, Ayush and Maximilian who are now en-route home.

Student Blog update: Friday 29th July

"Today we woke up around 5:30 am in order to perform a song during assembly at school. After watching the sunrise, we made our way to the work site. When we got there, the kids and their principal welcomed us by singing us a song, in return we performed “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.

We continued working on yesterday’s wall around the windows as well as the second wall (also started yesterday). At 11:30 we joined the kids on their break and played more soccer and other games with them. Soon enough we were lucky enough to have Liz Mackintosh deliver us donuts for lunch. Kathi and Roberta quickly learned how to lay bricks but everyone worked hard through the heat of the day. Climbing around scaffolding and laying the top few layers was proving to be very difficult but we were determined to get everything looking shmico. After an exhausting unloading of the brick truck we were very proud of our work especially after talking to David who said we had all done really well and in record breaking time.

On the way home we all participated in an activity called “Walking in another man’s shoes”, this meant a trip to the supermarket in order to buy supplies for a family worth the average monthly wage (200 rand) to help them get by for the next month. However, during this expedition the supermarkets electricity cut out and we were all left in the dark. After meeting out the front it was decided that the activity would be postponed until tomorrow.

Back at the lodge we had a delicious dinner of chicken wings followed by ice cream and more reflecting on the day’s events and preparing for tomorrow.

So now it’s time for an early night! Goodnight from Team Ndlovu"

PS: Have Birthday Dad!!! (Bryan)" – Saryan

Student blog update: Saturday 30th July

"Hello parents and friends! Today we got up at 6:30 am so we had time to get to the supermarket to finish out “Walking in another man’s shoes activity” that we were not able to complete yesterday. We went to the supermarket and bought all the food and items for the family then immediately after went to the worksite to start today's work.

Today we worked on laying bricks on the second wall as well as plastering the last wall on the other classroom built by the first Round Square team. Since scaffolding was necessary to complete the second wall, work went a bit slower today. We took a break for lunch where Liz had brought a chocolate cake for us which everyone enjoyed followed by wrapping up the work for today. Since today was Saturday, the kids were not in school which made the site quiet for us which was unusual. Today we had to leave the site early to deliver the food we bought for the family.

When we arrived at the family’s house we were surprised by the conditions that she and the people around her were living in. We gave her the food and presented her with blankets that were donated by a local church. It was really enlightening to see how much someone could impact another one’s life by a small gesture.

Tonight was exciting because a local choir joined us for dinner and later sang us songs. During dinner we got a chance to talk to them which was very fun. After dinner we got in a circle and listened to the songs that were performed by the choir. Their singing was followed by some solo songs that were sung by some of us followed by each of us singing our countries national anthem. Although it was a bit nerve-racking for us to sing in front of everyone, we all ended up having a great night full of laughter and dancing. It was a fun day and we are excited to sleep in tomorrow.

Talk to you later," - Maddy & Gurupkaar

Student blog update: 31st July

"Praise the lord! Hallelujah! We woke up to a late start today and a breakfast of pancakes and then we headed off to the church. There was a lot of energy and excitement happening in this church with all the celebrations, visiting choirs and us! It was an eye opening experience that allowed us to see into a special part of African culture. We all got up and danced several times throughout the service and near the end they had us all introduce ourselves. We were at church for about three hours and then after church we went to Chicken Dust. Chicken Dust is chicken that is grilled and coated in this really amazing sauce. Everyone really enjoyed the chicken and ordered extra along with slap chips (French fries) that were also drizzled with another tasty sauce.

Next we went to a Savuka dance class at one of the youth group community centers in the Townships that Netto started many years ago. None of us could really dance so, it was a little bit awkward but, it was still a lot of fun and inspiring to see the energy with which they performed and played the drums. We were only at the youth group for a little while and then we went back to the lodge for the rest of the day. At the lodge we played soccer and cricket. Some of us cried a lot because we were so sad that the leaders have to leave tomorrow. After dinner, we wrote letters for each of the leaders. Overall it was a nice and relaxing day." - <3 Saryan and Pratul

Update eleven: 29th July

Team Ndlovu have spent a successful first day on the project site at Entokozweni School. There is plenty of work to be done: construction on classroom two, planting up the new vegetable garden and working with the young students who attend the school - good luck team!

