RSIS - South Africa 2015 Blog
team two

Update Six: 9th August

It's been an amazing two weeks in beautiful South Africa, but today is departures day and all members of team two have now left South Africa. We wish everyone safe and pleasant journeys home.

The project

The roof is on, the library is painted and has shelves, the classroom is half painted, all the rendering inside and out is finished and window panes are in. Next week Solly, David, Joseph and S'thembiso will lay the flooring and hang the doors. Penryn College has offered to paint the outside of the building and will have a book drive to fill the library shelves along with R5000 worth of Books in Homes storybooks donated by Rotary.

Student blog: Wednesday 5th August

Today was our final day at the project site, working on the extra classroom as well as finishing up anything we started. After a full breakfast, we made our way to the work site for 8:00 AM and started right away.

I was really impressed today with everyone. We were all exhausted with everything that we had left behind us, but despite that we got straight down to the work and made significant progress. No one complained and we were all working very hard. We managed to finish everything we had planned to do as well as more than had been planned and we are truly proud of this Round Square Team this year.

As this was our final day the school also invited us to their assembly, showing us traditional dance performances as well as reciting some beautiful poems. The school leadership, as well as the entire student body, thanked us for everything we have done. They brought us up on stage and handed a very sweet gift, which was a T-Shirt of their primary school, to every one of us.

The day finished off very nicely with the youth choir coming to visit us for a wonderful performance of many of their traditional songs as well as others we had picked for them. Tomorrow we will be making our way to the Struwig Wilderness Camp, which should be a great treat to us all! See you in a few days when we return from our time in the bush!”

- Elliot & Marcel

Student blog: Thursday 6th August / Friday 7th August / Saturday 8th August

We have all arrived back safe and sound from our time at the Struwig Eco Resort, bordering the Kruger National Park. Everyone is happy, tired, and off packing their things and getting ready to head home tomorrow.

We left bright and early Thursday morning and headed North towards our destination. Along the way, we stopped in at Harrie’s Pancakes, a local favourite, where we had a delicious feast of pancakes and coffees. We continued on and stopped at the 3rd largest canyon in the world! The Blyde River Canyon was massive and we had perfect weather to view the beautiful blue water below, as well as the surrounding mountains. There was a small tourist market at this location, and so most everyone purchased some souvenirs for their friends and family.

We arrived to Struwig in the mid-afternoon, and were taken to our Bush Camp by a couple of open top Land Cruisers. Just as the sun was setting, we set out for our first safari drive, and used spot lights to find the animals in the night. One group was lucky enough to see the elusive leopard!

On our first full day at the Bush Camp, we set out on a walking safari at 6:30am. It was chilly, but we were able to see a lot of wildlife, as well as learn about animal tracking and behaviours. We spent the remainder of our day around the Bush Camp, and then participated in another walking safari before dusk, and saw even more.

We awoke this morning for a 6:00am safari drive. Our guides took us out for three hours this morning and we had fantastic encounters with elephants and giraffes, as well as many other animals. We packed up camp and hit the road! We drove back to our lodge in White River, through the Kruger National Park. We were able to spot some other members of The Big 5 – some rhinoceros, a herd of cape buffalo, and a couple of elephants. It was a magical experience to be in the Kruger National Park while the sun was setting on the horizon.

Tonight at our lodge, the team had a lovely Braai (barbeque) supper with our hosts Marion and Chirsto, and then spent some time together putting our final thoughts down on paper. The group is having some final time together this evening, before everyone begins their journey home tomorrow.”

- Rachel

Update five: 5th August

Student Diary: Monday 3rd August

“After the sleep-in on Sunday before Church, the whole group was well rested and in good spirits. We all sang songs in the bus on the way to the work site and once we arrived everybody got straight to work, and worked really hard. We started the day by putting up part of the roof, which was by no means an easy task, although we endured a lot of physical activity putting the roof up we all sustained our work ethic and worked through the day to complete plastering the inside walls. The infamous sign was finally put up in front of the school and looks outstanding. The group also picked out a variety of books to fill the library.

