Alternative energy powering us up in the mountains

Alternative energy powering us up in the mountains

Volunteer in the mountains… Why not? Even more of a reason now – we’re solar powered!

Come and visit us – we’re going eco. Once we got here, we realised that the cost of electricity installation far surpasses that of installing an all singing, all dancing alternative energy supply, so logic and finances automatically dictated that we immediately got straight on the blower to all the alternative energy suppliers here in South Africa. We have now opted for our first energy purchase to be a two solar panel system, providing a huge amount of amp hours daily. Later on, we’ll upgrade to a dual system, which will provide us with our own wind turbine to work in tandem with the solar units.

So, as well as giving back to the communities you visit and stay amongst, whilst on holiday here in Drakensberg with us, you will be minimising your footprint, as we are using not only renewable energy sources but a sustainable water source for both household and drinking water too!

What more reason do you need to come and volunteer with us in the Southern Drakensberg?

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Welcome, Summer.

We have come to the end of our busy period, here at MozVol HQ. Volunteers have been subjected to torrential rainfall, high winds and hale storms reminiscent of snowfall in the northern hemisphere. However, summer is now here, and we are enjoying long, lazy summer days, weekends at the beach with the children from the children’s centre, and breezy boat trips down the estuary hippo and croc-spotting and monitoring.

We are looking forward to starting the reno at the children’s home (orphanage) – over the next couple of weeks we will be replacing broken windows, painting, fixing play equipment, decorating and redoing the kitchen facilities and replacing exterior doors to ensure the safety of the children at all time.

The creche facilities are going from strength to strength, and we are starting to develop the new syllabus for the 2013 academic year, starting in January.

With these two activities in mind, we are keen to have career break-ers join us in the forthcoming months. We are particularly looking for teachers, builders, healthcare workers and others with practical skills.

We are going to be making an effort to market our projects to family groups, in a bid to provide ethical family holidays to our beautiful part of the world, and selling the concept of a ‘mature gap year’, for when the daily grind of office work gets a bit much and you just need to get away… why not take an extended holiday and use your skills to the sustainable benefit of others less fortunate than yourself?

Participants in our conservation project has had a 100% success level over 2012, with all participants sitting the THETA examination passing with flying colours. Conservation volunteers have particularly enjoyed learning wildlife spotting techniques in the Big 5 reserve Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and taking plaster of Paris imprints of wild animal spoor through the reserves to help with spoor recognition and learning animal behaviour.

Watch this space for our annual sports projects coming up in May and August 2013 and join our community care project (South Africa) for either 3 or 4 weeks in December 2012 and January 2013 through One World 365 and receive a 25% discount.

Vegetarian food at MozVolunteers

We *try* quite hard to make sure all our volunteers get a South African culinary experience when they join one of our projects. By the nature of the meal and rushed mornings, breakfast is nothing to shout about, lunch a packed sandwich, but at supper time, everyone is invited to site round the table on our verandah, next to an open fire if it is cold, and enjoy South African cuisine, from summer braais (bbqs), potjies and boboetie to butternut soups, samp and beans and other traditional Zulu meals.

Occasionally we have a vegetarian volunteer, then we usually refer back to the cook books, and often our days in Mozambique, where meat was expensive, poor quality and hard to come by, so naturally ate very little of it.

A favourite is our South African veggie burgers.

Ingredients:

1 x large butternut, peeled and cut into small portions

about 4 large potatoes

2 onions

1 small punnett mushrooms

1 small tin of ready-cooked kidney/sugar beans.

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 aubergine peeled and chopped

2 eggs

2 cups home made crumb coating (or shop bought to substitute)

2 cloves garlic

2 cups chopped fresh parsley

spices (we use paprika and a little curry powder)

1 chopped red birds eye chilli

salt and pepper to taste.

A little flour

Method

1. Fry onions and chilli in a little olive oil until cooked,. Add the aubergine, cook a little longer, add mushrooms and the cloves of garlic crushed, and fry off any spices too.