Student Blog Update: Thursday 29th July

"Today was pretty busy. We woke up at 6am, had breakfast, and went to the project site for the first time. Everyone was excited yet worried because most of us have never done construction work before. It took about 30 minutes to get to the school, and we saw a lot of kids walking to school. They were all smiling and waving as we passed by. We showed up to the project site at 7:30 am, and all the kids looked adorable. We started the work right away, mixing cement and laying bricks. Everyone took turns taking water breaks and playing with the kids. It was impressive to see how much work we got done in such a short amount of time. Everyone was giving their best and making sure everyone stayed on task.

Around 9:30am we went up to the soccer field and played with the kids during their recess. Honestly, playing with the kids was way more tiring than building the classroom. We played tag, netball, and soccer, which was by far the most popular sport amongst the kids. The little kids wanted to be carried so we gave them piggy back rides. After about half an hour, the kids headed back to class while we kept working on building the classroom.

At about 1:30pm, we had lunch, which was ramen for most of us. Immediately, we realized there were no forks so we had to eat the noodles by hand. At that point, we were all exhausted but we pushed through it and started our work again. We split the group into 3: one in the garden planting, one building the classroom and the other playing with the kids. We rotated our work to keep everyone productive.

We headed back to the lodge at 4:30pm. A few kids decided to swim while others took showers and hung out. We had dinner at 6pm and had a debrief about our achievements, what learned and what began thinking about next steps and goals for tomorrow. We also welcomed two new members of the team: Kathi and Roberta from Germany. So far, we are having a great time and cannot wait for the rest of the adventure." - Juan and Tam

Update ten: 28th July

Team Ndlovu have settled in well and had a once in a lifetime experience to exchange ‘trunk greetings’ with some of South Africa’s biggest and most gentle residents – the African Elephant.

The team visited Elephant Whispers in the Sandford Conservancy for a close encounter with one of six tamed and trained elephants who were rescued from planned game reserve culling operations by Elephants for Africa Forever (EFAF). As ambassadors for their species, this herd has an important conservation message to share.

The Team are now en route to the township for their first day of project work on Entokozweni School.

Student Blog: Wednesday 27th July

"Today was the first day for Team Ndlovu. We started the day with a presentation on South African culture by Liz Macintosh and township culture by Nitto, which was followed with some Zulu dance.

In the afternoon, we headed to Elephant Whispers, a trip that everyone was looking forward to. We saw a lot of African elephants and learned about their characteristics, habitat and declining population. It was an amazing experience to learn so much about the elephants, and it was disheartening to learn that they’re endangered and are poached for ivory. We touched the elephants and hugged them, which was really fun. We had a packed lunch from the lodge and then made our way back.

In the evening, while some played football (soccer) at the lodge, the others explored the property. After dinner, we played a few ice breaking games. We continued our briefing and got into risk assessment discussion for the next day, which is our first day at work.

Everyone is tired now, and we are heading to bed, so goodnight!" - Manav, Danielle, Tam, Juan, and Ayush

Update Nine: 26th July

Welcome Team Ndlovu

All team members who were scheduled to arrive today have now arrived safely in White River, South Africa after a few delays due to the weather. The final two students will arrive on Thursday to join the rest of the team.

Students have come from far and wide including America, Germany, India and Australia. Everyone is now resting back at the Lodge and getting to know each other. Students from Team Ndlovu were met by Student Leadership Interns Hazel, Max, Danielle, Manav, Ayush and Maximilian and they are helping the new arrivals to settle in. The Student Leadership Interns were members of Team Ngala who have stayed on in South Africa for an additional week to lead Team Ndlovu in their first week of project work.

Update Eight: 24th July

Totsiens Team Ngala!

