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7th Update 8 weeks Expedition Young Leaders South Africa 2023

Hi everyone! This is our final week here in South Africa. We’re really enjoying it and getting close to finishing our garden project. This week’s blog is a bit bigger then the others because we left on Thursday, so we thought it would be best to extend this week’s blog. This week Tijn wrote the blog again with his experiences, enjoy!


On Monday Declan and I were still a bit sick and we mostly rested all day.


Tuesday we continued with the project in the garden. The week before we had put the posts in the ground so we could start with the posts lying horizontally on the posts in the ground. This was quite a job as we had to hold up 6 meter long poles and drill into them in the meantime. After Quinn was too tired to continue, we unfortunately had to stop because this work was not possible with the two of us.


On Wednesday we got into the car around 8 o’clock on our way to Hoedspruit. Hoedspruit is a village next to the Kruger Park where boost the world bought a piece of land a few months ago. The ride was a very nice ride through the high plains of South Africa. For lunch we stopped at a delicious Belgian pancake restaurant. When we arrived at our residence after a long day of driving, we were all impressed by the beautiful accommodations where we slept. We slept with Nico, a friend of Jacques and Barrie. Nico has a beautiful piece of land in the middle of the Kruger Park, so hyenas, zebras and buffaloes just walked along the fences. In the evening we had a delicious braai with Nico and his wife.


Thursday we got up at 5 am to go on safari. It was a beautiful sunny day and we saw a lot of animals. At the start of the Safari we soon saw a leopard, this is normally the most difficult animal to spot. It was a disappointment that we did not see any lions. After the Safari we drove to the area of the angry the world to have a look around. There was still a lot to be done on the piece of land, so there was not much to see yet. At the end of the day we had a nice swim in the pool and then had a braai with Nico and a friend of his.


Unfortunately, we went back home the next day. After a beautiful stop at a lookout we arrived back at Liv where we had a Christmas party with everyone from Liv. The Christmas party was very nice and cozy. The highlight was that Quinn participated, as the only boy, in the best dressed competition. Quinn eventually finished in second place. Later that evening, Willemijn Declan and I went to monte casino. The Netherlands played against Argentina and of course we couldn’t miss this. After an exciting game that ended with penalties, we went home disappointed, the Netherlands had lost…


On Saturday we were all a bit tired so we actually didn’t do much. Declan, Willemijn and I went shopping and sat on a terrace for a while.


On Sunday we went to the prison break market. This market was mainly filled with food stalls, all of which had great food. After getting some food here and there, we went hunting for presents for our parents. In the evening we had a nice meal together.

The week we leave South Africa

The last few days were mostly used to finish our project and say our goodbyes to everyone. We finished our garden the last 3 days we were able to work. We drilled the last few holes, put some metal rods in and bolted them tight into the poles. When we were done with the hole structure, we asked Dan to get us some fruit trees. And Dan did get us some nice trees, a total of 15 trees where planted, among them were kiwi, lemon, nectarine and many more. Our last days we also said our goodbyes to Barrie, Jacque, Russel and all the others. We had a nice last lunch with the 3 of them and saw many of our friends we made here in South Africa, the day we left and before. 

We really hope you enjoyed all our blogs and if you have any questions or want to join us on our next trip to South Africa, please let us know. We also really appreciate all the support we get, so if you can afford to sponsor one of our projects please do! We hope you’ll have a lovely day!

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3rd Update 8 weeks expedition Young Leaders South Africa 2022

Awesome that you are reading our next week blog! If you didn’t check out our previous blogs of our South Africa trip, please do that first. Then you have our whole story and some things make a lot more sense if you read all the blogs in chronological order. 

The beginning of week 3 started with a tough task for Tijn and Declan. They were helping the preschool with their garden in front. It was just an open space with rocks around it at first, but Tijn and Declan turned it into an amazing looking garden with beautiful plants and pebbles. There are 5 sections with plants and those sections are surrounded by beautiful red colored pebbles. A big middle section is surrounded by big rocks and in that section the words “Jesus at the center” is written with all different colorful pebbles. And all the dead space is filled up with white and gray pebbles. Getting all the pebbles from one place to the garden was the hardest part of the job. But we got it done and it looks great and the principal of the preschool agrees with us.

