Visit to Zwelihle


Monday, January 14, 2008, 01:56 PM
Posted by Rebecca Porter-Orr


After spending the first week of our trip in Cape Town we ventured an hour and a half to spend the night in the town of Hawston. This short excursion through the mountains of South Africa took us to the Township of Zwelihle where we spent the day. Zwelihle ended up showing us a whole new side of the country- one that was tough to see.

We began the day by visiting a crèche in the township of Zwelihle. This small, brightly decorated building serves as a daycare to the younger children in the township. The adorable children, speaking and understanding almost no English, were thrilled to see us and eager to be our friends. They greeted us by singing their National Anthem and various rhymes in their native tongue of Xhosa. We then split into groups to color pictures and teach the older kids various games. Duck duck goose was their favorite, and smiling to each other as they yelled out “juice” instead of goose almost made us forget about the conditions in which they live.

After a lunch of hot dogs and orange soda we posed with them for pictures and said goodbye as we went out to see a much less cheerful part of the township. Just outside of the school’s walls we walked on dirt paths covered in broken glass and wrappers of all sorts that led the way through tiny shacks and broken down cars. Without seeing Zwelihle up close none of us would ever be able to imagine the indescribable images. Adults urinating on the side of leaning shacks, skinny stray dogs following us, and barefoot babies wobbling about all alone just begin to paint a picture of the activities there. The most shocking thing for us all was witnessing a fight between two of the men. Luckily the police arrived immediately to stop what quickly turned into a stabbing and a situation none of us were comfortable with.

While in Zwelihle it is safe to say most of us were scared, sad, and even a little angry, however, we were also filled with hope. It is easy to believe that the conditions the people live under would make them bitter to those of us who are more privileged especially with us taking pictures of their homes with shocked and often disgusted looks on our faces. However, that could not be further from the truth. Everyone greeted us with huge smiles even coming out of their homes to have their pictures taken. Most were enjoying their Saturday afternoon visiting with one another or getting their hair cut at the local barber shops they established from old cargo containers. All the children were playing games they created or riding their bikes along side us as we toured the town.

Even though many of us would have preferred to stay in our safe buses traveling through neighborhoods more similar to our own visiting Zwelihle was definitely one place none of us will ever forget. To see how little one needs to survive and even be happy was a very humbling experience.

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