Today was our second full day working at Egoli. As I have described in previous posts, Egoli is a very impoverished informal settlement/township that my health and community development class is working with. We were given one task: to make a difference within the township. The first full day we were there, we spent time getting to know the community, playing and interacting with the children, singing, playing games, and spending time with one another. We also picked up trash (of which we didn’t even make a dent on the trash that lines the streets) and helped with a worship service that provided lunch for the children.
This week, we planned on cleaning up the community center. With six students, little-t0-no resources (monetarily speaking) and a very rundown township, we wanted to gear our project towards doing something that would help the entire community yet something that was manageable with little limited amount of time that we had. We collectively decided to renovate the community center where they hold town meetings, church service, and a few social gatherings. This small room was in need of desperate help as the paint was wearing away, the windows were cracked, the place was dirty and overall didn’t seem very welcoming. We got all the necessary supplies and got ready for an extreme makeover project… township style.
We arrived to lots of hugs from the children as they remembered us from two weeks ago and luckily we had eager children who were more than willing to help us out with the project. We moved most of the furniture out of the room (which consisted of a few broken chairs and old, wooden benches) and we pushed the rest (the tables and such) towards the center so that the walls were easily accessible. We dusted, washed down the walls, and prepped them for painting. We said goodbye to the old, yellow, chipped paint and hello to a brand new looking room—one that was bright, welcoming, and fun for the entire community. The whole process surprisingly only took a few hours but we worked hard to finish on time. We obviously don’t have a strong painting background but we managed quite well and the place looked much better in the end. All of the children got involved as well and helped paint the walls (closely supervised of course) but that was definitely a highlight for them. We also brought some fun things like stickers, bubbles, and face paint for the kids to keep them entertained for awhile. They loved it!
We decided to give the room a bit of a personal touch as well and we did a handprint border on the side walls. We got bright colored paint and originally planned on having the children help us out with the handprint border. However, we neglected to realize that everyone in the community wanted to have their handprint on the wall, not just the children! So we had babies, lots of children, adults, and even the founding member of Egoli herself (like an eighty year old lady) involved in the project. It turned out really neat and everyone was really excited to see their own handprint a part of the community center. Of course we left our mark as well and included our handprints in the border!
The room turned out fabulous and they really seemed to appreciate the new place. The day was also a lot of fun in itself as the children kept us entertained through singing and dancing as we worked. We even had a little bit of time at the end to play games and have some fun before we had to leave. Of course it was a struggle leaving as it took like ten minutes of hugs and saying goodbye before we were allowed to go. Repainting and updating a room might not seem like much but every bit helps, especially for a community such as this one. Even just giving them a little bit of hope and letting them know that there are people that want to help them and are willing to venture into the “dangerous township” to do so. And for six people with no resources and a limited amount of time, I think we did a pretty good job… and not to mention, I think we all got just as much out of the experience as the community did. Such a rewarding and fulfilling day… love the Egoli community.
The Community Center is the small room on the right