Having received training from the Clowns Without Borders South Africa team, four young facilitators from The Seven Passes Initiative visited nine local schools, in the final part of the ‘Our Story, Your Story’ project.
Having practised their stories, rehearsed fun songs, and planned interactive activities for the school students, the young facilitators began by asking the whole class for help with ‘building’ an imaginary fireplace. The students were truly captivated by the stories they were told and some, having been inspired by the young facilitators, were brave enough to then share tales from their own lives.
In the podcast below (25 minutes), we hear snippets of these sessions – including some the songs, as well as stories from Clamercia, Catherine, Ruwayda, and Trudy respectively. Kindly translated from Afrikaans into English by Project Facilitator, Simone Peters, we hear Ruwayda’s story in full, alongside synopses of the others.
The young facilitators certainly got a lot out of the process, as can be seen in both their own reflections, and those of project staff:
“[The project was aimed at] giving them an experience of sharing their stories with many of the schools where they grew up and children from the local community” Lisa Cohen, CWBSA Facilitator
“[The project facilitator] believed that I could do it so I just had to believe in myself like she believed in me.” Ruwayda, Young Facilitator
“I just had to believe in myself like she believed in me” – Ruwayda
“I was very nervous but Lisa reassured us to not worry […] the children were so well behaved and they worked with us. They all listened then I wondered, ‘Why did I stress?’” Ruwayda, Young Facilitator
“Now, at first, I was like nervous but when we got on the stage everything was like, “Boom!”, just like that.” Clamercia, Young Facilitator
“I was so out of my comfort zone but I acted the whole time and my story was so nice. I really enjoyed it so much and my story was so good.” Ruwayda, Young Facilitator
“Storytelling is great, we learned very much about storytelling” Young Facilitator
“I felt so much pride […] I was just in awe” Simone Peters, CWBSA Facilitator
“Even though I was telling the stories to the kids, to me it was healing. I’m not even embarrassed anymore. I’m not feeling that sadness, or something like that. To me, it’s like I’m healed.” Young Facilitator
“To me, it’s like I’m healed” – Young Facilitator
“Seeing their growth and journey […] see[ing] them performing at schools and schools asking them to come back […] We could see there was a clear growth in them.” Simone Peters, CWBSA Facilitator
“We could see there was a clear growth in them” – Simone
Each of the stories can be found below:
You can listen to Clamercia’s Story (13 minutes) in Afrikaans, or read the written synopsis in English below.
After returning from school one day in May, my grandfather sat me down and told me how much he loved me. How he was so proud of me and only saw success in my future. I found it odd but I indulged him. He tried to do the same with my aunt but she refused to listen. After my grandmother made dinner, he said he had to visit another aunt to take something. My grandmother did not want him to go but he left anyhow, saying, “Just give me 5 minutes”. After 5 minutes passed, a lady knocked frantically on our door saying, “Your grandpa is at the robots [traffic lights]”. I kept asking, “What about him?”, but she wouldn’t get to the point. So I ran to the robots and saw blue police lights and the ambulance. As I kept looking, I saw that my grandfather had been knocked over by a police car.
They took him to the hospital along with my grandmother but after a while, she came back and told us that he has passed away. I was happy that I had spent time with him and that I had gotten to hear how much he loved me. However, my aunt was so regretful because she had refused to listen to him when he wanted to spend time with her.
He taught me so many life lessons like not judging others, having a positive attitude, and treating everyone with respect. I learned to appreciate what I have because I never know when it could be taken away. I told this story to encourage the learners to appreciate the people in their lives and to never take people for granted – because tomorrow is never guaranteed.
You can listen to Ruwayda’s Story (12 minutes) in Afrikaans, or read the full written translation into English below.
Two years ago, when I was grade 12, all my friends were sitting around a table and they told of how they were going to university or college. I sat there and wondered, “Where am I going?” I didn’t know what I wanted to do after school so I thought, “Okay they have given me something to think about.”
I went home and received a message from my sister. She lived in George, whereas I lived in the Eastern Cape. She told me to apply at Southgate College and I thought, “Okay, but that’s in George and I am in the Eastern Cape. How am I going to get there?” And she says, “Just apply” and it was the last day they were taking on students, so I did just that.
