A 232 pound, 6’2” tall man sitting on an 2’ tall yellow chair, helping a kindergartener make a paper plane: as Team4Tech Program Director Gail Shen describes it, this image of my fellow volunteer Ade would be the best one to describe our 6th day in Kayamandi, South Africa. Having spent almost a week with the people around here, we realised that people’s Xhosa names have very specific and extraordinary meanings. And thus we designed and christened “Story of Igama Lakho” – “Story of your name”, an activity for the children at Vision Afrika Primary School where they write their name, write/draw the meaning of their name, and stick the polaroid picture of them that we provided, all on a coloured paper, completing their identity profile. The entire team decided to help with this activity with the second half of the day allocated for our ‘regular’ routine.
With every passing day, we, as volunteers, are realising the varied challenges that teachers go through, on a deeper level. Even though we had planned out every detail from icebreaker games to art supplies for our workshop, there was still room for the unpredictable. What if the icebreaker became monotonous after a few minutes? What if the students had still not learnt to spell? And that was the cue for our improv skills, lending ideas like drawing cats out of ‘8’ and making paper planes: reminding us of everything we did and were taught, back when we were in pre-school. As my fellow volunteer Vinita puts it, designing plans B, C, and even D is becoming second nature.
At the same time, we got showered with abundant love: groups of kids would just run and hug a volunteer making a 5′ tall human disappear under the swarm. They would talk about how beautiful our hair is, and write our name when asked to write “The things they love.” In fact, Steve got a couple of fan boy/girl message boards! And we truly realise what the teachers mean when they say, “These are the moments we live for.”
After our time with the cannot-get-enough-of bundles of joy, it was time for our Google suite workshop with the teachers. The team at Makupula High School, led by my Adobe colleague David, focussed on Google Classroom while the team at Vision Afrika led by Karthik of Cadence explored Google Slides and Docs.
Both sub-teams implemented some ideas based on our reflections from the workshop on Friday which paved way for an enhanced focus plan for the volunteers, better communication frequency with the presenter, and a strengthened rapport with the teachers. We also introduced our “capstone project,” encompassing all learning so far and ahead, for the teachers to work on and present this on the final day. We emphasized that it was not an “assignment,” but to prepare for one of their upcoming classes using the concepts they’ve learnt through our workshops. Team4Tech’s work has always had a special focus on sustainability, and we wanted to make sure that using the Google tools is not a chore but a help in their professional lives.
Once we wrapped up our workshops for the day, we quickly made home for an early dinner and headed out for the Stellenbosch University rugby finals game. As the “Maties” fandom echoed all around, it added to our puzzle of how this town presents itself as an oxymoron: contrasting communities side-by-side yet somehow make sense together. Our ‘intentional reflection’ for the night focussed on how our teams were better, compared to our last workshop, and how they can be even better, making improvement an iterative process.
Ever since we landed in South Africa, our days have been so dynamic that it is becoming increasingly difficult to describe them without a 600-word blog post. We know this for sure: we are moving closer to our objective, and we certainly are leaving with more than what we came.