20 October 2009

Making a Difference in Africa

As the planning for the 2010 Burns Bog Gala quickly gets underway, we remember our award winners from last year and think about the progress they have made. We just received an update from Nicole Kafka, the Gold winner of the Fledging Chick award, about the work she has been doing in Tulbagh, South Africa. Work like hers is very inspiring and so I thought I would share her story with you. Below is the October Update about the work she and other community members do, collectively known as Tulbagh Community Projects. For more information join her Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=21083620237&ref=mf

Tulbagh Community Projects
October, 2009

Hello Friends,

Spring is now here in Tulbagh, South Africa. After months of winter and an almost complete lack of employment for the community of Tulbagh, we all wait in anticipation for the warmer weather and for the opening of the Delmonte Canning Factory. The blossoms appearing on the fruit trees, the children playing rugby on the streets and the adults discussing the relief that a pay cheque will bring, all tell us that this time is soon approaching. Although many of the difficulties of Tulbagh-life continue throughout the year, there is an almost tangible feeling of hope that I suppose spring brings all over the world.

After my short trip back to Canada in July, it is wonderful to be back in Tulbagh and back to working in the community through Tulbagh Community Projects. It is clear that the people of Tulbagh are very grateful for the assistance the soup kitchens, sports centres and other projects have brought this winter. The three soup kitchens have long line-ups every week. The children skip to the soup kitchens with their plastic containers swinging in their hands, and then return home with slow, small steps careful as not to spill a drop. The ladies who run the soup kitchens work from morning to late afternoon on soup days and to be honest, I have never heard a word of complaint from any of them. They are so grateful for the opportunity to serve their neighbours. I have learned a lot from those women.

It is now the end of rugby season in South Africa. The South African National Team ‘The Springboks’ have been playing a lot on the television and I suppose that is part of the reason why the rugby balls at our sport centre are used from morning to night all over the community. Every neighbourhood has its own self-made rugby league centred around the nearest sports centre. One group of youth even made an almost life-sized rugby goal post in the grassy field by one of the centres. It is amazing how something as simple as a ball can transform neighbourhoods. Sometimes games are between similar age groups only and are very competitive. Other times, the older boys play a casual game and include the younger ones. However the game ends up looking, it is clear that the ball enables the youth to fill their time with activities that promote team work, new relationships among neighbours and persistence in developing new skills.

Other activities that we have been busy with in the last few months include maintaining our connection with the Spar Food Store in Tulbagh in order to distribute their damaged and left over stock to the community. One of the weekly recipients of this food is Mama Abigail who runs a day-care center in the community. When asked how the weekly food donations are going, she said with a smile, “Look at all the fat babies at my day-care, everywhere there are fat legs!” There is a very pure form of contentment that comes from knowing that children are being provided the healthy nourishment they need.

Although Tulbagh is only 90 minutes away from Cape Town, many of the Tulbagh youth do not get the opportunity to visit the ‘Mother City’, as it is called. This excludes the children in Tulbagh from the many opportunities that Cape Town has to offer. Last month, Tulbagh Community Projects connected the school with some donors in the community and the Grade 9 Science teachers were able to take their classes to Cape Town, to go to the MTN Science Center. Here the children were able to see how the science they have been learning in school is useful in the real world. It was a great experience and will help the students decide whether they will want to continue to take science courses in Grade 10 or if they want to pursue another subject instead. As exciting as the Science Center was, watching the students exploring Cape Town was equally fun, elevators, escalators, tall buildings and fast cars caused many excited moments!!

The school spring vacation has just ended in South Africa and although the children in Tulbagh enjoy the break from school, it can be a difficult time for many because of the combination of difficulties in the home and a lack of activities for the children in the community. Many children can not stay at home during the day, yet they don’t have anywhere else to go. During the two week break, Tulbagh Community Projects organized days of activities with the children. The children were enthusiastic to play games, sports and have their faces painted. What starts with a few children on a street corner, soon becomes streams of children when the word of an activity spreads around the community. These are always treasured times, where we can build new relationships with the youth and just enjoy their company for the day.

As many know, Tulbagh is a place of real contrasts. It is a lush valley and a community of remarkable people, yet it is also a community who faces the reality of serious poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and lack of support services. Illness, death and hardship are the norm in everyday life here. Working in such a community leaves you with two options, you can either focus on the problems or you can focus on the blessings. Yes, the problems are many, but so are the stories of children and families whose lives have been changed by the projects in Tulbagh over the past two years. When we focus on those, we can’t help but be propelled forward to continue to seek new ways to address the issues and assist the families.

Without the generosity of people who have donated to our work in Tulbagh, none of these projects would be possible. It is only through your giving that we are able to support Tulbagh on a daily basis. We thank you for that. It is appreciated by everyone in Tulbagh and by us at Tulbagh Community Projects. Please continue to help us with donations when possible and keep us in mind for holiday fundraisers at your school or workplace. Every little bit goes a long way in helping Tulbagh!

Thank you!

Please enjoy the photographs below!

With Love from Tulbagh,
Nicole Kafka

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