A TEAM of hairdressers enjoyed a ‘life-changing’ experience improving the lives of children in South Africa.
Staff members from Creations, in Chichester, joined the Coco’s Foundation to build a home for a family of orphaned children.
Coco’s Build4TheFuture project provides homes and shelter for desperate child-headed families.
“After 32 hours of planes, trains and automobiles, our group of weary travellers finally landed in South Africa on October 10,” said Emma Baines, from Creations.
“Anxieties were running high as we came off the N7 main highway along a dirt track through trees to a little wattle and daub shack where these beautiful faces poked out through the trees.
“Chris, the founder of CoCo’s Foundation, had taken us to the first house the foundation ever built and introduced us to the family they built for, the wattle and daub shack was sat in the middle of an area that the family, with the help of the foundation, had subsequently built up over time.”
Emma said the build was one of the ‘most challenging’ the foundation had ever encountered.
“We could not get a vehicle to the site because of how remote the area was, and there was no water either, we had to go and fetch the water from the croc-infested lake to be able to mix the cement by hand,” she said.
“We were so far out in the sticks it was impossible to do anything!
“Our days started at 4.30am and we got back to our accommodation between 6pm and 8pm most nights.
“Our accommodation was a Christian missionary and they looked after a very weary team through the 18 days.
“This was also challenging at times, with bats, bugs, strange noises and because of the area, some nights we had no water or electricity.”
Elliott Courtney won the chance to go along on the trip back in May thanks to a collaboration between the Observer series and Creations.
“My time in Africa has been both amazing and hard – it is an experience I will never forget,” said the 20-year-old from West Wittering.
“I have experienced complete and utter crushing poverty and also warmth of total happiness and love.
“I have been working with a great team of people I have become good friends with and through them I have made it past hard times, all in all I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
As well as building a house in 18 days, the team took part in community work.
“We fed 500 children before their school day which was incredibly emotional as some of them hadn’t eaten in three or four days,” said Emma.
“We painted the outside of six houses so they were finished off nicely for the families.
“We attended a PSS workshop, this workshop takes the worst cases of abuse from the communities and teaches them life skills.”
Emma thanked all those who helped make the dream of helping children in Africa a reality.
“Without all the wonderful people donating to the Creations’ team for the Coco’s Foundation over the past two years, we would not have been able to do this, so a big thank you to everyone who helped us raise more than £26,000 for this project.
“We can’t change the world all at once, but we can make a big difference to a small number of people.
“One of the biggest learnings was the simplest things in life are the most rewarding and to be grateful for all the wonderful people in your life.”