Hi there, I am Wouter Veneklaas. I am a 23-year-old undergraduate in Industrial Engineering and Management at the University of Twente. For my minor Sustainable Development, I had to find an internship in a developing country or region. Through the internship organization Masambeni, I encountered iKhaya le Themba. When I learned more about iKhaya, I was very enthusiastic to work for them. And gladly I ended up coming to Cape Town and volunteering for the organization.
My stay at iKhaya le Themba lasted for two months. Those two months were fun, touching, and informative. But also, way too short. I enjoyed working for iKhaya so much because of the approach all the adults had towards the children. There is always room for a little fun, even though the program is all about creating a safe and educative environment for vulnerable children.
Because of my length – I am 2.02 meters tall – children were using me as their climbing tree. It was always a bit difficult to say ‘no’ to children when they wanted to play or to be swung around, but after hearing ‘please one more time’, a line had to be drawn. I was happy to find that the iKhaya kids treat the volunteers, teachers, and each other with respect, and always respected me when I had to say ‘no’ once more. I would always offer reading as an alternative because reading on the porch of iKhaya while sitting in the shadow, or the comfortable cooler temperature of the library was very relaxing. Besides, the children enjoyed it when I read them stories about Mowgli, from The Jungle Book, or when we made a little rap song out of the rhyming texts in other books.
When I had more serious work to do, like my research project about the sustainability of iKhaya’s management structure and finances, I could always take my time to work on that at iKhaya, or at home. Sometimes, I preferred to stay at home because my home was situated in Observatory. Going to iKhaya from Obs took me about an hour and a half. It sounds like a long time, but the bus ride was always a nice time to clear my head, read a book, or enjoy the beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches of Clifton and Llandudno.
I am still very glad that I chose to stay in Observatory, surrounded by other students and interns. Observatory is a very nice neighborhood with lots of cafés and restaurants, while situated almost at the foot of Devil’s Peak. With my roommates, I went to all kinds of parties: just having fun in town, or braaiing at Mzoli’s in the township Gugulethu, or enjoying braais at my own place or friends’ places. During the weekend and on other days that I did not do work for iKhaya, there were enough opportunities to go wine tasting in Stellenbosch, surfing in Muizenberg, visit stunning beaches, and climb the mountains.
But, my visit to Cape Town was initially about conducting research for my minor Sustainable Development. During this research, Susan has helped me a lot to get in contact with the right people. This enabled me to get a multidimensional view on iKhaya’s work and performance. I finally concluded that iKhaya’s work is important and impactful, but that it might be difficult for others to see that. Therefore, the organization must monitor certain impact indicators, so that in the future, we will be able to generate more income from grants, which will be useful for e.g. opening new locations or helping other organizations to use iKhaya’s way of working.
I would like to thank Elisha Tawanda, from Masambeni, for letting me get to know iKhaya. Also, I would like to thank Susan, Anri, Minthi, and Nicolette for helping me with collecting data and giving me so much freedom in my research goals. Of course, the teachers, volunteers, and Chantal helped me a lot as well! Some last thanks would go out to all the friends I had in Cape Town since we had so many great experiences together.
All the best, Wouter.