Autumn Update

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Hike for health 2014, dates confirmed!

We have final confirmation of the Hike for health 2014, dates.

Participants hike through the Southern Drakensberg mountains, and Lesotho, raising awareness about TB.

Arrival date for the hike is June 1st 2014, and departure June 13th.

Flights should be booked into Durban King Shaka International Airport.

There is an opportunity for participants to join our Three Countries Tour after the hike has been completed. This provides the opportunity to travel through the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa, first stop St Lucia Estuary for wildlife tour and Hluhluwe for big 5 Safari. Through to Mozambique to swim with dolphins and enjoy the Indian Ocean, then on to Swaziland to stay in the stunning Mlilwane wildlife sanctuary and enjoy nature and culture.

For more information, or to join this charity challenge, please email alex@mozvolunteers.com

 

A time to think – world AIDS day.

World AIDS day is coming up, and for us that always means a time to pause and reflect, to think about our community and those around us who are less fortunate.

As many of you will know, South Africa has one of the highest levels of HIV infection in the world.  In particular, the small, rural, Umkhanyakude district and surrounds, where we are based is possibly the highest infected populations in the country.  Women of reproductive age have an infection level of between 70 and 75%.  When you think about this in real terms, 3 out of every 4 women aged between 16 and 26 are HIV positive.  Reasons for the phenomenally high infection rate are not clear, but high levels of labour migration, low income levels, low education attendance and high desired levels of young pregnancy (resulting in a high birth rate) all have an influence on the overall infection levels.

I could fill you in on the stats and perceived reasons behind the infection levels for hours, but it is far better just to describe the reality of the situation to you as told by those who know.   This is a description of the real life, daily reality faced by a lady called Zihle (name changed to protect identity) who is typical of around 75% of the women from the poorest, most neglected community we work with and alongside.

Zihle’s Story

I am 30 years old. When I was 24 I was diagnosed HIV+. That was in 2006.  I am not a South African, I am originally from Mozambique, that means that I have never been able to apply for an ID book.  This means that I sometimes have a problem getting my ARV drugs from the local clinics. If this is the case, I have to travel very far to another clinic to see if they will help me.  Luckily, the usual clinic gave me a patient card, which tells other doctors what pill combination I am on.  If this is changed, it makes me very, very sick for a long time.. About 6 months.

I live in a small community far from any large town. I have no children and I have no boyfriend.  Every morning I wake up, and fold away my bed, which is three blankets and a pillow. I prefer to sleep on the floor, others prefer to sleep on old wooden pallets that they make into a kind of bed, but I find that it hurts my back.  I light a small fire outside my door, and, if it has been raining, I clean the drips on the floor that come through the leaky roof.  I make tea, and get dressed then, if I am feeling well enough I will walk the 3 KM to the store, to find out if there is work for me on the banana farm today.  If I work, I share lunch with a neighbour, and finish about 4pm. I will get paid R35 for the day.  If there is no work, I usually go back to my house, and clean a bit, have a sleep or talk with my friends. Maybe if one of us is feeling sick, I will go and help, bring her water from the river and try and make some food with high nutrition like morvite or soup.

I ache a lot, my bones in my back, my legs, my arms, my head.  I can’t walk very fast, because my legs don’t seem to want to work properly anymore.  I can tell that my eyesight is going a bit, because I cannot see very well anymore.  If I eat a lot I usually feel sick, and I get stomach infections about once a week. I get cold very easily, and I lose weight. I am losing weight very fast now, I am very very thin, none of my clothes fit me anymore.

But, I have good days and I have bad days. I enjoy singing, going to church and talking to my friends, going out to socialise at a little cafe next to the store when I have some spare money and cooking traditional, Zulu or Mozambican food.  I love clothes, getting my hair done (although a lot of it has fallen out now) and my nails painted at the salon – really, I’m just like you underneath it all.

Sometimes when I go into town, people stop and stare, although, nowadays there are so many people like me that it doesn’t happen so often.  I would love a child, but for me, it is not sensible. I know I don’t have much longer left – I can’t afford to look after myself as well as I would like, I need vitamin supplements, mineral tablets, protein, lots of very fresh fruit and vegetables, anti-nausea tablets, strong painkillers and I can’t afford it every day.

I make an effort to help educate others about this condition, and how to avoid it, or how to live positively with it. Mostly I am positive, but my positivity comes from being realistic. I have no false hope, no silly thoughts, I am just living each day as fully as I can and making an effort to help others in the same situation as me where and when I can.  I know it is not fair, I knew nothing about HIV when I was younger, I didn’t understand, but it has happened and I am living with it inside me as best I can.  Day to day.

 

To volunteer with us visit http://www.mozvolunteers.com or email alex@mozvolunteers.com