My third day at TLC Outreach Project today and in such a short amount of time I feel like a different person. It is an amazing project led by a wonderful woman, Coleen. She started it nineteen years ago out of her own pocket and ever since has made a difference to the lives of those less fortunate, and already I have noticed those that have been impacted by her love and kindness.
What I love so far about TLC is that everyday is different and very spontaneous; one minute you could be driving for miles to pick the children up from the settlements and the next cleaning the toilets. Settlements are very much like Townships, however they are much smaller with no electricity or shops and just one tap to share in the whole community. This is where we spend a lot of time working; helping out different settlements providing food, clothes, mattresses and general affection.
The amount I have learnt in just three days is incredible; to be so suddenly exposed to a completely different way of life has been quite a shock, emotionally, and made me realise how much I appreciate my privileged home comforts and loving family.
TLC is based at the police station, with their own section of lodge buildings and a large children’s playing area outside. It is very well equipped and sees around 6-8 children from settlements come in most days to spend time with the volunteers learning, eating, playing and being cared for. All the children are very malnourished and neglected due to their families back at the settlements unfortunately alcoholics or on the local drug, tik. TLC also accommodates for teenagers where they are able to learn at a higher level, like gaining their driving license, going to the library, writing CVs and to just hang out with the volunteers who are all a similar age.
Working with the children, who are no older than six, is beautiful but also heartbreaking. You can see how much they are all longing to be cared for, with many of them even struggling to hold a pencil to draw. All the children are exposed to the drugs and alcohol from their parents so see it normal to drink or smoke. One boy, Lielie, arrived at TLC having spent his days smoking weed and drinking, he is just four years old.
Exercises that are used during the classes we teach is to look through magazines and cut out pictures that make them happy; one child cuts out bottles of alcohol. To be able to have this life changing experience working with the children and settlements makes me feel like I am leaving something good behind for South Africa, and not just being a tourist taking pretty pictures. My plan was to always give something back and I have a good feeling that TLC will be somewhere this will happen.