This is the first blog post from the new Pulse team in Free State (Ingrid and Eirik). Two weeks have passed since we arrived, and we have received a warm welcome from the Parys Project Officer Jackson Mokoena and the FBF tutor teams and band members, both in Parys and Viljoenskroon. The weather gods of Free State, on the other hand, gave us a very cold introduction to Parys, even by Norwegian standards. Thankfully, springtime is around the corner and we can feel the temperature increasing day by day.
So far we have visited several of the FBF rehearsals and we are amazed by the enthusiasm, skill and positive energy that we’ve met. The bands in Parys and Viljoenskroon are inclusive bands, whereby the majority of the members are living with disabilities. Both bands were established quite recently and the tutors have done well in creating a safe and engaging learning environment. The band in Viljoenskroon is based in Mphatlalatsane School, which is a school that opened in 1986 and caters for 200+ students with disabilities, many of which live in the school’s boarding facilities most of the year. In Parys the band has members from several schools in Tumahole, plus members from a nearby centre for people with disabilities. Our task is to contribute to even better integration of members with disabilities, through close collaboration with the tutors. This will be an interesting challenge, as we are also new to this environment. But we really enjoy working in the townships!
Other observations so far: Everyone in Parys is surprised when they realise that we do not speak Afrikaans. Rather, we are trying to learn Sesotho, one of the most spoken languages in Free State. It is tricky to learn, but we’re slowly getting better at it, thanks to some very patient neighbors!