Quinn worked in the office again on our project and on his business. He has his own business he is still running from here in South Africa. So he was working a lot with his computer. Willemijn made all her hours again working in the preschool. 

We thought we can also share are ‘normal’ activities during the week. For example, every week on Wednesday a bus from LIV is going to a mall. This is for all of us to do our groceries (all volunteers, not just us 4). We have a schedule of who does the dishes, one is doing the dishes each day. And almost every day we all help with cooking, but Tijn and Declan cook the most. 

On Friday we had a big event with everyone at LIV Village. We all got together in the big hall we have on the premises. All the kids, parents, teachers, people that work for LIV and all the volunteers were there. We were split in 5 teams and we competed in fun games against each other. We also danced together, ate together and painted each other’s faces. And last but not least we had a jelly fight with everyone outside.    

On Saturday we went out to a botanical garden near us, with a beautiful waterfall. We walked around for a bit and afterwards we went out to the gym nearby. The next day we went out to the botanical garden again, but this time we went with Jacque and Russel. Jacque also had his kids with him, Amelia and Joshua. This time we went up the mountain next to the waterfall and we even went off the hiking path. We jumped across a river and went up the mountain to get an amazing view. 

Declan’s experience

I realized I’m starting to get into a routine during this week. Waking up early, doing volunteer work, eating lunch, cooking, eating, sometimes going to the gym, doing fun excursions during the weekend, etc. And I realize I’m really enjoying all of it, especially seeing Willemijn, Tijn and Quinn having fun and working hard.   

The first day me and Tijn started on the garden in front of the preschool it rained a lot. So it wasn’t that pleasant at first, but we just did it and in the end it wasn’t that bad. We got our job done for the day and we were proud of ourselves and each other. The next days we went out and finished it. It was heavy labor we had to endure, but the result was worth all the effort. It turned out to be a beautiful garden and the principal was very happy. 

I’m very happy that we can go to the gym, it really makes me feel better (physically and mentally). I usually take around 2 hours in the gym and the others are waiting for me to finish. So when I’m done, they are a little bit annoyed most of the time. I’m grateful for their patience because I really enjoy the long gym sessions.

What I also enjoy is cooking, so I gladly volunteer to cook most of the times (if I’m not too tired). Tijn has the same, so we cook the most of us 4 (but the others always help a little bit).   

The big event on Friday was Awesome! I really liked how lively it was, everyone seemed happy and we all were competing in the challenges with full conviction. I also enjoyed seeing everyone dance together. After we ate some food and got goody bags, we started the jelly fight outside. I really saw all the kids get competitive and a lot of passion in their eyes. I enjoyed being a part of this amazing event and in my eyes it brought all of us closer together. I also got to know, some people I didn’t really speak to before, a lot better. 

Our first visit to the botanical garden was already amazing, but the next day with Jacque, his kids and Russel was even better. With Jacque, his kids and Russel was on a Sunday, so we first went to Church from 9 until 12. After that we went out to a grocery store and bought food and drinks to have a picknick together. Then we made our way to the botanical garden and picked a nice spot in the park just before the waterfall. We ate some of our food, drank some water and played soccer with the kids. After that we went out on a hike and like said before, we went of the hiking path to see if we could clime a mountain. And we did, we went all the way up. I really enjoyed that, because I’m adventurous, I like to go to places where there is a nice view and getting there is not an easy task. We also saw a scorpion, porcupine coil, big ant nests and a lot more interesting insect (some way bigger than others). Overall an awesome day with awesome people!

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2nd Update 8 weeks expedition Young Leaders South Africa 2022

2nd Update 8 weeks expedition South Africa 2022 Thank you for checking out our blog of our trip to South Africa. If you read the previous blog, welcome back and if you didn’t be sure to check that one out first. Then you can follow our hole story from start to finish.

In week 2 we were kind of getting in a routine with the work we were doing. Quinn worked mostly on our garden project, getting our ideas on paper, getting the details about what and how much materials we need and getting an overview of the land we can use. We got a friend of Barrie and Jacque to assist us with an aerial picture, made by his drone. That really helped us because with that we can get a clear view of what comes where and we can make a 3D map on top of the pictures. Tijn and Declan also helped Quinn sometimes with the thinking and getting the details right. 

