Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Friday 01/10/2010

Well one word could sum up today HOT!! Almost 40c. Otherwise it was a good introduction and welcome for Tony Weller Chairman of the GAGA board and kind sponsor of Alan and my trip to SA this time. We picked him up about 11 and made our way back to the B & B so Tony could refresh, then it was straight to our first appointment. As we drove we collected our lunch from the burger bar and went to meet with the Councillor of Sankontshe Mophela and Georgedale (who represents 38,000 people). So we enjoyed our burgers in his office as we discussed the challenges he faces and we do and how best we can work together. It was a very positive meeting and we then took Councillor Shabalala to Ithembalihle for him to see one of the projects we were supporting. This was Tony’s first visit to SA and his first visit to Ithemablihle (also known as St Johns). I left Alan and Tony with the founders of Ithemablihle and took the Councillor home, he advised on a short cut and wanted to show areas which still need development - apparently what he took me down was a road!!! I was sure it would be the end of both of us!!! I later went back to Ithemablihle and we spent more time in deep discussion with Thandiwe about possible ways to help in the future and learnt more about her background and she is a very impressive role model. We moved on from this to a Rotary function in Hillcrest and they know how to run a good wine and bites evening. £6 brought us entry to free wine from 20 different suppliers and more than enough food and judging on the numbers they made a lot of money to help with their projects.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Were Back!!!


Were Back!!!

Seems like we never left, it’s odd every time I come back I feel like I miss this place more and that’s only when I arrive. Once we landed in Durban (or Durbs as the pilot was calling it) we picked up our car and went to buy some toiletries as our suitcases were laden with only a simple change of clothes and the generous donations of those from the UK. Which included 23 knitted blankets, 4 Solar showers (which we think could be a revolution – more to follow), gingham dresses, shoes, clinical supplies, tooth brushes and tooth paste, cuddly toys, and other worth while and much appreciated donations.

Its quite odd to see two grown men frowning at the deodorant aisle and asking which you prefer, even odder from the other customers perspective anyway after a purchase of a leading brand or two we made our way to our accommodation. Again money goes a long way here in SA and we have landed on our feet with our BB, lovely guys running the place, which is a home from home. After a shower and change of clothes we made our first visit to Ithembalihle (St Johns), which was a hub of activity. To our delight the fence had been repositioned to accommodate the new vegetable patch. Although there were originally 6 and now only 3!!! The chickens looked good and Thandiwe’s husband was busy fortifying the coop after dogs had taken the other 3 chickens in as many weeks. Which then went a paid some further visits to friends in the Valley and have just returned from dinner. That’s my take on the day, I will hand over to Alan for his. Talk with you tomorrow......

Well Charlie has pretty much said it all but at Ithembalihle there was some other progress – since our last visit new mattresses have been purchased & donated by a great family from Dingwall and we hope to develop this even further. Thandiwe is also keen to build a boys dormitory and the block making has already started so we will keep you posted on this as time goes on.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Friday 9th July 2010

Well it’s time to pack up and head for home – we visited GGA to say our farewells and then went to Victoria Street market (to stock up with items which we hope to sell in the UK to boost our fundraising initiatives) and then off to the airport.
Although I have been to Sierra Leone 6 times and witnessed extreme poverty (most of which is as a result of 10 years of civil war) this experience for me has been in many ways more difficult to cope with (not just because I’ve had Charlie to put up with). The massive gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”, the contrast between World Cup fever and the poverty we have witnessed and the devastation caused by HIV/AIDS pandemic for those both infected and affected is unbelievable. BUT having said all that I firmly believe that each and every one of us can “make a real difference” - if we have the desire to and I would urge you all to think about trying to do whatever you can to help It is my first visit to South Africa BUT I don’t think it will be my last – please don’t tell my wife!!

