Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Photo by Teresa Rafidi

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Time of Firsts...

For the first time, we are on our own... Lora and Adam (the outgoing volunteers) have now left and flew back home to the US on November 19th. It was great having them here in the village while we were settling in. They were able to show us around, introduce us to people, and inform us about what they were working on with their projects in the schools. We enjoyed many good meals with them and it was great having American counterparts with us for a while. But, alas – we are now on our own. In some ways it is good, because some people in the schools didn't seem to officially recognize us while Adam and Lora were here. They constantly deferred everything to them rather than asking us for help. This seems to be a cultural behavior that I'm sure most volunteers who are replacing a previous volunteer have experienced. However, it just goes to show you how much the community loved and accepted Adam and Lora as their own. Hopefully we can follow in their footsteps and become as fully integrated as they were. 
Us "Kicking Out" Lora and Adam

As a show of their appreciation for everything that they did, the schools and Ulusaba jointly hosted a Farewell Function for Adam and Lora. This event consisted of the slaughtering of two cows and several hundred chickens. It was a grand affair attended by principals, teachers, students, representatives from Ulusaba Pride & Purpose, the Department of Education, our Associate Peace Corps Director, members of the village community and many more... The children sang songs and preformed some traditional Muchongolo dancing and of course there was a feast to be eaten. I think we all truly enjoyed the event and it was a perfect way for all to say their goodbyes and give Lora and Adam a great send off!

Rediscovering the Undiscovered

Since Lora and Adam left, we have been following up on some of their projects as well as creating our own. As I mentioned previously, Ulusaba brought us about 45 MORE boxes of books that all of the Virgin Companies so generously donated for the library that Lora started at one of the primary schools. So, we have been working on unpacking, sorting, and categorizing all of the new books. Additionally, we have decided that we would like to start a new library at the high school. The high school students seem to need a library the most since they are charged with having to do research and investigations on various academic topics. Luckily the high school already has a designated space which they call the “library” but is really just a chaotic storage space for old text books. 

Right now it is a giant pile of textbooks occupying about half the room. The pile is about 5 feet high, 6 feet deep, and 30 feet long... If our math is correct, that's about 900 cubic feet of textbooks! So, we decided to take on the task of cleaning, organizing, and boxing these books to make way for a real library. This is a monumental task as there is a mix of both usable quality books and apartheid-era books dating back circa 1986. We even uncovered a full class set of Shakespeare's MacBeth written in XiTsonga! If we can get it organized and cleaned up, then maybe we can get some shelving in there to properly store what is being kept, and use the rest of the space to house a real functional library that the learners, educators, and community can get some use from. The next trick will be organizing a small committee of educators to decide how best to manage this library once it is open and operating. 

Visiting Kruger National Park

Another recent first that we experienced was visiting Kruger National Park for the first time since we arrived in the village. It was a short school trip but very educational. A local game lodge that is part of the &Beyond Foundation and focuses on “ecotourism” invited representatives from all three of our schools to attend a conservation lesson and game drive. Several teachers, principals, and students attended the event.  Even our local village Indhuna (Chief's Headman) got to come along. 

Woody, Principal Moses, a teacher, and the Indhuna
The purpose of this event was to teach kids about the environment and the animals in the park in order to inform them about the importance of wildlife conservation. The lodge even served us a wonderful lunch after the game drive and then the kids got to answer questions about some of the animals that they saw on the safari. Although the trip was short and sweet, we did get to see three of the “Big Five” including an elephant, a cheetah, and lions! We can't wait for our next trip back to Kruger to see more! 

Freshly Killed Impala
Waiting for lunch...
Woo hoo!  We love Kruger!

Village Traditions

Another first in the village was getting to watch the traditional Shangaan Muchongolo dancing. There is a local dance troupe who performs the Muchongolo dances each Sunday in a different village in our area. We were lucky enough to catch one of these performances. The Shangaan people originate from Mozambique and are known more for being agriculturalists than pastoralists and cattle herders. The Muchongolo dances traditionally celebrate the role of women in society, war victories, as well as ritual ceremonies. 

Traditional Muchongolo Dancing

The 2011 Longtom Marathon

With the new year right around the corner, we are looking forward to upcoming events. One of these events is the 2011 Longtom Marathon and KLM Fundraiser which will be held on March 26 in eastern Mpumalanga province. For this event, Woody has chosen to run the Ultra 56 KM marathon!! It is a challenging course that traverses the Drakensberg mountains between Sabie and Lydenburg and through a grueling mountain pass.

Many Peace Corps volunteers have chosen to participate in this marathon as a way to help raise money for the Kgwale Le Mollo Foundation. The KLM Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded by two PCVs that served in South Africa. The foundation raises money to send deserving, hardworking students to one of South Africa’s best high schools – the Uplands College in the Mpumalanga province. The majority of students in South Africa never graduate from high school and even fewer qualify for university programs. Of those students in Mpumalanga who sit for the graduation exam, less than 50% pass the exam. This is the second lowest rate of achievement of any province in South Africa. Of the students who graduate, only 12% qualify for a four-year university. Attending the Uplands, students have many opportunities that traditional rural schools cannot provide, some of which include: academic choice, sports, music, community service, and wonderful supporting relationships with staff and educators. The Uplands and KLM also give the students an open door to a brighter future. After 5 years of rigorous academic training and leadership development, many KLM students have aspired to become professionals in marketing, law, animation, graphic design, accounting, medicine, architecture, and social work.

Each year the Longtom Marathon Fundraiser provides two-thirds of the cost of the 5 year education for one learner at Uplands College. What better way to help this country than to educate a future leader? KLM relies heavily on the funds raised through the Longtom Marathon and volunteers participating in the marathon are expected to raise a minimum of US $100 for the KLM foundation. So, even small donations of $5, $10 or $15 will add up quickly!

Please help support Woody in raising money for this worthy cause!

How to Donate:

There are two ways you can make a donation...

Method 1: Online

1. Go to the KLM foundation website

2. Click on the Donate photo in the upper left corner.

3. This opens up a secure https:// connection for people to donate.

4. In the Longtom Marathon field on the donations form, please indicate “Dawoud Al-haddad” as the runner's name.

Method 2: Check

1. Make out a check payable to: Kgwale Le Mollo (US)

2. Add a post-it note or indicate on the memo section of the check that you are sponsoring “Dawoud Al-haddad.”

3. Mail it to:

KLM Foundation (US)
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107

For more information on the KLM foundation and the important work they are doing, visit the KLM website at:

Thanks for your support!!

Joy Mashego was selected as the 2009 KLM scholar.
Sixteen year old Sandile Tshabalala arrived at Uplands College in 2007

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