mother africa

Matiwane, South Africa. Development. Problems. Solutions. Stories. Photos. Advancement. Humanity. Part of the reason I started this blog was to give the stories and context to some of the photos I’ve taken; to ramble on about adventures and explain the traditions and cultures of interesting people and places. More importantly, I want to share the photos and tell the stories of people doing good things in the developing world. In the future I hope to feature scores of successful programs that have found innovative solutions to local problems. My good friend Jesse Reilly recently finished serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in a rural village in South Africa. This is his story…

The problem:

I lived in the Zulu village called Matiwane.  Located near Ladysmith, KwaZulu Natal Province in South Africa.  The village is home to 18,000 people and is deep rural: no paved roads, water from bore hole pumps, and electricity is barely ten years old there.  HIV Aids has decimated the poverty-stricken area.  As a result, hundreds of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) live in the village.

The solution:

Five Gogos, grandmothers, volunteer for a small stipend to cook and clean, assist the children with basic hygiene and facilitate a life skills group for the OVCs.  The younger kids learned about hygiene, chores, healthy eating, emotions etc.  The high school kids learned about HIV AIDS, safe sex, condoms, alcohol and drugs etc.  Each lesson was paired with an activity or project.  The gogos also added lessons about sewing and mending school uniforms and clothes.

The Gogo:

She is my host mother’s mother, thus my host Gogo.  She lived with her eldest son, as is customary, and is currently in her 80s.  She has great grand children, grand children, and children that she sees daily.  She refers to anyone younger than her as child.  I would say “Hello Gogo” and she would respond, “Hello my child.”  She would offer this response to people in their 50s!  charming.  She spoke such an old and deep Zulu that I had difficulty understanding it.

She lived through the rise and fall of Apartheid.

When I arrived in the village, she was completely blind due to cataracts.  She and I would speak daily, but she never saw me.  After months of waiting she had surgery at the provincial hospital to remove one of the cataracts.  She returned home with the gift of sight, and was shocked to finally see the white man in her family.  Shortly after I left the village she had surgery to remove the second cataract.

She spends her days resting in the shade or sitting on a grass mat on the ground.  She often hums and sings traditional Zulu songs.  She loves watching the children play and enjoys knowing the goings on of life in the village.

The organization:

The Kids Centre is funded and supported by Mpilonhle Project.  An NGO based in Ladysmith, serving the entire Uthukela District in HIV/ AIDS community support. Mpilonhle is specifically committed to promoting the development of youth through innovative health and education programs that prevent HIV, promote general health, and develop the computer-based skills and knowledge necessary to succeed economically. To accomplish their mission, they make use of mobile health units to provide health education and awareness, treatment, and computer training to adolescents and community members. To help support Mpilonhle’s mission, consider making a tax-deductible donation.

Feel free to check out my photo site A portion of all proceeds are donated to the featured NGO of the month.


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