My colleagues in the office early on that working Saturday could confirm that I was jumping in my chair when I saw the e-mail notifying me that I was selected to participate in 2018 CIIP.  I knew it was going to be a unique experience.

I arrived at Cape Town on June 2 with all my enthusiasm, together with my German friend (I can call her friend now). We were the last to arrive, so the whole team was ready for our reception at the airport. From minute to minute, we knew more and more about each other. We became an incredible team.

At the end of each day we gathered around the dining table and shared our highlights and challenges for the day. Let me share my highs and lows with you. We spent our mornings at a local school. The first time we entered the township, the radio played the song “Africa” by Toto. I loved the innumerable high fives we received; listening to the kids when they spontaneously started to sing and dance; sitting on the field and clapping with a little girl; going out to the courtyard during the break and have them around us vying for our attention; walking back from the field hand-in-hand with the children; cheering and supporting them during the obstacle course.

During the afternoons, we were at a crèche (a local childcare center) with a mission to paint and tile the restroom for the kids. The first time they saw us they started to jump and chant, “Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!” The project made me realize that team work is more efficient than doing things alone, and I was impressed by how we managed to transform the restroom without any professional construction background.

At the end of the day, we just enjoyed hanging around together, discussing big questions of life. I loved when a lady from the township came to our house to braid my hair (though I still wonder how will it look once I remove them). During the weekend, we had the chance to explore Cape Town and the surrounding area. Table Mountain is simply breathtaking and considered one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. While having our African dinner, we played the drums together.

Of course, all coins have two sides. We faced some challenges as well. For me it was not always easy to accept that things are not happening exactly as planned. The impact of the Apartheid era is still visible, and it`s hard to see that people are not treated equally. It was challenging to keep the recommended time for taking a shower, which was two minutes. Though we had an Xhosa lesson, most of us were not able to pronounce the children’s names with the clicks.  I believe that our major heartache was that we weren’t able to complete the construction due to rain, though the team from GVI was able to finish it without much additional work. I don`t think we should be sad, as we all committed everything to make this trip the best ever. I wish everybody had the chance to be part of it. Don’t miss applying next year.

Click here to see more photos and memories from the trip.