Monday, June 14, 2010

South Africa after the fact!

Our last several days in South Africa were a whirlwind. We had a meeting with our partner organizations in South Africa, and toured with Mr. Jonathan Timm of Mvula Trust Organization. He introduced us to an informal settlement area where the need for water, sanitation and hygiene is greatly needed. We visited a Creche- a day care within the settlement area. It is very small, and often provides daycare for 100 children. The children greeted us with beautiful smiles, and all were proud of the fact that it was "Bafana, Bafana day- they had on shirts in support of the team. The vuvuzelas could be heard through-out the area. (loud horns with a buzzing sound) One latrine was available for all to use. Unimaginable! Mvula hopes to bring a pipe into the area to remove the sewage, and provide more water points for the over 15,000 people that live in the area. We hope to be able to help at the day care/pre-school by providing better WASH services. (If you want to help, your donation is greatly appreciated!)

We watched the South Africa/Mexico opening game in a huge "Fan Park" located near our hotel. There were thousands of fans in attendance, and they were very enthusiastic about their South African team. It was fun to share in the excitement of the fans through-out the game. I think most South Africans were ok with a tie, as Mexico was the favored team. The celebration continued to the wee hours of the morning and long after I went to bed the vuvuzelas were still in action. Rumor has it that FIFA is thinking of banning the horns from upcoming games. We'll have to wait to see if that happens.

South Africa is welcoming country, with a rich mixture of people and places to visit. I hope to return and spend time in the rural areas in the future.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bafana, Bafana (Boys!Boys!)

Everywhere we go in Johannesburg we hear "Bafana, Bafana"! It means, boys, boys and is used in support of the South African Football Team. (The WORLD CUP SOCCER tournament) People are sporting the gold and green team colors, and blasting on their vuvuzelas (highly obnoxioius horns) The excitement is high for the opening game on Friday.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit a school in a nearby township. The townships were the relocation areas designated for blacks during Apartheid, and although the laws have changed, the poverty and lack of services to these areas still exists. The area of Katalhong is quite large, and the school houses over 1,000 students. A recent project in conjunction with the RAIN Foundation and the South African Department of Education provided piped water and a tank to a block of toilets and hand-washing sinks in a beautiful brick building. There are 8 stalls for girls and 5 stalls for boys plus a urinal area. The facility is a vast improvement for the children and is greatly appreciated. The school also received a water stand-point located on the school grounds. Students now have water to drink at school rather than walking blocks away in the development to reach a common drinking station shared by many, many people. As always, the children were smiling, singing, and wanted us to take their photos.

After visiting the school, we stopped for several hours at the Apartheid Museum. The museum is breath-taking and emotionally draining. The story of Nelson Mandela is told through photos, video clips and quotes from his inspirational speeches. He is truly a great man. He is expected to attend the opening soccer game between South Africa and Mexico on Friday. The people hope he brings them good luck.

We visited a squatters community today. The homes are shacks made of tin and whatever else can be found to pound together. None of the homes have electricity, and very few have access to water other than shared water points placed few and far between. In 2008, the government did provide VIP Pit latrines for every plot of land- the hope is that within the next few years, the houses will be replaced and water and electricity will be available to most. There is not a school close by, which creates problems for many of the children. The "house" we visited consisted of 2 very small rooms for a family of 7.

We moved on to visit Soweto (the name stands for South Western Township). It is the early home of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and the center for the uprising's of people fighting Apartheid. The area has undergone vast improvements for the World Cup Games -or so we were told. There were many craft booths lining the streets, and many international visitors.

From Soweto, we headed to the 2 year old African Leadership Academy. 179 students from around Africa are chosen to attend the two year program- (similar to the last 2 years of high school in the US). The students represent 38 out of 54 African countries. We were fortunate to have Estella, a 19 year old young lady from Cameroon, take us on a guided tour of the campus. We have a video interview with her that we hope we can share on facebook and our video page next week. We also met a young man, Chernoh, from Sierra Leone. At the age of 13, he wrote a proposal to his government and succeeded to convince them that his school needed water! These young people are amazing. One goal of the Academy is to encourage development of skills needed to be the future leaders of Africa. After meeting Estrella and Chernoh, I think they will succeed!

Tomorrow we meet with our South African Partnerships to discuss plans to help fund 100 school WASH in School projects for South Africa as a lasting Legacy of the World Cup. We know that our H2O for Life Schools can help bring the projects to fruition while forming relationships between students around the world.

Keep in mind, that our youth is the future!

Go USA in the World Cup!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hello from South Africa,
After a long flight-21 hours in the air- we arrived to the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, South Africa. The World Cup Soccer Matches will begin on June 11. Our purpose for this visit is to connect with the RAIN Foundation and the Department of Education of South Africa, to be part of a plan to bring WASH in Schools to 100 schools in SA in honor of the World Cup Event. H2O for Life is thrilled to have the opportunity to connect students in the US with students in South Africa as part of our role in these projects. (Each school project will require $2000 per school in H2O for Life School partnerships- total cost of each project will be around $40,000 per school- we have highly leveraged funds!) The RAIN foundation and the Government of South Africa value the student to student connection, and we do too)

We are currently spending time near the Limpopo District. We hope to visit several schools, and take in some of the local sights.

We hope to have more information as the week progresses, and we also hope to be able to share interesting facts about South Africa and the World Cup.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Visit to South Africa

Tomorrow, June 3, Val Johnson and I leave for Johannesburg, South Africa to meet with the RAIN Foundation, Global Water Challenge, Coca-Cola Africa and the Department of Education for South Africa. In conjunction with the World Cup Soccer Tournament, our groups are working together to fund water, sanitation and hygiene for 100 schools in South Africa over the next 3 years. It is a fabulous opportunity for H2O for Life Schools. Each school is targeted to receive approximately a $40,000 intervention to improve the water source, provide toilets and sanitaton, and implement hygiene education curriculum and hand-washing stations. H2O for Life is being asked to contribute $2000 per school! That is phenomenal. We hope to facilitate pen-pal connections, photo exchanges and other activities to provide student to student connections. Now is your chance to get in on the ground floor of this wonderful initiative, and choose a school partner in South Africa for next school year.

We will post photos of schools, and other interesting sites that we visit while in South Africa on this exploratory trip.

We hope all of you enjoy what is left of the school year, and as they say in South Africa- Cheers!