2. In a separate pan, boil potatoes (peeled and chopped into large portions) and butternut until soft.

3. Drain the potatoes and butternut and add into a dish with the onion mixture. Mix and leave to cool.

4. Add one egg, breadcrumbs and chopped, fresh parsley and mix until it sticks together.

5. Make into burger shapes.

6. Dip each burger into flour, then egg, then the home made breadcrumb coating.

7. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

8. Cook on a griddle for 1 minute each side with a little olive oil until sealed, then transfer all burgers into a greased oven dish and cook for around 30 minutes or until hot throughout.

Serve in hot buttered rolls (homemade are best 🙂 with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber from the garden, with Bean’s tomato chutney and real mayonnaise YUM.

Career Breaks

Who thinks of taking a career break?

Bean and I have been thinking recently about the kind of people who work in “City” jobs. I did my first degree at the University of Durham in the UK, whilst I was there, large, corporate companies appeared to use it as a recruitment ground: I lose count of the amount of invitations to “Champagne and Canapes with PriceWaterHouseCoopers” or “Dinner and Dancing at Deloitte’s Pleasure” invitations I received in my college pigeon hole. It sounds slightly archaic, but that’s how it was.

Now, it appears that an organisation called Escape the City founded by two of my contemporaries from Durham is assisting my old class-mates who were lured in by the promises of smoked salmon blinis and a glass of free bubbly (understandable on a student budget.. especially after the prices charged by the Doxbridge 3) to “escape” from this corporate rat race, and heart-attack-at-35 inducing lifestyles that people seem to fall into, apparently, erroneously.

Getting back to the point. At risk of sounding rather smug *grins* I was never seduced by the promises of gold plated office chairs. I was, however, entirely lured into the travelling trap, resultant lack of cash, and fell into my current lifestyle (which, actually, I believe is infinitely preferably to an office job in London, cash aside). As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, we are planning on expanding the opportunities MozVolunteers offer. In addition to the usual student/young person gap year-focused project participation, we are opening up to the idea of family volunteering holidays, ethical house parties (coming up… watch this space!) and of course the afore mentioned *career break*.

We are in need of skilled professionals, to come and help us with more than the basics. The career break “package” would of course include the contact with communities, management of specific aspects of our organisation, such as website management, teaching opportunities for specialists, health promotion opportunities for health specialists, management, all within the beautiful setting of our organisation, St Lucia Estuary (hippos and all) Monzi (living in an over-enthused farmhouse for the duration of your stay is a price you may have to pay..!) and the Indian Ocean. This is an opportunity for these highly professional individuals who wish to experience life out of the office to come and explore their passions, learn, teach, live, be outdoors, farm, eat fresh fruit straight off the tree (sometimes even lands straight on your bed if you’re lucky), camp out under the stars, eat by a fire, braai, love fresh, local food, search and explore and relax. All whilst sharing these skills with us. We need them.

We can’t promise blinis (braai and poitje?), French champagne (JC Le Roux do? South Africa does have some phenominal reds though…visit ) smoked salmon (aha. Smoked snoek. Much better AND fresh from the boat), gold plated office chair (umm antique wooden leather affair) or limo transport (a ride on the back of a battered toyota bakkie will have to suffice). What we can promise is good food, great friendships, beautiful places, warm, clear water of the Indian Ocean and wonderful wine, helping, learning, teaching and experiencing.

Come on, have I persuaded you yet? Take a career break and join MozVolunteers email alex@movzolunteers.com and really come and experience what you’re missing.

Lion

Battle-scarred and bruised, we found an old male lion walking by the side of the bush in Hluhluwe Imfolozi when we took volunteers to try and find the Big 5. He was with his mate, a tired-looking lioness, and another mating pair. We were lucky enough to observe them alone for about 90 minutes. After that, we quietly pulled away and left them sleeping in the long grass at the side of the road.

This was one of the most peaceful experiences watching lions in the park I have ever had. We were extremely lucky that they didn’t mind us sitting quietly looking at them for so long.

Hopefully the next trip to the park will have a similar experience. I do have a feeling, however that this was one in a million.

Battle-scarred and bruised.

Swazi Rondavel

Swazi Rondavel

Weekends are free time for volunteers to spend time exploring the local area, and nearby countries of Mozambique and Swaziland. One popular destination is the Mlilwane Wildlife Reserve between Mbabane and Manzini in Swaziland. Guests can stay in a traditional Swazi Rondavel and wake up looking at wildlife through the window.