The next day, I received a message from Southgate College to say I must come to write a test there. So I thought, “Well now I have no choice, I must go to George.” So, I started packing my clothes and told my mum I must go, and my mum said, “Yes my child, it’s a great opportunity.” Okay, well I had no choice because I hadn’t applied anywhere else. “Oooh,” I thought, “I am going to George and will be meeting new friends and I can’t wait.”
That Sunday I got in a taxi. Now George is far and the drive was long. That’s how I started living with my sister in Touwsranten. And, in 2016, I began college. I knew no one and it was lots of work. And the work was hard, so I had to put in a lot of effort.
I couldn’t wait for my marks. When we had tests, I would study very hard and I would tell my friends, “Ooh, come see how much I got”. When I got home I would tell my sister, “Ooh, I did extremely well in my test”. She would ask how much I scored and it would be high marks and she would say that I must maintain them. She would encourage me and she was always so happy. The second quarter was short and my friends and I studied so hard before I went to write the exams. After the exams, it was the holidays so school closed and everyone went home. I went to my mum all happy because I was confident that I was going to pass.
In 2017, I had to back to college to get my results. Everything reopened – the schools opened, the colleges opened and I had to collect my results now. I had to go on the 13th January. This was a special day because it was my mum’s birthday. I was so happy because I was going to pass and go to the next grade. I got to the college and I was so unsure and confused about where to go. There were so many people everywhere, as well as new faces arriving to apply. I got there and saw some of my friends who asked me, “Where you are going? Go to the office.”
I got there and they told me, “Young lady, you do not owe the college anything so you can go and fetch your results.” I said, “Okay”, so I went to the hall. I got there and the teacher says, “Oh, Miss Van de Merwe”. I said, “Yes sir?” “You are probably here for your results?” “Yes sir, I am”. He looked at me and said, “Oh, you must start praying two times” and I said, “Why must I pray twice? I don’t understand, I worked so hard – so you can’t tell me that.” And he repeated, “Pray twice before you get your results” and he looked again. He said, “Okay, Ruwayda here are your results” and he kept on speaking and saying “Ruwayda, you can still finish this year and apply to do a rewrite.” And I am like, “Sir, what are you talking about?” And he said, “Well you can’t go to the next grade.” I said, “Sir, I worked hard, please don’t play any games. Didn’t they make a mistake?” And he said, “No, this is your name under these results. Apply again to retake and work harder next time.” And I said, “No sir, you can’t tell me that. No sir, really? No sir, what do I tell my sister? What do I tell my mother?” The teacher said, “Don’t worry young lady, just go the woman there and apply for a rewrite”.
Now, friends, I didn’t know what to do. I had failed and I didn’t know what to do. I could go nowhere. How should I go forward? So I went to the woman and I asked to do a retest. She asked me how many subjects I needed to resit. When I said two, she said it was 100 Rand per subject. And I said, “I don’t have that kind of money”. She said, “Don’t worry young lady, you can still pay later this week.” I said, “Okay miss”.
I realised that I needed to call my sister to tell her what had happened. But how was I going to do that? She was working and paid for my transport to college. So how do I tell her now? What am I going to say? I decided to call her. You know how people can be, she screamed at me and scolded me. She said, “How could you fail? You were supposed to be working harder! You failed and you know you can’t afford this. I went out of my way for you. What are you going to do now?” And so, she gave me a hard time. You know how they are, they expect the best from you. So she kept giving me a hard time.
I then phoned my mum and said that I didn’t make it. I told her that I failed and didn’t know what to do. My mother started shouting at me too. She doesn’t work and I know that she doesn’t have money for me to study. And now I have messed up. She also heard that my sister wouldn’t be helping me anymore.
So, I thought, “Now what?” I was leaving the college and on my way, I saw one of the teachers who had taught me. He asked, “Ruwayda, what’s wrong?” and I said, “Sir, I am going to leave now. I don’t belong here.” He asked me to tell him what had happened. I told him that, “I am not coming back to college” and he said, “Why are you giving up? You can’t just give up like that. I know you worked hard in my class and I know you can work harder and do better. You are going to pass the retest – it’s a second chance.” I said, “Okay sir, but I must go now I don’t feel well.” He said, “Okay go, but don’t give up. I know you won’t give up.” When he told me that I felt like there was someone supporting me in my moment of self-doubt. I then walked to get a taxi to go back to Touwsranten.