On my part coming back was easier than I thought. But things have not changed much. Its very true what Alan says. The gap between the rich and poor in South Africa is massive. With a country 3 times the size of the UK, a population of 45 million people, 11 official languages and now some very nice new stadiums – its poignant to remember some facts and figures only 5 million people are eligible to pay tax in South Africa, 13 million people survive on pensions and grants when they can access them, there are 1000’s of people who do not exist in the eyes of the state as they do not have any official documents. South Africa remains one of the most devastated countries by HIV Aids and this continues the cycle of poverty. There are ladies in the 60’s and 70’s caring for their grand children when their own children have died, and on the flip side there are children caring for the siblings some as young as 14 caring for two year olds. These are the ones we know about, it’s the ones we don’t that makes what people are doing here so important in all the projects we have visited, no matter the scale of the problem they continue doing what they can striving to do more. South Africa isn’t a country that feels sorry for itself. As Alan said such a little can make such a huge difference. These are not only South African problems, nor an African problem we are all in together, humanity must fight the scourges of disease and poverty as one. There is saying in Zulu, Known as Ubuntu – which in basic translation means “I am because you are”. In other words a person is only a person when you view them as a person! This trip for me once again has put a face to poverty, the faces of Children, Babies, Grannies, Teenage mums, Fathers and Mothers, Brothers and Sisters. These are faces to easily forgotten when poverty is discussed. They are people just like us, only facing a daily battle for survival.

Thursday 8th July 2010

Up very bright and early this morning and writing these retrospectively, otherwise it would have been a complete mess. We today have visited all the projects which we have made a commitment to and the ones we want to create a further relationship with. We are visiting with some other potential funders from the UK. The first project we visited was Hillcrest Aids Centre a truly incredible project empowering the community and supporting those infected and affected by Aids. They have a craft centre creating beadwork, sewing and a plant nursery. They have hospice which can care for up to 21 patients and no one is ever turned away. They have a centre where people can be tested and counselled and the environment is wonderful and extremely caring.

After a visit to their craft shop we make our way to Ridge City. Jake the founder sat with us and we had a further discussion and then he went and showed us round - we presented them with a cheque for R5000 and are sure that we will raise the money they need to get the electricity machine which will benefit 17,000 people in their local community.

After this we then went up to Sithembakuye. Russell who was busy with about 10 kids then showed us round and introduced everyone to each other. Again we presented them with a cheque for the support of their Granny feeding programme. Whilst there we met Jon from Lions Roar who has secured funding to maintain the children’s home. With this we then hope in the future that we can slowly help Russell and Sithembakuye to become self sufficient with an enterprise programme.

Next and at this stage I was concerned whether Alan could keep up with the pace! We visited Dawn Lappan founder of 1000 Hills Community Helpers. Again what a project they had fed near on 1400 people today and seen almost 170 people in their free clinic. Dawn is an inspirational woman and by her nature makes you feel you are the most important person in the room and that you would have been friends for ever. After another visit to a craft room and some bracelets latter we moved onto Georgedale.

During our visit we were honoured to meet the local Councillor. He represents 44,000 people and he asked us if we would visit a house that houses a 13 year old and 19 year old girlf which is falling down. The 13 year old girl Nomvula, had a pair of school shoes which were completely ruined so we had bought a new pair and taken them to her.

Lastly we visited Ithembalihle, when we arrived the sun was setting. They were busy feeding the children and the cold was starting to bite. .....
Alan’s in the Chair now – as Charlie has just said it was late in the afternoon BUT I wasn’t cold (these youngsters!!) We were really pleased that the 6 chickens we had presented the project with were all fit and well and they had produced their first 2 eggs for Thandiwe’s community - may not seem a big deal but it could be the start of helping them supplement their food programme.
We’ve had a very long but also very rewarding day - revisiting the projects where we know we can make a real difference and help them move forward is a really good way to finish the visit.

Went out for a final meal with some friends – hardly seems possible that our trip is coming to an end BUT we have visited a total of 19 projects (from small fledgling groups with scope to grow and develop to well established benchmark organisations), we have met some amazing people, we have seen firsthand the devastating effect of HIV/Aids and general poverty, we have been shown round by Rotarians and community/project leaders all of whom have given freely of their time in very busy schedules to promote the (wait for it Charlie) phenomenal work that is being undertaken in this area and it never ceases to amaze me that despite all this the people are so proud and happy.

Wednesday 7th July 2010

Woke up this morning found Debbie playing with her computer, just like a small child on Christmas morning. Opening a present before she was allowed to. Anyway her ability to go to each project with a computer and access the internet will increases our accountability and the support she can offer the more fledgling organisations.
We have a big meeting this morning and later we are going to visit Sethani a project right in the bottom of the valley situated next to the dam.