After a long day of work the vast majority of the group decided to jump into the pool, which we realized was 15 degrees Celsius after jumping in. Later on in the evening there was a power outage, and so we had a beautiful candle-lit dinner, and took some time in the evening to reflect on our time here in South Africa, so far.”

- Varun and Adam

Happy birthday Armin

A huge happy 18th birthday to Armin, who celebrated his birthday in South Africa with cake and games. Hopefully it was a birthday to remember.

Student Diary: Tuesday 4th August

“This morning we got to visit Penryn College, the local Round Square School. Our day started with an early breakfast at 6:00 a.m. and we were fortunate enough to see the sun rise while we were having our meal.

Today was a special day as it was the birthday of Armin. Our visit to the Penryn College was quite amazing, we were all escorted, and we got to attend their lessons with them. It was good to learn about their education system. We had our snacks over there and then we met their Biology teacher who introduced us to his snake!

Afterwards went over to the local rugby/soccer stadium in Nelspruit, where the 2010 FIFA World Cup games were hosted. It was a really interesting experience and we got to see the V-VIP places and the gym of the rugby players. Later on over at the work site we did great progress. This evening, we were able to participate in a drumming circle. Together we learned beats and rhythms and made some great music. We had some guests for dinner and celebrated Armin’s birthday with cake and games.”

-Aditya and Eric

Update four: 3rd August

Student Diary: Friday 31st July

“Friday morning started off early with a 7 o’clock breakfast, where, unlike many of the previous days, we all stood up with enthusiasm and energy ready for the working day. After our meal, we got into the bus and made our way to the work site. We also received the lyrics for many of our favourite songs in order to sing them during the hard work and get that extra boost of motivation. Bea and Marcus led our morning warm up and we got straight down to it.

This day we had several jobs to do, and so we split our group. Like in previous days, we had Armin and Marcus teaching the children and playing with them for a full day. The boys received many letters from the kids and when I, Adam and Bea went down to play with them at break time, the children were exciting to be around them. They really made the day unforgettable and meaningful to the kids, by jumping on us just to take part and being carried on their shoulders. I found that by simply lifting a kid into the air made their days and lives ten times better as it allowed them to express a genuine smile out of their initially seemingly sad faces. The rest of us were working on rendering the east wall of our newly built classroom, painting the windows and also painting the new school sign. We didn’t quite get to the end of the windows and the sign, but we managed to get the whole wall done in today, indeed we were very hard working that day.

When we got back we were quite exhausted, so after we all had our showers we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by enjoying a beautiful sunset. After dinner we also had a little farewell party to our leadership team that would leave us the next morning. We had chocolate cake, ice cream followed by a movie night featuring the Lion King supported by soft drinks. It was a great fun for us all and was a great way to spend our last moments with our departing Team 1 leaders Rebecca, Louisa, Selina and Mustafa.”

-Marcel and Varun

‘Totsiens’ to our Leadership Students

We wish our Leadership Students ‘Totsiens’ (Afrikaans for ‘goodbye’) and safe journeys.

Student Diary: Saturday 1st August

“Today was a work day! We started up bright and early and were on our way to the worksite at 8 am. When we arrived, we set out on our tasks of painting the windows, plastering the walls and painting the storage container. At about 11 am, we met four students from Penryn College, a local Round Square school, who helped us with our work. Some students decided to stay to do some extra work including plastering the walls and were rewarded with ice cream.

Our evening activity tonight were cultural presentations given by each student. Prior to our arrival here, we were assigned a cultural topic about South Africa that ranged from the elephant ivory trade, sports, animals and national parks. The best presentation was rewarded for the project on Townships in South Africa. The sky was full of stars and accompanied with an orange moon beautifying our evening experience.”

