A School for Angels

Currently the status of state education in South Africa is such:

The stats:
At present, 10% of South African schools have no water supply, 14% have no electricity, 46% use pit-latrine toilets, 90% have no computer centres, 93% have no libraries, and 95% have no science laboratories.

(Source: Dept. of Basic Edu. 2011).

In my early 20’s I worked as a volunteer in The States. It was a bit of a weird situation: a white South African girl out of Apartheid South Africa, working with vulnerable Inner-City New York kids. The venue was set in the Catskills and looked a lot like a run-down version of the resort from the movie ‘Dirty Dancing’– minus the rich white folk, the Cha-Cha and the scandal – add lots of young black kids, hip-hop and the bible.

My stint of volunteer work stayed with me long after the experience was over and had a strong influence on the decisions and lifestyle choices I made later in life and so it comes as no surprise to me that volunteer tourism is such a fast growing and successful tourism trend.  Volunteer programmes are available everywhere, especially in high need areas such as ‘the whole of Africa’.  Chintsa has a great programme.

My friend Lou has done her share of volunteer work too. A self-described bolshie Aussie, Lou worked on Programmes in Australia before travelling, settling in Chintsa and setting up an NGO she calls African Angels: The idea being to impact the lives of local children and families by organising sponsorship to cover the cost of sending a child to a good school.  A good school means a school with decent facilities, teachers who pitch for work and well implemented academic programmes. Many of these schools, while still operating under the umbrella of the state education department, are really semi private and pick up the tab for pretty much everything except a small percentage of the teachers’ salaries.  Needless to say the monthly school fees can be steep.

As Lou implemented her programme many dynamics came into play including the challenges of transportation and sociocultural issues. Some kids managed the process but many struggled and Lou, never daunted, decided to change tack. To overcome these hurdles she simply started her own school. It was not really that simple. But as our wise friend Tom the Clown says, and I quote him again, ” if we stopped to think things through we would do nothing!”

Calling on the assistance of African Heartland Journeys and their Volunteer programme, Volunteer Africa, the volunteers came to the party and together under the guidance of Denver and his AHJ team transformed a derelict old country school building into A School For Angels. I wonder what impact working on this programme will have on the lives of these volunteers?

There are many schools of thought regarding the improvement of education in our country and the best way forward. Perhaps the secret lies in ‘the doing’ no matter the model.

A person with enormous determination and soul is required to pull off a stunt like this. Lou is that kind of person and these are her Angels.

AngelsCelebrating the completion of the first term of African Angels School.

Chintsa, March 2012 

Transkei Daze

Arriving at our favourite spot along the Transkei Coast on a bright, summer’s day – (Read more about the incredible Transkei here) –  in search of wind, waves and wonder, we encountered this beautiful scene….

Three herdboys on their horses,

cooling themselves and their beasties down, as they played in the waves together.

A quick game of footie on the beach to help dry off,

and they were gone.

Magical Transkei Trip – March 2012 

How Many African Children Fit into a Wild Guava Tree?

The Saturday before last the surfers of the Unstressed Surf School were in a rush to rinse their wet-suits and head up off the beach. This was unusual. Following them up the path I found the group gathering under the guava tree.

Guava, Γκουάβα,   Гуава, Guave, Goyave, Gujawa, Goiaba, “جوافة” wafa~gawafaguaba (グアバ), koiyaa (கொய்யா), kuava  – an international fruit salad of terms for the common old Guava Tree.

An alien species introduced into South Africa as a crop plant in the late 1800’s, the guava now runs wild, and the local children run wildly after it as the fruit comes into season. By law a permit is required to have these trees around but they appear everywhere. Where would one begin?

Alien plants cause huge damage to the local environment and it is understandable that environmentalists would like them removed, but there are two sides to the tale:

  • Guava’s provide food for the displaced vervet monkeys that live in the area and for a while they are less inclined to invade residential kitchens – this is very helpful with the development of cross-species tolerance levels. An ongoing area of concern!
  • With a Vitamin C count of 184mg/100g  – three times the amount found in an orange – this bright fruit provides the children of Africa with a huge annual vitamin boost: helpful for healing wounds received from falling out of trees.

Get by with a little help…

Entwined limbs..

Bright view…

Five in a tree…spot them all.

Chintsa Beach on a Saturday morning in March 2012