Good Work Foundation (GWF) is revolutionising education in rural Africa. It is teaching children and adults the key skills necessary in today's world - English and Computer Literacy. Its aim is to give the same opportunities and access to information as those at Harvard or Oxford. I have been based at the Hazyview Digital Learning Centre although have been on location in rural Mpumalanga. The centre here is fantastic with two computer rooms (20 computers in each room) as well as 30 tablets. Spearheading GWF is Kate Groch who has global ambitions for the organisation...having seen her in action expect to see a GWF centre near you soon! I would actively encourage you to "LIKE" their Facebook page or see their website for the amazing stories some of which I have been fortunate to be a part of.
Day 1 and morning 1 I was thrown a hospital pass into the deep-end of the swimming pool ... Crispin the school education leader asked for help with some school children who had walked in that needed help with their exams ... turns out it was Physics and Mathematics which I have not seen a text book for over 15 years! Having said that with the high quality education I had at Tiffin Boys I managed to blag my way through circuits and geometry...although I'm getting out of Hazyview before the results come out! During the week I also worked on Geography and Accounting which is much my forte.
In the barn, everyday school children and orphans come to learn/play on tablets... learning literacy by playing boggle and scrabble and maths playing multiplication and addition games. The knowledge and skills around a tablet is fantastic and don't worry they still practice their handwriting. They are using Google Earth to understand geography rather than a poster thus having the access to information as others around the world. The coolest thing was a game where all the tablets linked wirelessly to the computer so that the children could compete...amazing how competition turns the kids minds on! The future is that these games and competitions could link to other GWF centres all around world.
The Mabarula Youth In Action choir was a big highlight for me. A choir of 50 from a local village that has a newly formed committee but no direction. Gogo Mo (Kate's mother) and some of the team did a team building workshop to get them going...give them ideas and focus how to grow their choir. More importantly for them they want to build a community centre to practice singing in, feed the young and elderly and have an internet café. Fantastic ambitions but they didn't know what to do about getting it all...particularly a roof!! (see photo below). For me I am now their remote business consultant having got them on their feet and thinking like an effective team. The bonus for me was 2 performances of their choir - The gratitude and appreciation from the committee has been outstanding and something many teams in business could learn from.
At the centre here I have been helping some of pupils with some life skills. Getting a qualification is one thing but giving you skills around CV writing, interviewing, presenting, team-working and facilitation means you have a competitive advantage in this market where employment is tough. Great to some light-bulbs going off as they appreciate what is required and can see what it takes to enter the big wide world ... something I will need reminding about in 10 months time!
A local school had issues with their pupils not taking up technical mathematics for their senior years...Graham from the UK steps in to discuss with 100 students what it takes to become an accountant...I have never seen 100 eyes close so quickly as soon as I said "hello my name is Graham and I am an accountant from the UK"!! Although they were appreciative you come to realise that it takes more than me speaking for 20 minutes to change a mind-set but at least it helps...but it gave me an insight into the big challenges of rural Africa. Also visited other schools that have been created and funded by local residents as they realised there is a need for primary education in their village including education for those with learning difficulties...amazing to see someone give so much when they themselves have so little.
Saving a remarkable story for last. A remarkable young boy called Silence who for the last 3 years has been living with kidney failure and requiring dialysis 3-4 times per week in a hospital 150km and 2 buses away. In August after numerous searches he finally got a kidney transplant. He was whisked by helicopter to Pretoria and ever since then has been a changed man. I was privileged to be at a lunch with his parents and Gogo Mo as a celebratory lunch of the remarkable story of a boy in rural Africa against the clock getting another chance. Gogo Mo's good connections along with others made this remarkable story happen...to share the story and see the appreciation on his parents face over lunch was a special moment.
As you can see for 4 weeks I have dipped my little toe into rural Africa to understand the issues and realities for a lot of the residents. Although not leaving a footprint here I am hoping that in the future I am able to help others make their footprint on their community. Big thanks to Kate and her team for being so welcoming into the GWF family.
