The Mountains are looking beautiful at this time of year – there is often snow on the tip of the Berg, Giant’s Cup and Giant’s Castle glow red in the mornings, and volunteers wake up in their cosy Basotho Rondavels (thatched round houses) to a fabulous view and amazing sunrises. Most days the temperature still rises to the mid-20’s and 30’s, so its lovely and warm during the day, and the sunshine makes any outdoor tasks involved in the day’s work all the more enjoyable.
We have achieved a great deal within our programme over the summer, and through Autumn:
The education support programme has gone from strength to strength, with international experts assisting with syllabus development at Beersheba primary school, and volunteers helping in classrooms working with learners of all ages.
Highlights of the past term have been international days with grade 6 – each week, the school class is given a presentation by a volunteer from a different nationality, which involves learning some language (or colloquial terms!), eating a national food and making national flags; the role model programme (which meets on a weekly basis) aims to inspire children of all ages to promote social good in their community, by performing good deeds once a week. This is important to develop a cohesive community using a bottom up approach. Even the smallest members of the group have instigated change in their communities, from taking fresh vegetables to elderly community members, to helping clean their communal land.
The school and creche are still recipients of vegetables from a feeding scheme, and any surplus is used to support nutrition of elderly and OVC’s (orphan/vulnerable children) from the Mahaque community. We used some of the surpluss food produced within this scheme to provide a fabulous Christmas lunch for 80 children from Mahaque on Christmas day.
The sporting ability of learners is improving, with volunteers running weekly PE lessons that include basketball, soccer, rugby, cricket and netball, and setting up sports days and inter-school matches across our district.
We work on a daily basis to promote the good health of our programme beneficiaries. This involves providing home-based support for treatment regime adherence, family health support and Life orientation lessons at school. Medical volunteers have set up gastro-health screening and treatment for young children, as well as TB awareness and HIV voluntary counseling and testing services throughout the community. This programme is monitored internally on a daily basis, and our most recent annual impact evaluation has identified strong improvements in general health, family nutrition and particularly TB screening, awareness and treatment completion.
It is important in the field of international development to not just provide direct support, but also, where possible to provide opportunities and training in terms of sustainable livelihoods opportunities. A main focus of our work is to provide training for women who are either HIV infected or affected, in previously known crafting and arts skills. We have successfully identified 20 women for training in these skills, who will participate in a master craftswoman programme in August of this year. These skills will then be further transferred to 80 more women from Mahaque over the forthcoming 2014-2015 period. Beneficiaries of this initiative will be trained in crafts such as mohair weaving, basket making, sewing and pottery, to produce high quality products that will be sold in our identified outlets in Cape Town, London and locally. A two-week workshop run by a British artist and crafter will assist with the training programme. A fabulous group of volunteers from Australia made a start on a workshop for this initiative, and we hope to see it completed by the end of July this year.
Over the forthcoming months, we are hoping to have lots of international volunteers join our programmes here in the Berg. Volunteers will have the opportunity to help in classrooms with children of all ages, provide support and child care at the Beersheba creche, work with orphans within the community, help out with the feeding scheme, assist with the promotion of good health, work on necessary construction projects including a new classroom for the school, play equipment for the creche and of course the completion of the workshop.
As you can see we are very busy working to promote development within local communities in our district using the areas of education, healthcare and sustainable income generating opportunities. However, we still leave a little time for recreation. Evenings are sociable occasions, we light great big log fires in our indoor and outdoor fireplaces, and cook up a storm, serving delicious South African meals to our volunteers. Zulu dancers entertain new arrivals and Tembeka opens her home to welcome volunteers to enjoy evenings at her homestead, which include lessons in basic Zulu, traditional cuisine and home-made “Utshwala-BesiZulu” (you’ll have to join us to find out what this is…!). Weekends are free to relax on the riverside deck, do a spot of yoga, enjoy trips into the nearby Kingdom of Lesotho, hot springs and the mountain parks, or even skiing.