Everyone who was scheduled to leave South Africa today has now departed. Leadership Students and Team Leaders now have a relaxing evening ahead of them and a morning of planning before Team Ndlovu arrive on the 26th of July.

Student Blog: Saturday 23rd July

"On Wednesday of this week, the team departed early to make our way to the Eco Training facility in the area of the Karong-we River. Our drive spanned almost six hours, but we were fortunate to stop at many site-seeing locations along the “panorama route” of the area.

Our first stop brought us to Mac Mac falls. The beautiful waterfall could be seen coming from the edge of a cliff. Thankfully, we were behind a fence to view the falls, and all that could have been lost would have been a dropped camera. We were glad to see that all people and things made it safely back to the busses!

Following our first stop, we took a scenic drive through the mountains, spotting all kinds of wildlife and livestock along the roadways. The curvy and winding roads took us up and up and up the mountain side. We arrived at a location named God’s Window. From where we stood, we saw nothing but trees around a parking lot. When we arrived some curious monkeys greeted us, luckily no one gave in and fed the monkeys, which is frowned upon in the park. We took a small hike up a mountain side and came upon a stunning. The locals call this view of the sprawling landscape God’s Window, because it stretches off into the distance with a thick haze over it, making it resemble looking through a window.

Our last and final tourist stop for the day was at the location of Three Ron Darvels, an amazing view from the edge of a cliff, overlooking the third largest canyon in the world. The water below was a beautiful blue-green and looked very inviting. We took many photos and then browsed through the souvenir vendors at this location. The families reading this blog will certainly be receiving some awesome gifts and mementos from the students’ time in South Africa.

We arrived at the Eco Training facility and were greeted by our core group of guides, Jan-Hendrick, Norman, and Etienne. We were whisked off into camp where we found our tent area and were provided with lunch.

On the first night, half of the group spent the time out on a sleep out in the wild game reserve, sleeping under the stars. It was magnificent for the group to experience this, and our guides made sure we were safe and happy in “the bush”. We made a fire and promptly made dinner. During the night, pairs of students took shifts to watch over the group and to keep a look out for any animals. Due to the drought currently affecting South Africa, our night was pretty uneventful as most of the animals were situated North of us where they had easier access to water. The second half of the group went out for a game drive that led into a night drive, they were able to glimpse a lioness and a fresh Zebra kill. Everyone went to bed full, happy, and exhausted from the big day.

During the second night, the groups swapped their sleeping arrangements and the second group was sent out for their sleep out. Each group had a really amazing time on their sleep outs and even asked to do it again on their final night. The groups returned to camp around 10:00am from their morning game drives, and had a proper breakfast to recharge from the early morning. As a large group, we were able to relax and unwind, learn fire-building practices, and play some “beach” volleyball on the dried up river bed.

During the course of our time at Eco Training, there were many, many animal sightings. Be certain to ask your student what they saw, but here is a list to spark your curiosity:

  • Impala
  • Kudu
  • Bushbuck
  • Rhino
  • Cape Buffalo
  • Giraffe
  • Zebra
  • Lion
  • Nile Crocodile
  • Many, many varieties of birds

We had our final game drive early Saturday morning with a 5:30am wake-up time. Bundled up, we hopped into the trucks and went out for our last view of the animals in the wild. It was spectacular!

We made our way back to White River over the course of that afternoon, stopping at Harrie’s Pancakes for our lunch. The restaurant is listed as one of the 1000 places to visit before you die, as listed in some book, somewhere. Everyone enjoyed the treat!

When we returned to the lodge, the hectic packing began. Lots of preparation was to be done for the group to leave for home, and we did it all with time to spare. We spent the time after dinner together writing notes to each other that will be sent in the mail six months from now. The group also chose to cuddle up and watch a movie before bedtime, which was a really nice way to end the long day of driving."

- Rachel and Vinny

Student Blog: Sunday 24th July

"Today’s the big day that the majority of our team headed home. It was a long day of goodbyes and tears, but everyone has now safely made their way onto their flights from Nelspruit and is heading to their final destinations. We had a great time with all of your students, and we hope to see them again in the future. 