- As you do whilst on holiday I sneaked in the "Run with wild horses" Kaapsehoop marathon on Saturday 2nd November. Started training the week before and the longest run on the Thursday being 2 hours in the morning...so this was definitely going to be amateur hour...or what I was hoping amateur under 5 hours!! Had some runners and gels so had the essentials but when boarding the bus at 4am (which got lost) realised under prepared...no hat, sunglasses and my water bottle was filled with swimming pool water (filled up using the wrong bottle!). Maybe it was the chlorine or just stupidity but managed to cross the line in 4hrs 5mins...which isn't too shabby...plus the hills at the end (my favourite) meant I ate the field towards the finish line in the Mbombela (Nelspruit) stadium!! So 7 marathons later in 3 continents the bug hasn't gone...just South America next year, Tokyo in 2015 with Oz and Antarctica after that to get all continents covered!!
- Keeping up the running theme ParkRun has made it to Hazyview. Found this great place called Summerfields overlooking the Sabie river. A 5km run through the lychee and macadamia plantation and finish on the riverbanks next to the crocs. Decent grub and free wifi (learned the good spots including 30mins at Wimpy). Had a massage post marathon and rather than the usual whale music it was the river running by and crocs/hippo noises. The area around here makes for interesting drives through the Lowveld.
- As I was staying 10km from Kruger Park it would be a crime not to go and visit, so I went twice...needed to see Wildebeest and Rhino which I hadn't seen in Botswana. Plus to spice things up through in 9 holes at Skukuza Golf Club with the hippos, Impala and Warthogs...luckily they weren't hungry! The second time had the expert guides of Jos and Judy (colleagues at GWF) who as regular visitors shared their stories and anecdotes of wildlife spotting. As it reached 44°C the wildlife was thin on the ground as they were seeking shade so J&J opened my eyes to the birds and flora on show...which as a non-twitcher was very interesting...although deciding which bird was seen sparked a heated debate!! Seeing 2 eagles and vultures fly in and fight it out was a blast. Although we did have some great animal spottings being lambing season the young Impala and Hippo were a few days old but the highlight being a mini-ele learning how to use its trunk and walk/stumble around was cool...(like me on a regular Friday night!!)
- It was African Champions League second leg in Egypt. The Orlando Pirates (Joburg team) were drawing 1-1 after 1st leg...the best place to watch the game would be a shabeen (illegal drinking place in townships). Had Crispin from GWF and our resident taxi owner / del boy / wheeler dealer as our chaperone. Our Chaperone "D" wore purple suede loafers, gold rings, gold watch and gold teeth...you get the look! We rocked up to his mates house party to celebrate a pay out with the local loan shark mafia (called a Stokvel)...it looked like Stringer Bell had thrown a Co-Op party!!...believe payout was close to R1MM!! (half the price of a local house). At party I was well fed and watered...there was around 40 litres of whiskey available...the drink of choice was Jonnie Walker Platinum washed down with Red Bull...which at R800/$80 a bottle should be savoured...for myself I stuck to the lagers but was surprised when my host got the lady of the house to replace my now warm beers with a fresh cold 6 pack...talk about service!! The house and TV room was something out of Octagon showroom/footballers photo shoot...the TV room has a chaise lounge...large plasma with 8 speakers although only 2 were connected...and the ceiling was a 3 layered marble insert with rose although no fitting. This is what is termed "black diamond" where it is all about showing off brands and wealth to your friends. I realised it was time to leave when my host "D" holding a plastic bag (with a little strain) wanted to play "What's in the bag" to which I replied meat...turned out to be cash!! So after the game and with the Pirates loss I politely left but could see it was getting messy.
1) the gym - I have not had a TV for 4 weeks (by choice) and so thought would join the gym and get fit (shared a bus ride with a 22 yr old German lad who laughed at me as I was struggling to carry my bag thus have my impetus for gym). The gym is a classic meat head gym so although I am not scrawny I was the smallest by far!! The best bit is the gym is owned by Desperate Dan bigger brother (runs the security firm and as a friend said looks like a Sherman Tank) and his wife (2012 Miss Lowveld BodyBuilding champ...but the tash and deep voice threw me at first!!). Then everyday their mate Kenny Powers look-a-like who thought he was a MMA champ would train who I noticed thought it was necessary to carry a gun to the gym! Needless to say I didn't need a TV as had my own soap opera in front of me everyday!!