Tijn and Declan worked with the maintenance team when they weren’t helping Quinn with the garden project. They removed an overhead metal structure, because it was in the way of the garden project we are running. They had to dig a 40cm hole around a concrete block that was at the bottom of the metal structure (the concrete was there to keep it from falling over). That wasn’t an easy task because the ground was hard as a rock. So they had to use a pickaxe to loosen the ground, so they could shovel tke the ground away. They also helped with removing the big concrete blocks with a sludge hammer and bringing the metal structure and roofing to the other side of the village, where there is a storage for these kinds of materials. Because they can use them for something else in the future. 

Willemijn spend most of her time in the preschool again this week. She has the kids from the age of 2 until the age of 3. She also had an event for all the grandparents in the area, it is called grandparents day. But you’ll hear more about this at the end of this blog, because Willemijn will share her experiences from this week.

In the weekend we went out with just the 4 of us to a nice restaurant called Social on main. It’s a nice-looking restaurant with young audience and it is really affordable. We enjoyed it a lot and the food and drinks were amazing. The next day we went out Chameleon village, which is a nice place with an African market and some nice restaurants. You can also go-kart and swim there, but we just walked around and bought matching necklaces. 

Willemijn’s experience 

Week 2, for me this was a week of reflection. I’m starting to get used to the first impressions. I started thinking about certain questions. Why am I really here? Do I like volunteer work? Do I miss friends and family? Do I get energy from the people around me? How am I doing, am I happy?

Most answers were positive. It helps that my roommates Shell and Steffie have welcomed me warmly and that I get on well with Declan, Tijn and Quinn. Nice bonds are also starting to grow with the teachers and I enjoy the children at the preschool. Still, preschool is a place I sometimes dreaded spending from 7:30am to 3pm. Mainly because I was mentally challenged little. The tasks such as feeding, cleaning their faces, straightening tables and chairs and so on, did not challenge me and that is precisely why it sucked my energy. I noticed that I was not happy with what I did, but with who I did it. This made it difficult at times when I realized it was only week two. I started looking for solutions. Where can I apply my knowledge and skills? I realized that the simple knowledge can be important in a preschool like this. I told the preschool how to make all colors with blue, yellow and red paint. In the short term this had a nice effect on the art the children made and in the long term this will have a positive effect on the school’s expenses. Ideas that I received in the past, such as printing leaves in paint with a tree and then printing it on paper, impressed the teachers and kids. We did this in the African colors, it looked cool!

Last week we had grandparents day at preschool. Tijn and I baked a cake. At every event we make sure that there is more than enough to eat. And we had! At least that’s what I thought. The grandpas and grandmas ate a lot and took food home, which is a custom here. Within half an hour the whole table was filled with food and almost empty.

When asked how much someone had to pay if she wanted a homemade cake like this for her son, I realized that I couldn’t just say “For your son’s birthday I’ll bake it for free!!”. If you say that to one, you’ll have a whole row with the same question before you know it. That is why Tijn and I charge the price of the purchase, even if you prefer to give it for free. Unless not requested. For example, we already baked cakes for Patience (teacher) and Mesi (teenager at LIV village), because it was their birthday. I’m starting to find it easier to decline certain questions, such as the free cakes. In the Netherlands I sometimes have trouble with this. One of the first days a teacher asked if I could buy some chocolate so she could eat it on the way home. I didn’t dare to say no because I was not used to such a direct question. So the next day she did indeed walk home with my chocolate bar. Although I totally agree with her, she has to walk home for 45 minutes every day. From that moment on she kept asking every time and I learned to say “no”. When a teacher asked: “Can you give your shoes to me so I can remember you when your back in the Netherlands?” I replied laughing: “no, I’m sorry, you must do it with the good memories we have together 😉 ”.

Okay enough about preschool for now. I continue on the great weekend. We had been to Social on main. As Declan mentioned, the food was very tasty and also affordable. For Tijn, the bill was a bit disappointing, he had now tasted every cocktail on the menu. It made for nice conversations in the uber.