-Elliot & Aditya

In the community

The team attended a lively and energetic township community church service on Sunday morning. This experience is a truly fantastic way to appreciate the community and its local culture and traditions.

In the afternoon the team were split into groups of four to take part in a shopping challenge: to do a month’s shopping to feed a family of four on a budget of 250 Rand (approximately $25 USD). This is a humbling experience for most students and allows them to appreciate how some families in South Africa struggle with a limited income.

Student Diary: Sunday 2nd August

“This morning we went to Christian church at a Township. The service lasted almost three hours and it was quite entertaining. We sang and danced during the service, and at the end we made small monetary donations to work of the church in the community. After the church service, we went to a restaurant for lunch and had a local favourite - Chicken Dust. This meal, served with pap and salad, is a traditional South African dish, and it was very delicious.

In the afternoon we went to a supermarket to do the “Walk in Another’s Shoes” activity. Each team of four was given 250 Rand (approximately $25 USD), which is the amount of money a typical family in the South African Townships would have to feed a family of four, for one month. The shopping experience was a way for us to learn about what they face when they are trying to feed their families. We quickly realized we did not have many choices with this amount of money. We were not able to afford “luxury” food items, such as fruits and sweets, and even milk and meat. We mostly bought maize meal for the families to make pap. As a group, we made the decision to donate all the food we bought to a local charity that Nitto works with.

This evening, we watched “Invictus”, a movie about a South African rugby team during the period of Apartheid. It was very educational and interesting.”

- Alice and Marcus

Update three: 31st July

The project so far

The team have now been on site for four days moving bricks, painting classrooms and mixing cement for the construction of a new library for Lwaleng School. Leadership Students have been taking it in turns to lead the team in their activities each day.

It is exciting to see the timber frame go up on the roof. It’s taken a combination of teamwork, communication and dedication but the whole team is really pulling together to enable this building to take shape.

Student Diary: Wednesday 29th July

“We started the day with just slightly more sleep and enjoyed a great breakfast, sadly without bacon, though. As soon as we arrived at the work site, we started to mix cement, right after we endured a tough workout/warm-up led by Marcel. Besides making heaps of progress building the classroom, we have started preparing the library for plaster.

We were so productive that our daily usage of cement was used up by 2:30 pm so that we were able to go back to the Lodge to shower and relax. Before having dinner, the Team 1 Student Leaders taught the rest of the group a couple of games to play with the kids from the school and the orphanage which we will be visiting tomorrow.

In the evening, the group got to know the game ‘Warewolf’ which was played for quite a while, and probably will be part of our evening entertainment during the future nights. As well, Liz introduced us to what tomorrow will be like, as we are visiting the Masoyi home for disabled children and the Uthando orphanage for the day. We are looking forward to meeting these children and helping to paint their bedrooms and play structure.”

- Adam and Eric

Student Diary Thursday 30th July

Today we went to the Uthando orphanage as well as to the Masoyi disabled children’s home. To start off, some of us painted the boys’ and girls’ dorms at the orphanage while others were playing with several kids in the yard. Afterwards, we joined the rest of the group at Masoyi to paint the jungle gym outdoor equipment and play with the children.

Visiting both of these sites was very enriching, because we were confronted with a reality which we knew about but we never have had the opportunity to experience. Seeing these children that have a very challenging life in comparison to us was heart-touching. It also opened our minds to their situation and helps us to understand the struggle they are going through. However, even if they are disabled or orphaned children, there is a lot to learn from them and their experiences. They were some of the happiest children we have ever seen, despite the challenges they face in their lives.

Tonight we had a fantastic intercultural meeting. A Zulu youth dance group came over to perform their traditional dance and were wearing traditional costumes. These youth practice their dance each day in between the end of school and the evenings at home, to keep them safe in their communities. Following the performance of their dance, we were able to participate in the dance and learn the moves. After that, we taught each other some games and then enjoyed a great meal of a local feast, Bunny Chow.”

