It all started back in September when a group of 14 Year 11 and 12 students were selected to go on the annual Tiger Kloof Round Square Service Project in South Africa. Fundraising for their own trip included a 3 peaks challenge, waitressing, foregoing Christmas pressies, car washing, bag-packing and all sorts of other novel ideas.
So when Friday 8 February finally arrived, the Tiger Team set off on a 30 hour journey to Tiger Kloof School near Vryberg, South Africa. As we drove through the town on the way to TK, we had our first glimpses of the Township of HuHudi, where we were to spend the following week working at 3 separate soup kitchens and a disabled centre for children and young adults.
On arrival at Tiger Kloof School, we were welcomed by the “Tigers” and staff and we settled into our new home (bugs and all) for the next week. We ate meals with the boarders the next day (Sunday) and shared in some of their activities including a remarkable Church Service that none of us will ever forget! The passion and enthusiasm of their singing and yes, dancing, in Church was unforgettable.
We split into 2 groups and the service began with some manual tasks at the Pre-Primary school, where some covered new books with sticky back plastic and others sifted and then shifted sand into the new sand-pit for the young children. It was all hard work in the baking sun and heat and we began to appreciate the need for hats, sunscreen and plenty of water!
The 3 soup kitchens are all sponsored by Windermere School, Tiger Kloof and also Wellington College (another British RS School). They provide meals for the children in the townships twice a week. The Tiger Team set off in the mornings to prepare the vegetables (yes, we took our own peelers too), stoke the fires, prepare the dough for the fat bread and prepare for the arrival of the children (one day one soup kitchen fed over 200 children!). At Maggie’s, the children would turn up from about 2.30pm with their own plates or plastic containers and the team would serve the food and ensure everyone had a full tummy before they left. At Ous Baby and Ma Margaret’s, the children had nowhere to sit and eat so they would wonder off, mainly barefoot with some of the clothes that we had taken out there, tucked up their t-shirts and tied to their shoulder straps.
At Thusanang Disabled Centre, our group were able to spend the mornings playing games with those children that could walk and run; singing songs and tickling those that were in wheelchairs and generally allowing the children to hug them and look at photos of themselves on their cameras. We bought stationary, nappies and other items for the Centre, as they get have supplies of food from other agencies.
One of the most distressing tasks was on our final afternoon where we took food to the local dump on the outskirts of the town. Here many people were living or scavenging for any items to recycle. As we stepped from the bus we were engulfed by arms wanting to hug us and the stench of the dump was so strong that we had to breathe through our mouths as much as possible. We had taken lollipops for the children and they ran over to get them. We also took drums of water, as there is none in the dump, and many rushed to find old containers so they could take some clean water away with them.
Our final evening at TK, we were treated some fantastic entertainment by the TK students – singing and dancing once more (the Gum boot dancers were very polished and amazed us all with their precision and rhythm). Not to be outdone, the Windermere Team led the whole school in the “step to the left” and there was a bonding of all students through the dance.
The Windermere staff had prepared a little song too but fortunately we ran out of time to perform to the whole school so were able to perform to the Windermere and TK students and staff who had been working on the project together.
It was a sad night as we had to say our farewells to our friends (although the Tigers got up at 5am the next morning to wave us off!). We will never forget them and our amazing experience in South Africa.
The Tiger Klook progect was set up 9 years aog and every year students return with a changed outlook on life. In particular, the lives of others in the world whose conditions are so very difficult to our own. This year the 14 students who took part in this ‘life changing’ experience are determined to continue fundraising for the project so that they can make a difference to the lives of others.
Ben said “It was amazing. My eyes have been opened to a different way of life. Now I am back, I realise how much food we waste and it really annoys me”.
“Plus est en vous”
Thank you and well done to all 14 students, Miss Parry and Mrs Morgan.
Mrs Hesford (Round Square Co-ordinator)
Three of our four daughters have been boarders at the Senior School following our unexpected move to Hong Kong in 2012. One moved back to board at Windermere following two years in Hong Kong and our youngest can't wait to follow in her footsteps and return as an overseas boarder into Year 9. We cannot fault the standard of education and care which the girls have enjoyed throughout their Windermere journeys. In particular, we love the location - and the way in which the Lake District becomes part of the curriculum - and the international flavour of the Senior School.
Windermere School is such a unique community to be a part of. Not only is it based in a truly beautiful and inspiring national park, but the environment created by staff and students alike makes for an incredibly supportive, proactive, exciting and international place of learning in which everyone can thrive and be the best they can be.