Kushobani: my Durban Volunteer placement Oct - Dec 2010
The name of the organization that I volunteered for in Durban, South Africa is call Kushobani which means in Zulu (the language of one of the main Tribes in South Africa) “Who Said so”. I learned to utilize the phase “who said so” in my stay in Durban for example Who said a man cannot cry because they are a man or who said a person cannot sing and dance in the streets because they are happy or Who said a person cannot go into a Zulu town ship because they are light skin. I push my self out of my comfort zone when taking a taxi by myself to Kwamasho. Me being Latino in the taxi full of Zulu people I stood out a lot but my work counter part Bruce Buthelezi told me “ Not to worry because people are only curious to see a “umlungu”, (which means in Zulu a white person) in a black township by himself. Although I was scared at first because people told me many bad things about working in the township of Kwamaho I learned to say to my self “who said so” and that got me thought the moments when I when I was scared to go by myself and hardships I encountered. The name Kushobani came from a poem done by Moeketsie Shedile who sadly past away at a very young age but he left his legacy in the organization. Unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to meet him but from what all the people I talk to that knew Moeketsie they said he was an amazing Rastafarian poet guy.
The Main projects that I worked while being in Kushobani were cleaning high school class rooms, holding weekly poetry workshops and doing poetry sessions in High schools around kwamasho. Most schools in D section in Kwamasho are under found so they cut back on maintenance of the school to focus on academics. We went to many secondary schools and volunteered to help with cleaning of the classrooms. It was a lot of work but my Kushobani friends had a way of making cleaning fun. Every Saturday at the Fusion bar we help weekly poetry sessions that brought together the local poets, singers, and entertainers to showcase their talents and to get constructive feed back from the audience. Kushobani also went high schools and help poetry workshops with the students. We shared with them some of kushobani members poems and also tough them a little on our style. we provided a safe space for these young poets to express themselves and to grow in to a better poet.. Although most of the poems were in Zulu (which made understanding the literal meaning of the poem hard) I had to focus on the way the poet presented their writing. I observed that there is more to a poem then just the words but also the way a person presents a poem is important.
One of my main achievements during the Durban phase of the global Xchang programme was learning not to be afraid to be myself. Yes I am a poet but I am very shy but seeing my Kushobani mates be free and openly expressive encourage to be more confident in being me and not be scared to show people who I am. Another lesson that I learned in Kushobani was never set your bar low. Anything is possible if a person put their mind to it. Volunteering in Kushobani brought great joy and memories. I got Joy in being a witness of people from a different part of the world creating beautiful art and I experience memories that will stay with me until the day I pass on.
Bruce, Mario, pholani, Sna, zayin