One of the privileges of living in Zithulele is the magnet-like attraction that the village has for high-calibre people from all over the world, who come for anything from a couple of days to a couple of years. The magnet seemed to be operating to powerful effect during the recent June-July break!
Amy Gleason of Ubuntu Global Connections and Mike Gathercole of 2WayTravel form a formidable trans-Atlantic partnership that has seen multiple groups visit Zithulele from the U.S. over the past five years. Amy and Mike have both been hugely loyal supporters of Axium, catching the vision from the organisation’s early days in Boston and Cape Town. Their touring group this year was comfortably their most ambitious: Fifteen women bristling with fun, energy and a wonderful spirit of adventure.
They split themselves into four teams, with some teaching English with our grade 10-12s at Ekukhuleni, some running an amazingly action-packed Kid’s Club at the Library, others helping in the MasaKHANe Maths classroom, and a final few introducing our Community Reading team to computers. They started every morning with a 45 minute up-hill hike from the Mbolompo Homestay, followed by some high-energy engagement with kids and community members, and an equally demanding afternoon activity – yet still managed to end each day full of energy and laughs. A truly remarkable group! We look forward to staying in touch with our many new friends and exploring ways of working together across oceans and contexts.
Nathan Begbie is another serial volunteer who has become a fixture on our calendar each year. A University of Cape Town student and self-confessed computer geek, Nathan recruits friends and fellow students to join him on his annual pilgrimage to Zithulele. Over the years Nathan’s groups have made a massive impact on our Ekukhuleni and MasaKHANe students, as much for their great teaching as for the exposure our students get to a range of ‘different’ career options, including veterinary science, chemical engineering, computer science, and, from this most recent group, international politics and development! We’re so thankful for Nathan’s remarkable commitment to bringing groups up here (and are slightly nervous that his imminent graduation may mean the end of his visits!).
Aspirant chemical (or is that computer?!) engineer David Bosch and Oxford chemistry grad Mike Kent have played a massive role in supporting our Study Group team and driving forward various technology projects over the last six months. Both are tremendously capable and committed (David often staying up well past midnight to make use of night time data!!), and we are feeling their absence now that they are gone. Longer-term volunteers make a huge contribution to what we’re able to achieve on limited budgets and time. The good news is that Mike will be back with us in a few weeks to continue his “apprenticeship” as a chemistry demolitions expert – much to the benefit of the many students being exposed to science experiments for the first time!
And I’ve just scratched the surface so far… we had two encouraging visits from the DG Murray Trust, who fund our language and literacy work; Geoff and Wendy Bond from People’s Church, who support one of our staff, brought together a bunch of local education people for a fruitful ‘roundtable’; teacher, entrepreneur, children’s novelist and entertainer, Kirsty Paxton, provided fun puppet training to our Nobalisa team; we were lucky enough to have Sophie Vayro – former Project Trust volunteer and all round stellar organiser – with us for six busy weeks full of sorting, packing, unpacking and playing with kids; the Legal Resources Centre visited twice to meet with principals in our network around key issues; Jadene Carey a London-based employee of Disney, put her considerable skills to use in MasaKHANe’s fun movie-making project; Kenridge Dutch Reformed Church, who have long-standing links with the local AFM church, once again brought a group to work at Sea View High school and to run Kid’s clubs in the afternoons – we look forward to working closer with them in future; four PGCE students from the University of Cape Town arrived to do their second teaching practice at two local schools, where we’ll be supporting them for the next six weeks; and finally to cap off a busy holiday period, Lwando Bantam from SAICA, who has assisted in placing many of our budding accountants at universities, paid us a surprise visit and left us very much encouraged by his enthusiasm for what he saw happening deep in the ‘rurals’.
So, as you can see, the Zithulele volunteer magnet has done its work well over the last little while! Do consider a visit yourself, or connect us with someone who you think might be interested in volunteering with us.