Just got back we are earlier today, this means we can have an early night. Big day tomorrow, Sethani again what a project absolutely buzzing! They are once again and all the better for it a project for the community run by the community. They have a resource centre, after school club and outreach programme and they are also running a peer gold mentor programme. They have their priorities right. Because of it’s community ethos it’s not targeted by crime its one of the first organisations I have ever been to that does not have a gate! Which to me is testament to how highly they are respected in the community that they help.
Alan and I are going to go and grab a burger now.

Tuesday 6th July 2010

I’m still trying to get over last night! Come as you like they said, if it wasn’t obvious we were visitors it was when we walked in! All said it was a great evening and just another reason why Rotary should be proud to have clubs and the members which it does. I’m still also trying to get over the fact they think Alan is my father and I think he is as well!

This morning we are visiting Gozololo (easy for you to say). We have a couple of other meetings and we need to get Debbie a laptop. Breakfast finished. Talk later.
What a day, weather has changed. Amazing really can go from hot to cold so quickly. I was so impressed with Gozololo. A proper community project run by the community for the community. They are doing some amazing things. They have secured a massive donation from Spar and receive a lot of food. They have a preschool, after school clubs and support multiple care givers. What’s also amazing is there are another two centres just like this in just the same positions in the community.

What I also like is their volunteers are also from the community. In return they receive a food parcel but I do not believe that’s there motivation for helping. Although like every charity Gozololo would and could do with more support which takes away a certain amount of uncertainty and offers increased security and allows them to keep doing the important parts. Unfortunately one dictates the other. Gozololo survives mainly on SA donations which in my opinion is an incredible feat and just goes to show its there you just need to find it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Monday the 5th July

Monday 5th July – Alan again – Charlie is still busy with technology issues!!

Today we visited 3 Rotary Club projects with Patrick Draper of Hillcrest Rotary Club – the first was:

Phinduvye Community Development Project – which is run by a lady called Jabu (yet another amazing yet totally unassuming woman). We saw a photo of this plot taken a year ago and the transformation is unbelieveable as is the work that this organisation undertake.
• They have a day care centre in a Wendy House for 30 children aged 9 months – 5 years – it is run as a community project with no fees paid.
• There is a lunchtime feeding programme for 110 chilldren.
• A community garden where they grow vegetables in car tyres as the ground is poor
• The Marianhill mobile clinic visits every Monday for HIV testing and general medical issues.

Amathubu (which means opportunity in Zulu) run by Suzi Lyons & Robert Zumu – I am sorry to be repetitive BUT yet again Suzi is a truly amazing woman – she has had a debilitating illness for 2 years, is confined to a wheelchair BUT her drive is to help people in the local community by building/rebuilding houses.
We visited 2 sites where this organisation has made a commitment to make a difference – the first is a property where Robert has built a house out of pre fabricated concrete fence panels (similar to Banbury buildings garages). This guy acquires second hand fence panels and converts them into houses – the benefit here is that they do not have to lay foundations and the time scale for building is far smarter. I suggested that he contact the manufacturers to see if they have reject panels and also from a PR perspective houses from fence panels!! The second is a site that they are hoping to undertake a similar project.
Robert also works with 9ocal teenagers to train them in building techniques.
Another project that has impressed us and I hope we can offer some support.

Our third project was SKADA – Street Kids+ Adult Education Development Association – this is a guy called Apollo who has no qualifications BUT has a real passion for helping these kids. Currently he has 32 youngsters on the project – the kids stay in 3 locations – a log cabin, a caravan outside the log cabin and 2 rooms in a hose close to where the kids go for vocational training. He also has a panel beating workshop. This guy is doing a good job but lacks management skills & would have to be closely monitored if we decided to fund him.

This evening we attended Hillcrest Rotary Club’s Induction evening – it is the start of the Rotary year and in the UK we call it the Handover meeting where the new President takes on the chain of office.
It was held at a rather upmarket retirement complex – most of the guys were in black tie or suits, a couple of guys were smart casual and then there was Charlie & I !! Having said all that it was a great evening of fellowship and we were accepted for who we were and not how we were dressed.