Olivia Shaw
Olivia Shaw
South Africa, 2021
My name is Olivia Shaw and on January 13, 2021, I will be hopping on a plane to Cape Town, South Africa to begin work in Woodstock at a group home for immigrant and refugee children. I will be living in Cape Town for about six months and am so excited to see how my work will develop in my time there! Read More About Olivia →


14 Feb


One of the artists, Petru Naomi Lotter, told us first hand about her art and its meaning, then she dedicated this ant that she was painting to us!

Happy Valentine’s Day! This Valentine’s Day was spent with new friends and filled with sunshine and warm weather. I spent the afternoon bike riding through the streets of Salt River suburbs where artists from a conglomerate of communities came together to participate in the International Public Art Festival. There truly is nothing like summer in the city! 

One of the largest and arguably most integral systems that has been adversely impacted by Covid-19, I believe, is the education system. Our systems have attempted to adapt to the conversations of elected officials, Covid-19 data, projected rates of infections as well as accommodate to the evolving needs of its students and families; however, I think on a global scale, our schools were not adequately prepared from the beginning to handle the shifts that have taken place over the past year. Working in a group home also means that the conversation of school looms largely over the meetings and conversations had among staff and between children in the home. As the new strain continues to spread among South Africa, it poses new questions and new threats everyday that continue to impact what exactly will happen with the school system and when and how classes will resume.

One of the challenges we face at Lawrence House is variance in schools (public and private) and the drastic age differences of children in the home. The children of Lawrence House range in age up to twenty-one and even those in similar age brackets do not attend the same school. What this means is that there are a multitude of schools and approaches to how school will resume and how the schools will facilitate in person and distanced learning for its students. It also affects how and when I will work- every week since I’ve begun my schedule has altered slightly and it will continue to do so for the time being.

This week I began attempting to develop some resemblance of a school schedule that works on rotation for the varying school schedules based off of age, school, and dates of distanced and in person learning. Even students who are in the same grade and attend the same school may still attend in person learning on alternating days. In addition, each school has unique policies to distance learning days and what will ensue in regards to packet work, virtual class, or class-specific assignments or homework.

What I have learned and observed from the children at Lawrence House as well as the staff and administration at the group home is this: children need socialization. After close to a year of quarantining and strict isolation, the youth are ready to be out and to socialize. They are feeling the deprecations of sustained deprivation from their peers, from social activities, from physical extra circulars, and even school- yes, what I have heard is a resounding excitement for school to resume. I have also heard from the staff that they are collectively yearning for a bit of quiet and structure during the day to hold their necessary meetings, attend court, work with the magistrate, apply for visas, and all of the other administrative work that flies under the ever-obvious radar of what is considered child and youth care work. At this point, I also feel as if I am vicariously yearning for school to resume as well.

The ambiguity of school and the implications of Covid-19 have also left me in a limbo state as I continue to adjust to what my role is. I think that the development of my role has been slightly stunted due to the continual changing of absolutely everything around myself, the group home, school, Cape Town, and the country of South Africa. I’ve had to remind myself that there is grace for periods where I feel less productive than I should. There is space to simply sit with the children and learn from them, listen to them, dance with them, and lean into Life Space Intervention. Good, meaningful work is not often explicitly therapeutic, healing and change can happen in the soft moments and in the mundane time between dance parties. It is mindfulness as an approach at its core and I think that I’m beginning to adjust to this approach and also love the peace and ease it can bring.


To learn more about the Cape Town National Public Art Festival, how it brings awareness to the indigenous South African communities, and the artists who participated, click here







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