Our Operations Manager, Ryan, recently went to visit a few of our partner NGOs in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. We asked him to tell us more about his trip.
While avid adventurers search for prides of lions or conquer dangerous 4×4 trails in the remote areas of South Africa, others call these areas home. Over the last week I travelled through rural parts of Northern KwaZulu-Natal, with some of the organisations supported by Different.org. While experiencing the beauty of our country, I also got to see how dedicated and selfless people are bringing hope to communities and changing lives through their projects.
Visiting the Cotlands project required driving through the Hluhluwe Game Reserve and into the hills of Hlabisa. The remoteness of the area means that visiting some of the schools requires going where there are no paths. After a bumpy and meandering drive down a goat track, we arrived at a small house overlooking an unspoilt valley. After greeting the gogo (granny, in isiZulu) of the house, we walked down to the ‘school’ from which emanated the joyous sound of singing children. There in a small hut which served as the school, danced and sang a dozen children, directed by their teacher.
The children went silent as the strangers stood outside looking in but as the two ELF’s (Early Learning Facilitators) unpacked the toys the excitement began to build again. Cotlands employs two local community members and trains them to provide at least 8 hours of quality ECD (early childhood development) education per week for a school such as this. By supplying toys through their mobile toy library these children also get access to fundamental childhood skills setting them up to succeed in primary school.
Over two days I was privileged to visit six schools similar to this one. Cotlands helps 32 schools in the area and are providing a vital educational service securing the future of South Africa youth in Hlabisa. Have a look at the project HERE.
Tales of Turning
Just west of Durban lies Cato Crest, a community heavily affected by crime. As I spoke to the mothers gathered in a small group at the local library in Cato Crest I heard of the fear they carry daily for their children. Their daughters are especially vulnerable and the mothers are forced to leave at them at home while they work to help support the family. One of the biggest fears that plagues them is their children being stolen to assist criminals trafficking drugs.
Thankfully, Tales of Turning has been helping these mothers work through their past hurts and teaches them to how better protect their children. Jenna-Lee Strugnell, the founder of the Tales of Turning programme, has developed a curriculum based on narrative counselling, which provides the women with hope and avenues of assistance.
See the project HERE to see the great work they do.
Sweetwaters near Pietermaritzburg literally has one of the highest HIV rates in the world. Together with this, there’s a high rate of poverty and a lack of father role models in the community. iThemba has been working in Sweetwaters for nearly a decade and the organisation has developed some amazing programmes which are producing great results.Stuart Walker, who runs iThemba, told me how they constantly get asked to start their programme elsewhere. They have refused every offer as they want to create a fundamental change to the 70 000 people in Sweetwaters before going anywhere else.
Focusing on Early Childhood Development (ECD) education, iThemba teaches and mentors the teachers of day care centers to become qualified level 4 ECD teachers and rewards teachers with valuable classroom resources if they perform well. The programme has been so successful that iThemba has been able to leave some of the schools they initially started with and expand their reach to new schools.
iThemba reckon that if they can reach about 70% quality ECD education for children in the area, this form of education will become normative to the community and totally change the educational culture of Sweetwaters. Combined with mentors for the children in the schools they are hoping to radically reform Sweetwaters in the next decade.