Thanks for reading our blog over the last couple of weeks. There will be a lot of photos coming your way in the coming days."

Update seven: 21st July

The team have come to the end of their time on the Project at Entokozweni Primary School. Team Ngala have worked incredibly hard and have completed the shell of the first classroom. A professional team of builders will install the roof of the classroom.

"Team Ngala - you are amazing! Liz Mackintosh and I have been planning this trip for about a year, and while a lot of work goes on behind the scenes YOU are the ones who bring it to fruition. You’ve worked so hard, you’ve clearly come together as a fantastic international team and you will leave behind a long-term legacy for the children and teachers at Entokozweni. Just think - when you are parents yourselves and sending your kids to school, you can think that children in South Africa are sitting in a classroom and having an education because of something YOU built all those years before.

I’m really proud of you all, and really proud of Liz, Rachel, Vinny, David, Success and the whole crew at Entokozweni too. Dankie vir alles!" Liz Gray, Project Support Manager.

The team are now at the Karongwe Game Reserve enjoying their first day of Eco-Training at the Wilderness Camp.

Student Blog: Monday 18th July

"Hello Friends and Families!

Today we had to wake up earlier than usual, in time for a breakfast at 6:00am. School started today and we wanted to join the kids’ assembly at 7:15 at the school. Unfortunately, our drivers had troubles waking up in time as well, so they arrived really late and we missed the assembly. There are almost 800 kids going to school and some of us played with them in their breaks between classes. Meanwhile we started plastering the first wall, which turned out to be very fun, as we just had to throw cement onto the wall, and them smooth it out.

We learned a lot of crazy tricks of for plastering the walls which was led by our builders David and Success. After that, we were pretty much all covered in cement. We also got a new stack of bricks, of which we have run out for a couple of days. We moved almost 1000 bricks off the truck, in an assembly line. It was a big challenge!

After a long day’s work, we were back at our lodge and had some free hours. For dinner we had something special today. The owners of the lodge prepared a braai night for us - a South African Barbeque. We were sitting by the fire and enjoyed our meal. After that a drumming instructor came and did an African drumming session with us. It was very fun and some hidden talents got revealed! We ended the day by sitting around the fire roasting marshmallows.

Goodnight and see you soon!" -Ayush and Paula

Student Blog: Tuesday 19th July

"Hi all!

Today was a bittersweet day for the members of the RSIS team. The day was exciting for it marked the end of our long hard work at Entokozweni School, but the day was also melancholy as we gave our last goodbyes to our new little friends.

The day began, like the previous day, at the crack of dawn! We made it to Entokozweni just in time for morning assembly at 7:15. When we arrived the children waited patiently in formation for the headmaster to engage them in their morning routine of song and dance. At the request of the headmaster, today we had our own song to perform for the kids. The team was apprehensive about our performance, but the moment our mouths opened to sing (or lip sync) the children’s faces lit up and our nerves faded. At the conclusion of the assembly the children excitedly scurried to their classes as RSIS Team members begrudgingly began a tiresome day at the worksite… It was an early morning.

From the start of the day it was clear that much work needed to be done at the worksite before we were off to Eco Training tomorrow. We started the day with only two walls fully completed, but by the end of the day we had plastered a third wall, and fully built a fourth with windows.

Just how hard it was to say goodbye to that place and the people, it was great to realise that we changed some lives and the classroom we built turned out beautifully. We are glad that our hard work paid off!

The day ended with us packing our bags for Eco Training (All Set!) and writing a letter to our own self that will be posted to us after 6 months. Such an exciting thing to do!

That is it for today. Good Night!" - Samiksha and Ryan

Student Blog: a note from Project Leaders

"Parents and Supporters – we are so thankful to see that you’ve been keeping up with our blog. Over the next few days, our team will be on the Eco Training adventure. We’ll be sleeping under the stars, tracking animals through the bush, and living an electricity-free life. We’ll send the next blog update when we return on the weekend." - Rachel and Vinny

Update six: 18th July

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” – Nelson Mandela.