The next day we went to Chameleon village. Not a convenient place to take me. Quickly view all markets, once food is ordered, quickly view all markets and when it is time to go, just to be sure, quickly view all markets. The word “fast” no longer has any value for the boys either. They even came up with the idea that I should sign a contract that says “own responsibility if I get kidnapped, if I run away without saying again or run into a store”. Okay but long story short; I enjoyed myself here and the boys had a good meal, which means that they also enjoyed themselves. And believe it or not, I got them on the chains from the market. Which they wear every day.

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1st Update 8 weeks expedition Young Leaders South Africa 2022

Thank you for checking out our blog! This is a blog about our two month trip to South Africa and we are Willemijn (18 years old), Tijn (19 years old), Quinn (20 years old) and Declan (24 years old). Declan is the group’s facilitator.

All 4 of us were ready to go on Friday, October 14, 2022, but our flight was rescheduled 2 times by KLM unfortunately. After the second time, we decided to cancel the flight ourselves and booked a flight via Brussels.

So now almost a week later we all leave for Brussels by train. Everything went smoothly, it only was a long journey. We left home about 1:00 PM and arrived at our destination in Johannesburg South Africa at 10:00 AM the next day.

After doing some shopping that day, we recovered from the long journey and unpacked our suitcases. The next day we had an appointment with Barrie and Jacque, the supervisors and managers from South Africa. We had discussed how everything will go for the next 8 weeks and what we want to get out of our trip.

In the weekend we went to the Sterkfontein Caves close to where we are staying. These are caves created by nature itself, but also exploded by humans to extract raw materials and minerals from the caves. We have also been invited by other volunteers to go out for dinner to get to know them.

We have also oriented our accommodation well and got to know all the people here. We stay here in LIV village for orphans, who got a new family here. There is also a crèche and a baby home on our site, where children also come from a slum. The slum is not far from here and LIV supports this slum called Joslovo. LIV is a non-profit organization mainly focused on helping children. There is also a large garden on the property from which a lot of fruit and vegetables are obtained, which is also used to support the people in the area.

We are therefore here to help LIV and to volunteer. You can work in the garden, the crèche, maintenance team and in the office (administration).

After the weekend it was time to get to work on Monday. We immediately started our joint project. This project is inventing and making a meditation garden. We were immediately taken to a dream location where we could get inspiration from. Immediately our creativity started to work and the ideas started to come. When we came back from the dream location we immediately started our plan.

Willemijn has been in the crèche almost every day since Monday to help. In addition to working on the plan for the garden, Tijn and Declan also helped with the maintenance team. Among other things, they have a large place where all loose dead bamboo has been removed and given to people in the area who could use it. Quinn has only been concerned with the plan for the meditation garden.

Quinn’s experience this week

On Monday, the site-manager of LIV, Dan, took us on a small tour around the area. First, we started off with a place called Casa Linga. It’s a gorgeous place that doubles as both a garden and a wedding venue. It’s very spacious, and vibrant of countless colors. Think flowers, statues, trees, and all kinds of other decorations. We absorbed everything we saw, and boomed with inspiration for the meditation garden. Personally, it felt really good, feeling my brain do some work while brainstorming. After grabbing some ice-coffee, we got up and took a drive around the area, where Dan told us a lot about the country, similar gardens, and other places of interest. I found it pretty pleasant and relaxing. We were told there would be a variation of wildlife, but unfortunately, we didn’t get to see too much. We got back and took a look around our garden, and started planning.

We had a LOT of ideas, but realized that, unfortunately, we would have to stay for a couple more years to finish all of it, which felt really unfortunate, but I don’t think I have that time at my disposal. So we started thinking a little smaller, and focusing on one smaller part of the garden, in which we felt would have the most impact. We chose to choose this part (picture). Because it already looked nice, but was also easiest to access.

The biggest requirements were:

  • Build a peaceful place to sit down and get some rest
  • Increase the crop yield by 300%

So we started brainstorming, and I made some pictures around the place, and wrote down what we wanted to do with it. But then I was thinking, that it might be good to take some pictures from above. So we asked around, and turns out, we found someone that had a drone. We had to wait a while before we could actually do it, unfortunately. But it was the start of a great project, and something I was very looking forward to.