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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Backpacking vs volunteering?

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Between us, Bean and Myself (and Bali, mitsles and co) have had many years experience working in the international development sector, running “real” volunteering opportunities for interested internationals, and also, working in the backpacking sector, when it was in the midst of its hey day in the 2000’s.  We got to thinking the other day, how the sector has changed.  Here are our five reasons why Ethical “real” volunteering beats backpacking in South Africa.

1. Affordability: If you wanted to volunteer in South Africa with MozVolunteers for one month, the costs would be far less than if you backpacked around, say with the Baz Bus, or personal hire car.  Volunteering also provides opportunities to travel, in free time, around our province, to Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and further.  Backpacking is expensive, you have to factor in travel, accommodation, meals and extra activities.  With us, these are all included in your volunteer placement.

2. In-depth travel, and immersion: Many backpackers complain that they try and cover too large an area of the country in too little time, meaning that they spend most time on the road rather than actually making memories.  When you volunteer with us, you get an in-depth experience of our area, and travel opportunities around to locations and destinations that are “off the beaten track”.  This means, best of both worlds, and a real South African experience.

3. Safety: Hands down, volunteering with us is a far safer experience than backpacking around.  We offer reliable and safe accommodation, and provide in-house, expert advice, and support 24/7.  When you are backpacking you can often end up in undesirable places, at the wrong time, and open yourself up to personal risk.

4. Community benefit: Volunteering with us provides an opportunity for the communities that you are visiting to benefit, as a large proportion of your fee goes to them, either directly or indirectly.   You are also given the opportunity to share your skills with others. When backpacking, you are participating in the commercial sector only.

5. Cultural experience: When participating in a volunteer placement, you will spend large amounts of time immersed in a local community and exposed to local culture for a prolonged period of time, giving you a better understanding of the way of life, and hardships of local, previously disadvantaged people.  Backpacking, on the other hand, you may book on a day tour to a cultural village, this is usually set up just for the benefit of the tourists.

“Lets play”

Children at primary school in rural South Africa, all wanting to play, and learn gymnastics from a professional coach. Something they had never had the opportunity to do before. Something they did every Wednesday for 4 weeks. Something they still continue to do, and will now continue to do because they love it. #empower

Long time no see…

What a long time it has been since my last blog post. May 2013. That’s 4 months past.  We have been manic – trying to desperately achieve as much as possible during the very busy northern hemisphere holiday season, when students flock to South Africa for sunshine and to help out where they can.

We have run a sports project, community project and medical placement, with lots of achievements including building a volleyball court at Monzi P, smallholding at the Zwenalisha orphanage, teaching, creche help, painting and heaps more. There are just 2 weeks left until the last volunteers for this period depart, then Bean, Bali, Princess Mitsles and myself depart for the Drakensberg Mountains. The start of a new chapter and a new adventure.

Our experience working with communities in the St Lucia Estuary area has been varied and interesting, we have made many friends and had our eyes opened to a great deal of new ideas.  However, we are now going to be concentrating our efforts for this program on a once-a-year intensive help session, which will help (and test how) the creches run more sustainably, by women from the communities they serve. It will also mean that the two orphanages that we work with receive an intensive burst of help (and financial contributions) once a year, when we assist with painting, building, maintenance and the purchase of necessary items.  It will also mean that we, as an organisation are liberated from the constraints that have been imposed upon us through working day in, day out, with a faith based organisation (more on my perhaps rather controversial views on this topic in a blog post for another day).  

After a year of this, we will run a full evaluation, send the usual culprits on training courses, gain funding and grants to extend the programs sustainably and learn from mistakes made to move into a more successful year.  After a five year plan of working in this way, we will hopefully have achieved our end goal – the production of a sustainable community based and community run organisation that helps many and consists of local people who are there to help and be helped by each other.

So where next?

We are heading up in altitude, into the Southern Drakensberg Mountains, to run our mohair initiative and related programs. Bali and Princess Mitsles will need Ugg boots, and Bean and I will huddle around our newly-purchased aga, looking out into the beauty of mountain winter.  Until summer returns and we will bask in the bright sunshine reflected by the many beautiful rivers and lakes, ride through the majestic mountain range and live each day in the fresh mountain air.  We have started an NPO called sizabantu to work in collaboration with Mozvolunteers so that we can more successfully fund initiatives, monitor and evaluate our progress (both internally and externally) and move onwards and upwards in the place of all our hearts: the Drakensberg.

World AIDS Day 2012- Getting to Zero

CEDAR Fund

[ePrayer – Pray for HIV/AIDS around the world]

World AIDS Day is observed on 1 December every year. The UNAIDS’ vision is ‘Getting to Zero—Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.’ Its latest report notes that at the end of 2011, around 34 million people were living with HIV around the world. It also records progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections and lowering the numbers of people dying from AIDS-related causes. HIV trends in the Middle East and North Africa, however, where the number of people newly infected has increased by more than 35 percent. Some African countries indicate declines in condom use. 6.8 million people – nearly half of those eligible to receive antiretroviral drugs, still did not have access.  ‘Ending HIV/ AIDS is like a marathon, we must mover faster. We have already be behind pace at the first mile marker.’ warned an expert…

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