The 18th of July marks International Mandela Day, when many people in South Africa and across the globe will spend 67 minutes in public service. Our team will be spending the day working hard on the Entokozweni project, where they are making impressive progress on the two new classrooms.

Student blog: Sunday 17th July

"Hello everyone! Today was a good day - after five exhausting days of work, we had a relaxed start to the day. After a late breakfast, we headed for the Maximum Glory of God church for the Sunday church service. The people at the church welcomed us with great pleasure and made us feel in place. It was different to everything we had ever seen before. The people at the church were enthusiastic and we had a lot of music and dance going on. After the singing and dancing, there were people who came up to talk about different issues at the township like the education system. It was the longest church service that we had ever been to, lasting three and a half hours.

By the end of the service, we were all very hungry and after saying our goodbyes to the people at the church; we made our way to one of the street food corners in the township to eat the traditional ‘chicken dust’.

We really enjoyed our meal and we couldn’t get enough of the delicious food.

After a hearty meal, we went to see the local ‘Zulu dance’ which is a very lively and an energetic dance form. The dance moves were powerful and expressive and we had a great time with the dance group, talking to them, dancing with them and having a great time. Everyone in the dance group was very friendly and we enjoyed spending time with them.

We made our way back to the lodge after having a long and wonderful day. We ended the day with having a movie night, watching Invictus.

The movie is about the newly elected president Nelson Mandela asking the South African rugby team to defy all odds and win the World Cup.

As the day has ended, we’ll be going to bed. Goodnight!"

- Manav and Gloria

Student blog: Saturday 16th  July

"Hello family and friends from all around the world! It’s Brooke from the land down under and Sarah from the good ol’ USA. Today was a crazy, but relaxing day filled with tons of rewarding, fun activities.

We started the day by finishing up and laying brick for the third wall of the classroom. While half the group was working tirelessly, the other half visited the local boys’ orphanage. The children were very happy to meet us as well as our many gifts. With no time to lose, a soccer game had started with the kids out shining all of us by a mile. Towards the end of our visit we sat inside and drew with the kids, many of them writing us letters expressing their love and gratitude.

Once the group was all together again, we ate our lunch of delicious South African donuts. Then, with our hardhats on and our tenacious spirit, we finished our work two hours early. Once we got home, elated by our day of hard work, many of us spent the sunny afternoon out by the pool either reading or, if we were feeling adventurous, hopping into the freezing cold pool.

For dinner, we were joined by a South African youth choir. We listened in awe as the choir sang beautiful, A Capella songs both in various African languages and in English, amazing us with their beautiful harmonies and infectious spirit. Next, we danced around the room as we all sang South African songs together, and we ended the night by having everyone sing their own national anthems. We were blown away by their beautiful rendition of the South African national anthem which includes five of the eleven official South African languages!

Well, it’s late now, so we better get to bed. Night y’all!"

- Brooke and Sarah

Student Blog: Friday 15th  July

"Hello once again! On top of being a regular work day, today concluded our kids camp. We played football, netball, tag, and other fun games, while some made art from coloring books and blew bubbles. The construction site is looking more and more like a building, especially now with the addition of windows. We are learning quickly, much to the delight of the professional builders. A new game among us was introduced, known as “gimme ten.” The game allows anyone playing to order a fellow player to do ten push ups one time every day, at any time. It is fun, yet very annoying at times, especially when something important is happening, or after mixing cement.

Some of us had the opportunity to deliver the groceries and supplies that we bought yesterday in the project named “Walking in another’s shoes.” The woman, who was a widowed mother of seven and suffered from tuberculosis, was at a loss for words from the sheer amount of food we brought her, knowing that she had the ability to rest easy knowing that her family will be well fed for the coming time.

