Vicky Tuck Travel Award - Amy Stocks

Amy Stocks (2019, Glengar) came back to College in March 2020 to talk about her experiences, living for three months in a residential foster home in Durban, South Africa.

"During my gap year the Vicky Tuck Award partially funded my trip to South Africa where I spent 3 months living at the Lungisisa Indlela Village in Durban (or LIV village for short). LIV Village is a long-term, residential, foster home for around 200 orphaned or vulnerable children. It was first founded by a couple called Tich and Joan Smith. Tich was an international sportsman playing golf, rugby and cricket until his career ended due to his alcohol and gambling addiction. After a divorce, spending time in rehab and working as an insurance salesman for 8 years in order to pay back his debts he felt called to build a village that would house orphaned and vulnerable kids and provide them with a lifestyle that gave them everything they would need to be raised out of poverty and equipped to become leaders with aspirations. It was inspired by the old African saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

My responsibilities were to teach maths, art and drama. I also helped with the Christmas play, youth clubs, kids church, sorting donations and on the school reception. One of my favourite jobs was tutoring some of the grade 5s which is equivalent to our year 6. It was definitely challenging teaching in a language that I didn’t speak and teaching children who were all so visibly affected by trauma but it taught me so much about the way in which different people interact. 

The children were incredibly difficult to control in school and it was very rare to see the whole class sitting down at the same time. You could walk down the corridor and there would usually be at least two students sat outside every classroom. The school system in South Africa requires that if you fail two or more of your subjects in the end of year exams you get held back and you retake the whole year. You can retake once in every education phase which means by the time you are in your final year of school, you could be up to 4 years below your age group. With limited funding, an extra 4 years of education is extremely costly, particularly if multiplied by 200 students. So this is why we spent so much time doing one on one tutoring as a staff team, to make sure that no one was getting left behind.

One difference of teaching in a school where all the children have the same history of trauma means that the lesson structure had to be very different from what you experience here. The lessons had to be kept short and included 10 mins at the start and again at the middle of the lesson which enabled the kids time to settle down and get seated. The lesson would then include the teacher writing out the textbook page on the whiteboard for the kids to copy because there was only one of each textbook and paper was too limited to photocopy it for each of the kids. Because of the restlessness of the children, school was finished by 2pm so that they had plenty of time to go home, rest and play.

The Vicky Tuck Award gave me the opportunity live in a different culture, in a different language, with people who had such different life experiences to me and that experience was invaluable. Of course there were hard days and emotionally it was really tough to sit in a room full of three and four year olds knowing that they had no family but it was made worthwhile when one of your kids passed their exams or started to open up to their social worker for the first time. LIV taught me that no matter who you are you can fall on tough times just like Tich and Joan did but they also gave me a fantastic example of how you can turn your life around.

Whilst I expected to go out and teach the kids I’m not sure I expected them to teach me as much as they did and I am extremely grateful to the Vicky Tuck award donors who made it possible. I certainly look forward to hearing where other students find themselves through the award in the years to come and was excited to hear of another CLC girl who is considering volunteering at LIV in the near future".