-Alice and Armin

Savuka Africa Youth Crew

The team enjoyed a visit from the Savuka Africa Youth Crew.

Savuka Africa Youth Crew is a non-profit organization, established with an aim to promote healthy lifestyle decisions and community development by engaging youth in performing arts, theatre and dance as an alternative to crime, substance abuse and teen pregnancy.

The group performed in traditional Zulu dress and then encouraged the group to join in.

Update two: 29th July

Student Diary: Monday July 27

Today our peers from France joined us after hours of delays, and later we listened to a presentation from Liz, one South African team leader, about the project as well as a brief history of South Africa. Following that presentation, Netto, a local from a nearby township, visited us. He taught us two dance moves and then gave us a presentation about townships. He told us about the community life of the townships and the problems they are facing today.

We went to the Elephant Whispers in the afternoon and stopped by Lwaleng, our project school. We looked at the site and what Team one had accomplished before us. We arrived at Elephant Whispers later today, and we were told information about the elephants, which was very educational. We then were allowed to feed and touch the oldest elephant of the sanctuary, Tembo.

After dinner we decided to write down our cheers and fears for the next two weeks, and we collectively decided on rules that were going to apply to us during the project. We had a wonderful day and are all excited about starting the project tomorrow.”

Bea and Marcus

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.

Project work begins

Round Square teams have been working in this part of South Africa for the last three years and have helped a different township school each year. Our time with these schools not only leaves them with improved infrastructure in terms of much needed classroom teaching space, but it also encourages more support from the local education authorities. So the long-term benefit of each visit is tangible.

The team, led by the Leadership Students have started work on site and have five scheduled days of construction ahead of them.

Student Diary: 28th June

"Today we started our day by waking up at 5:30am to see the sunrise and it was was amazing! Later on we got ready to leave for the project site at the school, and were on the bus at 7:45am. Everyone was excited for the project and eager to start building. As most of the group was building with bricks and cement, a few of us went to the classroom to teach the 2nd grade students their English lessons. We had many jobs, laying out the bricks, playing with the kids and mixing cement from sand and powder cement, by hand. In the end, we played music loudly from Liz’s car and danced to finish up the day.

After returning to our lodge, we had a little soccer game followed by multiple card games. After supper, we sat together as a group and did some silent reflection and journaling, looking back on the highs and lows and thought about how we could improve in the future on this project.

Karen, the Project Leader for Team 1, worked hard this afternoon and made a great movie of our first day. It was really great to see how much we have completed already. We cannot wait to show all of you at home."

- Dexter and Chirag

Update one: 26th July

Dear all,

All team members who were scheduled to arrive today have now arrived safely in White River, South Africa.


Welcome, to the RSIS South Africa 2015 blog for team two. 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.

Arrival/Day one

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 two students who will join them tomorrow.

Team two were greeted by Leadership students Selina, Rebecca, Mustafa and Louisa. The Leadership students were part of team one and have stayed on in South Africa for an additional week to lead team two in the first week of project work.

Everyone is spending the day resting after the long flight and getting to know each other. In total there are 16 students and three adults in the team. Students have come from far and wide including America, England, France, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, Jordan, India and Pakistan. Everyone has been getting to know each other via Facebook before the trip but it’s always good to finally put a face to a name!

"Over the course of the afternoon while team members were slowly arriving, the group engaged in some card games, time outside in the sun taking in the view, and unpacking their belongings. Just before supper hour, a game of football broke out in the field below the main house. They played until the sun went down and then came in to eat.

Some of the team arrived later in the evening and the group took some time to discuss goals and expectations for the project. Everyone is looking forward to getting started and seeing more of the community area. " Rachael, Project Leader.

It’s early to bed tonight because it’s a busy day tomorrow with team briefings and their first taste of South Africa.

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.


Click the link below to see your full itinerary on Travefy. This itinerary has been built to offer you time to acclimatize to the altitude, develop skills and to absorb the diverse and rich culture South Africa has to offer.