In the evening, as soon as it got dark, we had the opportunity to view various planets and constellations through two high power telescopes. The woman who owned these telescopes came in her free time, hoping to change the way we view the world around us. We were even able to see Saturn’s rings! She told us an interesting folk tale about a constellation known as Scorpio, and its constant conflict with a neighboring constellation, Orion. The most interesting thing by far was our observation of the moon. We were able to view the craters and mountains in extreme detail, even though we were millions of miles away.

That’s all for today, see you tomorrow!" - Max B. and Anabel

Update five: 15th July

The team have been hard at work on the project site and have become very popular with the local children. In addition to making excellent progress on the classroom build, the team have been organizing summer-school type activities and playing games with the local children.

The students have been learning a lot about life in South Africa. The team took part in a ‘Walking in Another’s Shoes’, an activity where the students are given a sum of money which is equivalent to the average monthly wage, and have to buy a month’s food with that money. Today, the team will donate the food that they bought to a local lady who lives in a one-room house in the township, and takes care of seven children. So the food will be put forward to a very good cause, and will further highlight to the team the hard conditions that some communities face.

Students also presented their poster presentations demonstrating their findings on subjects including Nelson Mandela, Townships, Zulu people, Apartheid and the South African National Anthem.

The team have invented a 'Paper Plate' award which the team award every day in recognition of a good deed or to celebrate something funny!

Student Diary: Wednesday 13th July

"Hello family and friends in other countries!

It’s another glorious day! We started again early at the site. While we were warming up today, a few children watched us stretch and began imitating us, which was quite funny. We split into two groups like yesterday, half of us hanging with the local children, and the other half working at the site.

We began building the second wall and made good progress on it, nearly completing half of the classroom. After four hours of hard work, we broke for lunch where we enjoyed delicious Raman noodles and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Group bonds continue to grow every day with activities and a lot of time spent together. We are all excited for tomorrow’s fun activity called “Walking in Another’s Shoes”.

Today’s paper plate award winners are Max B. and Catherine, the Dream Team for their efforts at the worksite and playing with the children for a lengthy period of time this afternoon.

We ended today with presenting our posters demonstrating our knowledge of South Africa, which was lots of fun and informative. Now we have a better understanding on where we are and the community we are contributing to."

- Max S. and Sonya

Student Diary: Thursday 14th July

"Hello friends and family! We have finished our third day of building the classrooms and have begun to work on the vegetable garden.

Today was an easy going work day. We were ahead of schedule and therefore had extra time to play with the children. This afternoon we put up the windows to our classrooms and had lots of support from the children hanging around and watching.

Once our work finished we participated in an activity called “Walking in another’s shoes”. During this activity we went to the grocery store in groups and had an allotted 200 Rand (approx. $14 USD or 13) to spend on one month’s meal for a family of four in the Township communities. This allowed us to appreciate the value of money to local families as well as learn about the staple diet of the locals.

In the evening we shared our detective skills when sharing facts we learned about each other, which once again brought us closer together."

- Danielle and Ruchira

Update four: 13th July

Team Ngala enjoyed their first day on the Project site at Entokozweni Primary School and have begun their service work in earnest.

There is plenty of work to be done with the construction of two new classrooms for Entokozweni School. The much needed teaching space will enable the schools to add a Grade 7, allowing children to stay in school longer.

Student Diary: Tuesday 12th July

"Hello Friends and Family from our second full day in South Africa. Today was a first day of service work for the local community where we ran the holiday camp from the Entokozweni Primary School and other local children. We also started construction on the one of the two classrooms which we hope all the 2016 participants will be able to finish by the end of our project in South Africa.

We woke up bright and early to ensure that we arrived at the project site on time for an 8:15am start. Upon arrival, group one immediately left and began preparations for the children arriving and various activities. We decided to split the children up into three different groups with focuses on sports, art and music & dance. Soon after starting, the children decided to come and go between all three activities as they chose.

Group two began prepping for the building phase; mixing concrete and moving bricks. We all arrived at the site with little knowledge on how to construct a building, however, with the help of David (our construction manager) and his team, we quickly learned the skills necessary to build the classroom. Work started slowly but quickened pace once we became comfortable with the building methods.

