I met Aubrey for the first time in 2007 after an official delegation visit to Cape Town. My counterpart Talfryn Harris from the NGO s.e.e.d. took me to Fairview Primary School in Grassy Park. We wanted to sign papers for an exchange project “Bauwagen goes South 2008” that should take place at Fairview. We immediately had a special connection and I felt the positivity and warmth of this man, who always ended a conversation with a big smile.
In 2008 I visited our volunteers during their project and from day one I felt like a part of this school – his school. He knew the name of every child (nearly a thousand!) and a lot of them just came to hug him when we passed by – and after a while they also started to hug me. I could feel by myself how much the children loved him.
I invited him to come to Germany the same year and to start partnering with Schule Am Lousberg in Aachen. Because of work related issues he could only stay in Aachen for eight days, but he filled these days with a lot of joy and love. And the children at Lousberg School took him straight into their hearts – just like the kids at home in Grassy Park. At the end of the week he had to write some verses into the girls’ poetry albums.
He stayed with me during his time in Aachen and one night I woke up hearing him putting on his clothes and trying to leave my flat in silence. After about an hour he came back. I was still awake, because I was a bit worried about the fact that he left the house without telling me. So I asked him: “Why did you leave and what did you do?” And he answered: “I just wanted to walk around town at 2 o’clock at night, because you can do that here. It is quiet and calm in the city, you will not get mugged or murdered. We cannot do that in Cape Town. I just wanted to experience that feeling!” It made me think about how fortuned we are in Germany to live in peace and harmony most of the time – no burglar bars or other security measures.
At Lousberg Primary he also saw my every-day-work for the NGO Stadtoasen and the original Bauwagen. He especially liked the balancing beams and outdoor gym. “The kids nowadays are missing sports and movement” he said. “Something like this I would like to have at my school too!” With these words the project “Healthy Schools in Grassy Park” (which took place in 2010) was born.
Before he left Germany, on the way to the airport, I could fulfil him a great wish. He wanted to see the “Father Rhine” – that huge river, where big cargo ships transport all kind of goods and people on cruise ships make holiday trips. We walked across the bridge in Cologne and took the elevator up the skyscraper named Triangle. I will not forget his astonished look down to the river and to the Cathedral on the other side.
In 2010 my project partner Monika and I had the great pleasure to work with this humble and caring principle of Fairview Primary for two months. He had made it possible that two other schools could participate in the project “Healthy Schools in Grassy Park”. He never considered himself to be too good to do some hard work which needed to be done. I remember him well mixing the cement and putting it into the wholes of the tar – and actually showing the caretakers how to do it right.
When I moved to Cape Town in 2013 I had no place to stay for the first two months. He invited me to stay with his family. Everybody made me feel like home and I became an adopted family member.
I am so grateful that I could call Aubrey my friend and that his family created a home far away from home for me. I was heartbroken when I heard that he died with Covid19 on the 21st of January 2021 – only two months after he had celebrated his 60th birthday. – Gone too soon.