By Eevi Tomperi, third-year physiotherapy student, Finland.
I spent 2 months in South Africa (Feb-Apr 2019) and took part in the CASO Health and Lifestyle programme 2.2.
The two months consisted of a two-week intensive course at a partner university and a 6-week internship with PlaySports4Life. At the beginning of the intensive course, all countries gave a presentation about physical education in their country. That gave us ideas of how different physical and health education can be taught at schools. From the very beginning, it could be seen that there are many good things in every country and culture, but also things that could be done better. It was very positive to see that even though we had come there to work for the South African underprivileged schools, we can learn a lot from each other and from the South African kids too and take the knowledge with us to our own countries. It is always rewarding when learning can happen both ways!
The internship lasted 6 weeks. I was placed at a WD Hendricks primary school which is considered to be the most difficult school in the area. The purpose of me being there was to teach physical education lessons that would include some educational addition such as hygienic, math or teamwork etc. It took about one day to realize that it’s not going to happen the way I wanted to. Those kids were not ready to be taught anything extra. What they really needed was love and attention. It was frustrating at the beginning that I couldn’t do much related to physiotherapy. But when I realised how many life lessons I would learn just being with the kids, the professional goal lost its meaning. The kids were lovely. We played netball, some different kinds of dodgeballs, races, we collected trash from the area, danced… and in the meanwhile learnt about life.
During our time in South Africa, we had some social events as well. We visited a crocodile farm and a lion park, Heart museum and hiked up to the Table Mountain. We participated in a free museum night, sunset yoga at the bottom of Table Mountain, national theatre and an outdoor cinema. We rented a car a few times and made road trips to George, Hermanus and other nearby areas. South Africa is a very beautiful and diverse country.
This South African experience will help me to work with people from different backgrounds and to be more flexible and understanding of different situations in life. It requires patience to work in a foreign language and with people from different perspectives and professions.
Back in Finland, I have been able to put things in perspective more now than before the trip. From the kids, at WD Hendricks I learnt that the most important thing a child or a human being needs is a safe environment where you are seen, loved and hugged. The basic needs. Those we should value, not money.