2) friendliness - the people here are very friendly. Been taken out for meals, braii's (BBQ to British folk or barbie to Oz), beers etc to welcome me to the GWF team and Hazyview area. Particularly my hosts Des and Sarie here at Iggy's who although scared me day 1 with snake and hippo stories but more importantly kindly did my washing for 4 weeks...it was like being at home again but less nagging!
3) the supermarket - went to the Sainsbury's equivalent "Pick n Pay" and bought English Cucumber and Tomatoes??? What's wrong with local produce?? Are our tomatoes world renowned and I failed to realise this?? As sometimes tight when food shopping gutted to see no 241 or BOGOF offers! Although why go as the guys on the street sell awesome grub...6 gigantic (like melon size) avo's for £2 - can you overdose on them as destroyed them in week 1!
4) toilet paper - the standard here is 1 ply well my first purchase was 2 ply...the luxury tax of 40% is well worth it!
5) local celebrity - first lunchtime and was taken out by the GWF team. During the meal the waiter asked for a photo with me much to the amusement of Ryan. I politely said "let me finish my pizza and will re-enact whomever you believe I am"...turned out I was in Wrong Turn 3...a gory horror film...I don't see it myself unless very uncomplimentary (parent advisory when Googling...Internet may contain breasts). So had numerous photos with waiter, staff and manager much to the amusement of the other guests. Reminds me of 2 stories a) in Delhi holding a baby at Red Fort and the parents taking a photo thinking I was a cricketer...just think I am on some poor kids wall!! b) in Ficksburg, SA where due to Prince Harry being in nearby Lesotho they thought Prince Harry had stopped at the local KFC for dinner!
6) neighbourhood watch - unfortunately SA has a problem of crime and heard/read some quite terrible stories. In my area there is the local neighbourhood watch that goes along with police on patrols...all the houses are on radios and reminds me a little of Hot Fuzz - "for the greater good"...the weaponry apparently is fairly close to the film as well!! But meant I could sleep safe at night so wasn't complaining.
7) driving - the worst!! I went for runs and they often decided to aim for me and not swerve away. You need to be on full alert...luckily my rented Nissan Micra has the finesse and handling skills of an Aston! Although must point out my commute is 4 mins by car...beats queuing for the tube at Balham!!
8) teeth brushing - for 7 weeks (and another 3) I have brushed my teeth using bottled water...I long for a tap that I can guzzle down litres of water. Bring on my dad's farm that has a bore hole.
9) utilities - since I have been in Hazyview we have lost power 4 times and water 3 times. Even the local township doesn't have this problem!!
10) biltong and beer - one of the best combo's...find a good slaghuis (Afrikaans for butcher not red light zone) and hit the bottle store for some Windhoek's and sorted! Bonus extra with the amazing sunsets.
11) names - if struggling what to call your child then take a look at the names I have come across:
Merciful Goodness Joy Grace Melody Pretty Happy Beauty Charity Hope Surprise Innocent
Princess Fortunate Climate Witness Silence Perfect Decide Comfort
The answer is maybe!!
- Be great to have a swimming pool but not surrounded by a large wall with electric fencing...
- Be great to have a large property but you cannot go beyond your boundary and play on the streets...
- Nice to have a car but you drive everywhere...walking to the shops becomes a novelty...
- Great when the sun is shining but flippin cold in winter as no central heating...
- Beautiful country with loads to see and do...having a safari national park on your doorstep has been great...but not much variety the further North you go...nearest Western civilisation is 11 hr flight away...
- Vineyards are everywhere but no decent ale houses...
- Then there are the obvious points that you read about in the press that everyone knows about...
- Essentially in an ideal world where I don't have to work and could spend 6 months in Cape Town and 6 months in my Chelsea apartment...any offers???