LAYING DOWN FOUNDATIONS - MY TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA
I have not been in South Africa for over 4 years. It was time to go back and reconnect with my country of birth. I also wanted to go lay down the groundwork for the Foundation to build on. I wanted to make sure that what we want to do is the right thing and that it is needed. One of the key things I wanted to do while in South Africa was to meet Khaya, the MD of Ke Nako Youth Development Project. Our partner based in South Africa who work to empower the youth of South Africa through career guidance and support. Khaya is ambitious, determined and inspiring. I have never met anyone who I just liked instantly, and I know whatever he puts his mind to will be achieved. I am excited to see where the relationship goes. After our first meeting, I could not wait for our trip to Hamu High School in Vryheid, our flagship school.
HAMU HIGH Hamu High is about 5 hours drive from where we were staying in the North West. It is very remote in mountains of Zulu land. As we came close to school, we had to drive up a very long dirt/gravel round which many of the students walk along to get to school.
The school was welcoming and friendly, but at first glance, it became clear that the school is in desperate need of help. For starters, they had no running water suitable for drinking on the site. Teachers have to go back home to collect water and then bring it back for the kids to drinks. The Teachers and staff need somewhere safe and clean to work and prepare lessons and most off all the students need support to achieve their dreams.
We introduced ourselves and wanted to find out from the students what they feel the school needed to aid them in completing their studies. It was no surprise that the things they need are things most kids in western schools take for granted; calculators, pens, books, textbooks, study guides, balls, football nets, to name a few. Things we can easily supply with proper funding and donations. Going round the group of learners they all had asperations to become something more than their circumstances allow them. They wanted to become a paramedic, nurse, social worker, teacher and one girl even wanted to be a Pilot. What struck me most of all was when asked why she did not apply to become a pilot she openly and honestly said she does not trust herself in achieving the grades and does not believe she will have the backing to pursue becoming a pilot. It became even more apparent just how much these kids just need someone to believe in them and offer support. I look forward to finally getting into a position to make a difference and hopefully see this girl become a pilot.
LION AND SAFARI PARK After reading all the horror stories in the news about places that have cub petting I have been very reluctant to visit places like that or have any form of affiliation with them. It was therefore very important to me to do a lot of research and checks before I went to these places. One place I wanted to visit was the Lion and Safari Park near Broederstroom in the North West Province. Having read about them giving up cub petting and then deciding to reintroduce it made me wonder why would they do that. I have watched the heartbreaking documentary Blood Lions and read about peoples horrific experience in being tricked into raising cubs for canned lion hunting.
We arrived at the park with the sole intention of having a look around and then perhaps having a drink in the restaurant. While walking around, we noticed a woman walking around the garden areas getting very cross as there was algae and litter in one of the enclosures where they had Nile crocodiles. I have to say the park is very well kept, the gardens are beautiful and it was refreshing to hear someone take the conditions so serious. I started talking to the lady and after a little while started talking to Paula, one of the conservationists that work at the park. I raised my concerns about cub petting and wanted to know why they reintroduced it into the park.
I was half expecting a rehearsed response covering whatever was happening in the background where the public was not allowed to go. Instead, I was given an honest answer; it was a business decision, which in a way makes sense but also that they ensure they follow the rules and regulations set out by the Pan-African Associations of Zoos and Aquaria (PAAZA). Paaza is an organisation who look after the ethical treatment of animals and the environment. Paula also explained that she would not work somewhere where the animals are not being looked after. Both ladies had given up their time to talk to our Future Friend and me about the park, their lions and everything else we could think of to ask them.
When I left, I looked into PAAZA and the park, and it became clear that most places in the area are members of this organisation and all that is left is for me to trust what I was told is true, and I have to say, I have no reason to believe otherwise, or that something is being hidden. Fingers crossed. THE FUTURE AND SOUTH AFRICA Going round South Africa it became increasingly clear that the country can be divided into two, government and people on the street. The government does questionable things, and President Zuma survived his 8th vote of no confidence. There are stories of corruption, mistrust, bribery and anything else you can think of you don't want your government to be a part of. I don't know how much of what is in the news is true, and I don't wish to comment or speculate on things either but it is clear that people on the street don't all support the ANC anymore.
On the other hand the people in South Africa are welcoming, caring and friendly. They want to do good and want to better their own lives and in turn move South Africa froward. It gives me hope to see the unity amongst people they just need help and support and this is where we come in.
Education is the key to moving forward not only to break out of poverty but to conserve our natural world. The Foundation can help, but we need funding. So if you are in a position to help please do. We have the projects, we have met the people that need help but sadly nothing can be done on compassion and want alone.