Volunteers have been an important part of the Axium team since we started, with over 170 individuals representing more than 10 countries giving their time to be part of our work at various stages. This week, as we appreciate the people that make our organisation what it is after Workers’ Day, we reflect on a beloved long-term volunteer who left at the end of November 2017. Joshua Morgan committed his skills to Axium voluntarily for two years, building creativity and humanity into all that he did. Read on to learn more about this special teacher...
Sitting on plastic chairs in the garden outside Axium’s office one morning, I finally understood why everyone joked about Welsh volunteer Josh Morgan being a local “Zithu-lebrity”.
“Molo, Josh!” bubbled into our conversation at regular intervals as each passing person enthusiastically greeted and shared a few words with the man known for learning isiXhosa in less than 2 years. Let’s maybe say that again: the WELSH man…known for learning isiXhosa…in less than 2 years.
So yes, something of a linguistic genius some might say, but most here will tell you that Josh learnt so quickly because he committed completely to getting to know the people he worked with.
“Before I came, I downloaded this app for about 10 quid, but it was just terrible,” Josh laughed about his initial attempts with the language. But by being very intentional about speaking to people, he soon managed to become conversationally fluent, even getting invited to speak at school events and famously writing a few songs in isiXhosa.
Music is at the heart of most things for Josh. Often seen with guitar in hand and regularly called on to perform at gatherings – with all the Zithuleleans singing along word for word – he incorporated song into both work and play.
Although he always enjoyed working with youth, Josh described his journey into teaching as somewhat “accidental”.
“I always loved to do music and photography, but have increasingly realised those things are so intrinsic to teaching,” he said. “They’re such tools and I try to use them as much as I can.”
After completing an English literature degree, Josh taught for some time in Wales. Plans to go live and teach in Nepal were put on hold when he met his wife, Elle, a medical doctor with friends who had been to Zithulele. The couple decided to make a move here together and loved the community they found.
“Life’s been pretty great here. I’ve enjoyed it from day one and I think I’ve improved as a teacher,” he said, going on to laugh that the only downside has been missing fresh milk. “Some people miss a lot about the city, but all the things I lost about the city were things I was already waiting or looking forward to losing.”
Although both Josh and Elle had to return to continue their own education and training, they hope to come back to Zithulele in the future. “It will take a lot to keep me away,” Josh said, reminiscing about relationships built and getting to know the area through hiking its coastline or spearfishing off the shore.
More than anything, he emphasised how amazing the spirit of kids is here, acknowledging them as gifted teachers themselves and saying their commitment to helping each other with education is inspiring.
“Although some are kind of old before their age, they’re still so charismatic and fun despite having a lot of responsibility in their lives,” he said.
This experience has helped Josh raise his standard of what teaching can be. “I don’t want to be someone who kind of deals out the slops of a curriculum, but I want to be someone who is very much intentionally involved in kids’ lives and chooses to educate in a different way.”
The words from one of his own songs were on everyone’s lips as heartfelt farewells were shared on the final weekend: “Molo bhuti, enkosi, bye-bye.”