Oblate Youth Service work in South Africa

My African Experience - Little Eden

Padraic Noble

Going to Little Eden I had some idea of what to expect having worked with special needs for a few years and currently studying intellectual disability nursing. But coming home from Little Eden I can tell you it was nowhere near what I expected. Never have I seen children and adults with such complex needs be so happy, joyful and loving. The first thing that struck me upon arrival was the love the family had for these children, remembering every one of the residents names, back stories and giving great big hugs to each one while introducing us. Some of the back stories were the most gruesome and horrifying things you could ever hear, but to see these children so full of life was awesome.

We were up bright and early every morning and down with the residents by 6:30am. Upon arrival we were without fail greeted with huge cheers from the more mobile residents who were already out of bed. We proceeded to help the staff in getting the other residents out of bed and making sure everyone was fed. After breakfast we had a session called 'learning time'. This session consisted of a classroom enviornment being set up where the residents could learn about music, how to talk about themselves, learn their abc’s and 123’s. All of this is thaught in a fun and engaging way. After lunch there are a range of activities that the residents can participate in depending on the day of the week. The different groups would get to go to the farm, down to the wetlands or chill out in one of the play grounds. On one occasion a helicopter arrived. The buzz around the place was immense as all the residents knew it was coming. It was an unbelievable afternoon with nearly every resident having the chance to fly in the helicopter.

Before and after dinner our time was spent showering and dressing the residents. As we were helping out it meant a second bath could open and everyone was finished early enough for a movie before bed time. Thanks to this movie time the group had an overwhelming knowledge of everything James Bond or Herby Fully Loaded. This was a great way to end each day, with everyone in the one room relaxing and having a laugh. Our days finished at half six most nights although on a number of occasions we stayed later to fulfil our newly developed love for James Bond.

Spending five weeks in the company of the residents and the workers was one of the most worthwhile, enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my life. I honestly don’t think any lifetime experience I will ever have will come close, I would go back in a heartbeat.