Monday, 29 March 2010

Amy Bleasdale; impressions of Shine

Amy helped us out at the Shine Centre, at Obs and St Agnes for the last month. She is a student of English Literature in the Uk, and she writes profoundly: I relished her reflection of her experience, and I think you will too:  

'A sprinkler sends out rainbow streams of water onto prickly grass, cut
neatly short and warmed by the sticky heat of morning.  A train hurls its
carriages by, stopping with a rumble and a shudder at the station platform.
It twitches and shakes itself, speeding back into verve and slipping
noiselessly out of sight.  The children run out onto the field in a carnival
of colour and motion, casting off jumpers and shoes and chasing each other,
barefoot, with soft grains of mud kicked up by their feet.  It is 8.45 in
the morning and the Shine Centre at Observatory Primary School is about to
open its doors to myriad children, expectant and excited, clutching newly
coloured books read just hours and days before.  And it is my last day.
Hello!  My name is Amy Bleasdale and I am an international Shine volunteer,
travelled all the way from sunny England (though it was snowing when I left)
and I have been here in Cape Town for the last month, working in the Shine
Centre and ‘swap shop’ and meeting a huge range of truly kind and welcoming
people.  On this, my last day at Shine, I am preparing a lesson for Eryhn
and, as such, my flip-flops click and clack up and down the room as I clutch
onto a whiteboard, a pen, a pencil, a brightly coloured game box and a
plethora of books for Eryhn to choose from – variety is always popular, I
have learnt!  And how much I have learnt since I arrived, a nervous nineteen
year old, fresh from the security of my English home and thrust onto these
foreign plains with little idea of what to expect, save the knowledge
gleaned from a brief visit to the city as a child and from Thomas Hardy
poetry on 19th Century Africa – I am an English Literature student, after
all.  It all seems insignificant now, however, and I feel ill-prepared – for
no guide book could have told me that I would be approached by children
running and skipping and laughing brightly, selling ice-pops to raise money
for charity, or that as I was walking along, my hand would be clung to by a
nervous child simply seeking a reassuring smile or gesture.  No, there is
very little that could have conveyed to me exactly what I was to find here,
amidst the fascinating little caf├ęs and boutiques of Obs, but I shall do my
best to convey it to you now.
As I sit down with Eryhn he begins to tell me of his weekend, of his family
and of fishing with his father.  “We caught a shark the size of this table,”
he tells me with arms stretched out wide and eyes shining brightly as he
delights in recounting the tale.  “Have you ever been fishing?” he asks.   I
confess that I have not, and he vows to teach me about all the fish I could
see as he seizes with fervour the A-Z animal dictionary and flicks through
it frantically.  We soon move onto a ‘memory game’ and then some ‘have-a-go’
writing, and before long the hour is almost over.  As Eryhn selects a book
to take home I fetch a small piece of coloured card, a praise note, for him
to show to his parents and teachers so that they may delight in his progress
as much as his volunteers do.  Of course, not all of the students are as
unafraid as he, but he is certainly a symbol of the gifts that Shine can
give to a child: exhilaration and delight in literature, and the
unconquerable desire to learn by this literature so that they may grasp and
pull closer their dreams of success, and cast away the disadvantages that
have bound them.  It has truly been a pleasure to be a part of this learning
curve – a curve that spans volunteers and students alike! – and I can only
hope that I’ll be able to return to you in the months to come.'
Best wishes,

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