But when you learn about the hardship many kids in the region have to face growing up, your enthusiasm vanishes and you get frustrated, if you hear from parents mistreating their children and local governments abandoning then in worn down schools. In the villages surrounding Tzaneen you find a mix of problems related to poverty, health and social issues, but you will also find the scouts and that makes the difference, because being a scout makes a difference to the children living in this harsh environment.
Living in the rural area obviously isn't a nightmare day out day in, children live a normal everyday life, with the bad and good times that they would have all over the world. They love their parents, they fight with their parents, they go to school, are sometimes lazy and sometimes exited, but the exception comes with, what has sadly become normality for a lot of them: many parents are unemployed (like 27% of adults in Limpopo) or may be working far away in the economic centers like Joburg or Pretoria, children might be looked after by their siblings or grandparents. With an HIV/Aids rate of 22% further hardship comes and is often the foundation for the social problems arising out of despair and depression resulting in high amounts of domestic violence and crime.
But what do you want to do? Cry??? No! You hold on to what takes you further, you survive and try to take charge. Scouts takes the children further, encourages them, gives them time to play, learn new skills, and puts them in charge. With a carefully crafted program suitable for each age, boys and girls are enabled to grow into responsible adults, to value their life and cherish themselves as talented and beautiful as they are.
Scouts accompany kids until their youth and young adulthood. When one sees how the older scouts take their education serious, study hard for their matrix and when some of them even go to university it is like the real sunlight is coming into the beautiful area of the Limpopo hills, and makes every flower shine brighter.
What is even more surprising is how adults get involved with scouts. Many of them are women and, being fed up with the situation they live in, they help the scout leaders of their children's scout group or participate in becoming a scout leader themselves.
During my stay I was able to take part in a scout leader training camp and help with the organization. Seeing old gogos (grandmothers), that sometimes haven't even learned to read or write, participate with curiosity and eagerness in the training, was one of the most amazing things for me. These women made up their mind to bring a change to the situation of their children and grandchildren.
Next to having the privilege to witness these processes at every level I had a great time while staying with Zabe and Louise. Zabe even showed me how to cook Chakalaka, a very nice vegetable dish with carrots, beans and lots of curry - it is even vegan - and until now this is the only dish I can cook. So Zabe has change me from a non-cooking person to a "I can make Chakalaka"-person and interestingly enough my friends and family don't seem to get tiered of this dish - it must have something to do with this taste - for me a Limpopo taste. Always when I cook it I think of the maize that women grow on hard soil, the typically cheap beans with sweet tomato sauce that everyone buys, the carrots and of course the curry which with its Indian origin, to me, represents the diversity of South Africa and last, but may be the most important, its nourishing character that makes you strong for the challenges of everyday life, wherever that may be.