After lunch our groups combined and we all worked together on the building project. By the end of the day, we had finished one metre high front and back walls of the classroom.

We’re really looking forward to working with the children again and progressing with the classroom tomorrow.

This evening we worked on our poster presentation to share our knowledge of this region of South Africa with our peers to gain a better understanding of the local community."

- Catherine and Ethan

Update three: 12th July

Elephant Whispers

Elephant Whispers is situated in the Sandford Conservancy on the banks of the Sabie River in Hazyview, Mpumalanga, Elephant Whispers is an elephant sanctuary that is committed to educating the youth on the plight of these beautiful animals, and to introduce ways in which humans and elephant can live in peaceful co-existence.

The team watched a demonstration showing just how graceful (and surprisingly coordinated) these animals can be and learnt more about their compassionate nature. The team exchanged ‘trunk greetings’ while the experienced Elephant handlers talked more about the sanctuary, their research and the animals.

Student Diary: Monday 11th July

"Hello parents and other people. It was a lovely day here in South Africa with lots of sun and bonding. All the students are still recovering from jetlag but spirits are high and everyone is happy and excited for what’s to come.

Our day started with an early breakfast, maybe too early, followed by some light bonding activities and games. We shared facts about ourselves that we will later use for a fun Jeopardy game.

We then listened to an informative presentation about Apartheid as well as outlining the project work that we will begin tomorrow. After that our local guide Netto, a resident of a township near where our project site is located, gave us a wonderful presentation on life in a township. We were then treated to a dance lesson from Netto where we learned local Zulu and African dance. Very fun!

Following this exciting morning, we moved on to the main event: Elephant Whispers. We were fortunate enough to be able to go and spend time with elephants at this reserve; touching them and learning all about them. It was an amazing experience and everyone came out with new knowledge and an appreciation for the animals.

On returning we sat down and made a plan for a camp which we will be running with the local kids tomorrow. This camp runs in the morning for two hours, for four days, at the same time as our project work which also begins tomorrow. We will alternate groups so there is ten in the project and ten in the camp for those first two hours.

We are now heading to bed for a nice early night to get ready for the project work tomorrow. We out!"

- Emma and Hazel

Update two: 10th July

All team members who were scheduled to arrive today have now arrived safely in White River, South Africa. The team are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the last student who will join them tomorrow due to a delayed flight.

Arrival/Day One

Everyone is spending the day resting after the long flight and getting to know each other.

In total there are 20 students and two adults in the team. Students have traveled from schools in England, America, Germany, Denmark, Australia and India.
It's early to bed tonight because it's a busy day tomorrow!

"What a beautiful day to welcome everyone to South Africa! The team arrived in stages throughout the day and were fetched at the airport by team leaders Rachel and Vinny.

We settled into the lodge in the afternoon, playing games to familiarize ourselves with the each other, and taking time to enjoy the view around Lion’s Head Lodge where we’ll be staying for the next 10 nights.

Bringing students together from all over the world can be a challenge, but everyone is getting along well and learning about each other’s schools, cultures, and day-to-day lives.

It was an early night to bed to help everyone recover from their long journeys to our project here in South Africa.

-Rachel and Vinny"


Click the link below to see your full itinerary on our Intranet, you will need to log in to view this. This itinerary has been built to offer students time to acclimatise, develop skills and to absorb the diverse and rich culture South Africa has to offer.

Update one: July


Welcome, to the RSIS South Africa 2016 Team Blog. We will keep you up to date with the team’s progress as they undertake this amazing life experience. We will email you periodically throughout the project with updates and links to the blog.

Mobile/cell phones

Just a reminder that students are not permitted to use their mobile/cell phones while on the trip.

In case of emergency

Round Square operates a 24-hour on call service. In the unlikely case of an emergency the project team will notify the on-call team immediately who will then notify parents with full details.

Feeling inspired?

If this blog has inspired you why not register for our next Round Square International Service Project? Visit our website to find out more about our upcoming projects and get involved: