Recently, staff and volunteers received an unexpectedly large welcome into the community of a nearby “location” (the name residents prefer over “township”). The event was organised by a lovely lady who works at the restaurant that caters for our volunteers and also lives in the location.
We were collected by her partner in the minibus taxi he uses to make his living. None of us knew quite what to expect and a few were worried about the safety of a group of foreigners going into the heart of a location after dark. Once we arrived we were sat down in a small hall simply constructed out of corrugated tin and all our worries quickly vanished.
We were given such a warm welcome by the chief who emphasised what an honour it was for them to have us there and how grateful they were for our support, even though we felt it was quite the reverse. News of our presence had spread and quite a crowd gathered in the hall. It was hard to tell if they were there to see the dancing or us!
The entertainment began with a group of young girls performing modern dances. These girls were fantastic and their enthusiasm infectious but it was nothing compared to what was to follow. A group of eight girls (I would say four younger than 12 and four older) dressed in traditional outfits abundant with beads and colour took to the stage.
They gave us a wonderful display of traditional dancing (Sarafina) that reflected their culture and heritage. I have never seen such rhythm, passion, enthusiasm and stamina. It was clear to see that this had huge meaning for them and they were so excited to be able to share it with us. It was so heart-warming to see in a community that ultimately has very little.
After at least 2 hours of dancing from both groups they enjoyed some well-deserved food and volunteers were able to talk to the dancers and their families, hearing how important their culture was to even the youngest generation made us all feel blessed to have been able to experience it with them.
It was something that none of us will ever forget and we believe should be shared with the world. To quote one of our volunteers: “…the evening alone made my entire trip worthwhile”.