It has by now become an annual event to which volunteers look forward too with great expectations: The volunteers weekend. Although we love working for the SOAPKidz cause. This is one weekend each year, that we devote entirely to volunteers only. Having fun, getting to know new volunteers and building relationships is at the order of the day. No work, no kids, no planning allowed!
On Friday evening we arrived and were shown to our bungalows on the banks of the Orange River: Ladies shared one bungalow, while the men had their area a few hundred metres away. After dinner, we retired to bed, but the girls decided it’s time to creep up on the guys and “repossess” some of their supplies. Unfortunately we got caught in the act and after much negotiation, were let go.
The following morning, we woke up to the sounds of the birds and the rushing of the river. Some of us went for our healthy morning walks, while others opted for a few more minutes under the covers. After breakfast, we all went horse riding (A first for many of us – not mentioning any names - Sharon). Andre, being blind, was the bravest of us all and demanded to take his horse on a final sprint home, while most of us rather opted to walk / stroll on with our horses. Theodor (Prof) joined Andre in his sprint, but unfortunately his horse had another idea and flung poor Prof over his head, before returning home “empty-saddled”. Eventually he appeared over the hill with a slighty smaller lung capacity, some scrapes and a broken pair of pants – the first of many surprises to come for Prof.
The rest of the day was filled with many activities, including target shooting with anything from ketties, to bow and arrow, to air rifle (Sharon’s first. By now this had become a joke all round). We soon felt like kids ourselves and went playing in the park on all of the kids rides, while laughing incessantly at each other’s smart remarks.
After lunch, we went for the much anticipated (or dreaded?) river crossing. (Yep, you guessed it – Sharon’s first.) Armed with hard hats and life jackets, we waded into the river, desperately clinging to anybody / anything close to us, hoping it’s more steady than our own slippery feet and knocking knees, in order to reach the other side. We walked through what seemed like a jungle and crossed streams and gorges over tree trunks and rope bridges, feeling like Indiana Jones looking for treasure.
Still no end was in sight, and we were instructed to simply walk into the river and start “drifting” down stream. All of a sudden it started to rain heavily. After the initial panic subsided, I found it quite peaceful bobbing up and down in the middle of a river, with little helmeted heads all around me – after all, how much wetter could we get? As if planned, the rain stopped just as we got out of the river and into our canoes. The aim – to paddle down stream, until we unceremoniously throw our canoe (occupants included) full speed down some rapids. Oh joy! Everybody made it through, except us of course, and we exited with the bruises to prove it.
After washing the river mud and Hyacinth stench off our tired bodies, the evening was spent recalling the day’s happenings and telling jokes by the campfire.
Our last day had more adventure install for us, in the form of team building obstacles. We had an hour of “klei-lat” war with the guys on the other side of the dam. This is where Prof almost lost his eye. He was then taken away and locked in a cage (sorry Prof). We then had to navigate an obstacle course involving problem solving, balancing beams and trust exercises. Andre had no trouble at all across the beams, and did the best at the blindfold activity (wonder why?). The finish line was to find Prof, figure out the combination on a lock, and release him.
At lunchtime, we had to return home, but we made many new friends and got to know each other a lot better. Learning about each other's strengths, weaknesses, fears and funny fits, will really help us to work together as a team much more efficiently in future SOAPKidz events. The group of people was just great, and we all got along like old friends. Looking forward to next year’s Hakuna Matata - no worries volunteer weekend with great anticipation.