The following post was written by Gap Year Fellow Shelby Watson.

“What’s your name?”
“Who’s that?”
“Can I play with your hair?”
“Will you chase me?”
“Can you push me on the swing?”

As I walked through the gate of the Dream Centre on the first day of my internship in South Africa, these were the words and actions that poured out of the 90 children who surrounded me. I was pulled in every direction and hugged all over. Four or five kids at the same time would yell, “Shelby watch me do this,” and then show off their best dance moves or their skills on the monkey bars. There was no possible way for me to watch each kid do his or her performance individually. Therefore, I tried to watch each kid for a few seconds at a time, but they soon caught onto what I was doing – and trust me – they all knew when I was not watching them. I think I might have received whiplash that first day.

I later found out that I would not be working with ALL of these kids at one time, only half of them. The thought of remembering their names seemed impossible. I have now lived in Cape Town for 20 days and I can proudly say that I not only know a lot of the kids’ names but also some of their stories.

As overwhelming as that first day was, all I could do was laugh and smile. These children had no clue who I was or what I was about. However, with no hesitation, they welcomed me with loving arms and acceptance. They give me just what I need each day: hugs. Being away from the people I love back home is hard, but knowing I am surrounded by just as much love in South Africa makes the days so sweet. I am loving my time here and I cannot wait to grow closer to the kids.