It’s hard to believe that another semester of our After-School Volunteer Program is already coming to a close! In just a few short weeks, our current group of volunteers will be headed back to the United States, excited to share with their friends and families all they’ve experienced and learned from the children at Baphumelele and Emasithandane Children’s Homes.

Over the past few weeks, volunteers have been busy planning end-of-year outings for their kids. The first outing, a trip to the aquarium with our youngest students at Emasi, was a great success! The kids really enjoyed themselves, and our own Abbie Heffelfinger was able to attend. Soon the rest of the volunteers will be taking their kids on various outings, and it promises to be a fun and educational end of the semester.

There’s good news at Emasi – a new structure has been approved, and the home will be extended soon! This would be a welcome change for students and volunteers alike, as the afterschool program has been taking place in just one small classroom with all three age groups. This can often get quite noisy with so many lessons and so much excitement happening simultaneously! We look forward to possibly having space to run classes at the home instead in upcoming semesters.

There have been some transitions happening at Baph as well. Because the South African government is shifting away from long-term institutionalized care, many of the children have left the home and have been placed in foster homes or other places of safety. Baph will now operate as more of a short-term home for children, which is a challenge for our volunteers but also an opportunity to develop more specialized, one-on-one attention for the students.

As we wrap up our semester, we’ve enjoyed having dinner meetings with our volunteers to hear their feedback on their experiences. As usual, it’s hard to tell who’s learned more: the students or the volunteers! It will surely be difficult for our volunteers to depart next month, but they can do so knowing that they’ve touched the lives of the children as much as the children have touched theirs.