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!

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