aB South Africa: ‘Welcoming arms and loving hearts’

“The beauty of a country lies within the people,” explained Alexander, a volunteer from an organization linked with the clinic earlier today. “So tell me, how have you liked our country?”

aB South Africa 1When asked this question, the answer was simple. Not only has South Africa’s landscape been breathtaking, but the humility of its people has also been overwhelming. By far, this country and its people have exceeded every single expectation I had for this trip, and they continue to amaze me in all aspects of their culture. Being asked that question earlier by Alexander reminded me of what true beauty is. Aside from the tourist attractions and pretty beaches, the staff of the Blue Roof Clinic and the community of Durban portrayed just that. Their welcoming arms and loving hearts made our service here that much easier.

Vegetable garden

Vegetable garden

Overall, today was a very rewarding day. We finished each of our projects: murals in the waiting room, remodeling two kids’ play rooms, the outside entrance of the clinic, the back garden and organizing the entire donation room. Being able to see the finished product of all of our projects brought a sense of pride and relief to each of our hearts — although the absolute best part was seeing how amazed and appreciative the entire staff was with our work. Some got teary eyed when taking a tour of our projects, others excessively happy, and all of them came to agree that it gave them a stronger inspiration  and deeper faith and hope to continue pushing forward.

aB South Africa 4After wrapping up our projects today, a volunteer from the clinic put together a special Mother’s Day lunch for all the women staff members and also invited our group to join. The lunch was not only delicious, but very heartfelt. Awards were given, speeches were made, and I even had the honor of doing the opening prayer for the lunch. The  love shared between colleagues was the brightest thing shining in the room, and we could see that each staff member truly cared for one another like a family. They even set aside a special time to give us gifts and thank us for all of our work. Seeing the way the Blue Roof team appreciated our work, even the little details, definitely made this whole trip worthwhile.

After lunch we went around town and dropped off the lasts of our donations. We had the opportunity to bring more stuff with us to the St.Monica’s Orphanage that we had visited earlier this week. Our initial plan was to bring the donations and spend an hour playing outside with the kids, but when we arrived it was raining, which changed all of our plans. While two group members went inside and brought donations, the rest of us stayed in the car. A little boy who I had played ball with last time saw me sitting in the van and immediately ran inside to give me a hug. This melted my heart to pieces. At that point, I wished I could adopt him, or at the very least spend some more time playing with him. Just seeing the excitement in his face and his huge grin made me feel like the little time I got to spend with him in the beginning of the week impacted him and made him happy.

The last part of our day was also another surprise. All we were told was to get dressed up and be ready by 5:30 p.m. The surprise was a beautiful dinner hosted by Onica, founder of the partnering organization ICO, at a nearby restaurant called Peninsula. The venue was exceptional, and a part of the surprise was being able to share the dinner with a couple staff members from the clinic. My favorite part of the night was being able to go around the table and hear everyone’s reflection about the trip and our final projects. Being able to hear the gratitude of the staff was very humbling and eye opening. Who would have known that a simple task could inspire the staff and even give one member “hope in the youth.”

Overall today was a great day. We all got to see our hard work pay off, and also how well the community accepted it. Being able to see our dreams for our projects flourish into pieces of art was both very rewarding and exciting. I, for one, know that I will be leaving this trip with more then a keychain souvenir. I have left an imprint of my hard work at the clinic, a love for the people and country of South Africa in my heart, hope for the advances for HIV and AIDS, and, most importantly, with a family at Blue Roof Clinic.

- Cristina Salem


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