Hello from “this side”! We have spent our first two weeks in Hammanskraal, South Africa.
We are working hard on our project goals. Our project is education-focused. We are introducing a clean water cirriculum to the schools that consists of six lessons. Some of the lessons include proper hand washing habits, water conservancy globally, and other important issues. At the beginning of our intervention, we administered entry surveys to 50 students from each grade we are working with (Grades 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). In South Africa, schoolchildren are called “learners”, not students! These entry surveys went very well, despite a minimal language barrier. Almost everyone in this area speaks English fluently, but they have trouble understanding our American accent sometimes. The children, especially in the higher grades, are delighted to have American visitors. We are actually teaching after their school day so that we do not interfere with the exams. The children are so excited to spend time learning about clean water with us that they do not mind the extra school time!
This past weekend, we had a very special opportunity. One of the employees of our community partner organization, Khulisa Social Solutions, has been working on an intervention in another South African village: Luphisi. Although this village is not our target intervention area, we spent our Saturday with him (Zain Halle) in the village. The learners there had decided they wanted to help others in their community, and did so by putting on a talent show! They charged a small admission fee, and sold candies and South African grilled sausages (boerewors). The money raised is intended for helping children in their community afford uniforms for school. We were so happy to be part of this cause.
The team served this awesome cause by acting as judges for the show! The community had set up a lovely table for us with refreshments.
One of the best things about being in South Africa thus far has been the power of a receptive community.
By continuing involvement with PureMadi’s water filter factory in Hammanskraal, the University of Virginia teams have maintained a presence year after year. Some students have returned for multiple years, and of course the continued work of Professor James Smith furthers these bonds. Two of the women, pillars of the community Grace and Paulina, have welcomed teams year after year to help them realize their vision of community empowerment.
The factory is now overseen by its manager, Nkosi. Nkosi was hired last year by Professor Smith and PureMadi to continue to oversee factory operations. Nkosi has tied together the University of Virginia community with the community in Hammanskraal, since she has communicated progress throughout the year. Our team had an invaluable headstart as a result of her help, and hit the ground running with our project.
We have experienced a very receptive community both in Hammanskraal and in Luphisi for the talent show. One of the teachers at the primary school, where our intervention is taking place, cleaned the classroom for us and set up a table with drinking water and fresh chalk. Everywhere we go, we feel as though our intervention is both appreciated and valued. Our team attributes this to our focus on addressing the needs of the community, not what our American vision of those needs might be. By maintaining a presence, student teams working in this area have stayed tuned to what improvements the people who are here day after day wish for. We are so grateful for this community-driven model that drives the success of our project!