I got into the taxi and there was an aunty who always got the bus with me in the mornings. Every morning at 6 o’clock we would catch the same taxi from Touwsranten to George – which is far. The aunty asked when college was opening again, “You are then so scarce and I don’t see you anymore”, she said. And I told her that I would not be going to college anymore. That I had failed. She put her hand on my shoulder and said, “You can do it, just try a bit harder.” She kept talking and encouraging me and then I thought, “Wow my sister and mother have given me such a hard time.” Here are people who really care, so why should I feel like this? I will not give up.
I still needed to find a solution to my problem. I could not just sit and lie around while my sister worked because she would scold me. So, I texted my sister, “They usually recruit at your work. So are they appointing people now?” She said, “Yes, give them your CV. They are appointing people now.”
Now I didn’t have a CV, but sat next to me was a guy who also worked there, Roberto. He always helped with the computer class. I asked Roberto to help me. He asked what I needed help with and I said that I needed to make a CV to apply for a job. He asked, “Why are you working? You are at college.” I told him that I wasn’t and he asked, “Why did you fail or something?” “Don’t say it like that, as if it’s nothing”, I said. He agreed to help me with applying to work. He helped me type and we handed in the CV.
The next day they called me to say, “Ruwayda we are doing interviews.” I was like, “Okay I will get the job and then I will have a solution to my problems – no more worries.” I had already applied to rewrite, so I’d be rewriting AND have a job.
My sister was at work when I went to tell her that I was going to get the job. And now, in June, I will be rewriting. This whole experience taught me never to give up. And that is my story.
You can listen to Trudy’s Story (18 minutes) in Afrikaans, or read the written synopsis in English below.
That day was my day to go to town (George). Now, town is the place to be, where you see good looking guys and you meet all sorts of people. It was time to pick an outfit. This took forever because I wanted to look glamorous and wanted people to think, “Wow, she knows her fashion.” Then I did my makeup and hair, which took another hour, but it was perfect in the end.
I travelled to town with my work colleagues. We had to sort out our police clearance and go to the bank. My friend and I went to the bank but it was offline. Later, we went to eat and, as we were walking back, I saw that my shoe had completely broken. The soles were peeling off and I tried to walk but I failed terribly. So I took them off and walked barefoot.
I felt so humiliated and embarrassed. What would people think of me, a girl with no shoes? I just wanted to die. I even had to walk barefoot in the mall. I had so many people stare at me which made me want to die even more. I finally got back to work and found another colleague of mine who was also barefoot – but she didn’t care. The children still treated her normally.
That day I learned that it is about what is on the inside that matters the most. Looks fade away but we must always be respectful of people. I wanted to share this story with children to teach them to look at what is on the inside and not the outside. I also told it to teach them that we must not judge one another because we do not know each other’s story.
You can listen to Catherine’s Story (8 minutes) in Afrikaans, or read the written synopsis in English below.
I used to live in an informal settlement, in a shack with my sister and her children. Next to us lived this couple who constantly got drunk and would fight and swear with each other. So I didn’t take any note of them when it happened yet again. Now, in an informal settlement, one can hear everything in other people’s houses because you are so close. On this night, I heard fighting and heard the woman, who was very angry and jealous, say, “You’re going to see what I’m going to do”. I left them to it and went to bath.
But my room got hotter and hotter. I looked out of my window and saw flames. The house next to us where the couple had been fighting was burning! I went to tell my sister and we ran outside to find that our home had caught fire too. The other neighbour hose-piped our home and managed to save it but our neighbour’s house was not so lucky. I screamed for someone to call the firefighters. Eventually, they came but the house had already burned down. All that was left were ashes. Luckily no one got hurt but that house had been home to 8 people. They were all now homeless because of one person’s actions.
I learned that actions have consequences which can be deadly, so we must never let our anger or jealousy get the better of us. I told this story to the children to teach them that playing with fire is dangerous and deadly, but also to think before they act. Many of us get angry and jealous, doing terrible things in the heat of the moment that can be deadly.
You can find more information, and links to further resources, about the ‘Our Story, Your Story’ project here.
Dialogue is very grateful to Project Facilitator, Simone Peters, for her translation of these materials from Afrikaans to English.
© Dialogue Community Performance / Clowns Without Borders South Africa