Archive for the ‘Cape Town’ Category

A number of volunteer run NGO’s like Education without Borders are active in South Africa, and many of them share a common problem:  access to fundraising.

At EwB fundraising has for many years come from donors in Canada, in particular Vancouver; however, as the South African diaspora ages, these sources will become increasingly difficult to draw from. Logically funding from first generation diaspora is easier to source, but what about second and third generations? Will they feel as attached to South Africa?

The key for future funding lies in South Africa, from local corporate and private donors. As mentioned in previous blog posts, South Africa has substantial infrastructure, a host of medium and large corporations, and no shortage of middle class and upper class populations who have the resources to support NGO’s such as EwB, the question is how to reach out to these groups. This is where diaspora – immigrant South Africans of all generations can play a major role.

South African immigrants have a vast network of friends, family, and former employers who they can ask to help fund EwB projects.  Tools like facebook and skype make this possible because they allow immigrants to remain connected to friends and family back in South Africa.

One particular example of the success of diaspora driven funding is the work by Paula Phillips and Iam Hlompho. Paula lives in Vancouver, and Iam is in Soweto. The two of them have used the power of social media to create a local registered non-profit foundation in South Africa to raise funds for cricket development in Soweto. The organization, called the Golden Bells Cricket Development, provides youth (girls and boys 6-14)  with free access to after school cricket and meals. Through cricket, Iam works with youth to provide them with team, leadership, and life skills. Most of the funds for Golden Bell Cricket comes from local South African donors who have been called upon by diaspora to provide materials and funds. To learn more about Golden Bells Cricket, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/360136927364805/.

Another NGO of interest is Communiversity. Unlike EwB and Golden Bells, this NGO focuses on young people who are beyond school age, but who lack skills to find employment in South Africa’s economy. The objective of this NGO is provide accessible and affordable post-school education. Students in the program pay a low cost fee for courses; however, upon completion of their studies they receive full reimbursement. Costs are kept low by using existing unused infrastructure provided by South Africans in South Africa. To learn more, visit http://www.cidafoundation.org/.

EwB’s donor model is under constant evolution. Unable to make donations yourself? You can play a part by talking to your friends and family about NGO’s such as EwB, Golden Bell’s Cricket, and Communiversity. By involving South African’s in our charities, not only can we  reach out to more young people, but we can also get more South Africans talking and working together to solve the country’s problems.



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South Africa has a lot to be proud of.  For a country that many consider relatively isolated, it has achieved leadership in numerous fields, including medicine, commerce, the arts, and human rights.

Many would not know that South Africa has the world’s third largest hospital, Chris Hani – Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto (1). South Africa was also the first country to conduct successful open heart surgery – performed in 1967 by Christiaan Barnard on Louis Washkansky at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town South Africa (2). Groote Schuur also happened to be one of the world’s laregst teaching hospitals at the time.

One of South Africa’s biggest cities, Durban is the 9th largest port in the world, and the largest in Africa. Presumably this is the case because South Africa is also a major manufacturer of automobiles, as well as the world’s largest producer of gold, platinum, chromium, vanadium, manganese and alumino-silicates. For those of you who think think I am nuts, South Africa is also amongst the largest producers of macadamia nuts (3). South Africa also has most of Africa’s phones, internet connections, and infrastructure. It is also a major exporter, producing more manufactured goods than Russia, Singapore, or Portugal.

South Africa also leads when it comes to the arts. The recent anniversary of Paul Simon’s Graceland tour, celebrated with the film “Under African Skies”. Is a reminder of the quantity and quality of musical talent in the country. Famous South African artists include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu of Juluka, and painter Gerald Sekoto (http://www.art.co.za/gerardsekoto/).

South Africa also arguably has the world’s most open constitution, allowing for same gender marriages, freedom of expression, and freedom from oppression. The country will also be the first to have a disabled athlete on its 2012 Summer Olympics team in London (4).

These feats demonstrate that South Africa is a can-do country. South Africans are open-minded, talented, diverse, and hard working. By supporting the work of Education without Borders in Cape Town, South Africa, you know your money is making a huge difference in students lives. By donating just a few dollars a month, you empower students to participate in a country that really is on the move.





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In researching material for this blog it’s easy to get a bit disheartened by the scale of South Africa’s problems. True the country has serious shortfalls in education, high levels of violence, and unacceptable levels of corruption. Yet despite these issues there are also plenty of success stories.

Like many emerging market economies, South Africa has enormous social and economic challenges, which are often hard to grasp  for those in developed economies; however, one of the benefits of being an emerging market is that South Africa (like other BRICS countries) has a dynamic economy, with sufficient opportunities to lift many from poverty to the middle class.

A recent BBC story speaks about how young black entrepreneurs such as Desmond Mabuza have begun to transform South Africa’s restaurant scene, taking what has long been a white dominated industry, and transforming it progressively into something more representative of the country. Mr Mabuza is an exceptional case, since not only was he the first black man to break the glass ceiling of high-end restaurants, but also because he is educated as an engineer, not as a chef. As Mr Mabuza says, ” [In engineering] you’re paying attention to detail, the overall project planning, being objective, processes [and] a lot of that training has come in handy for me in terms of how I implement and go about my daily business.”

Mr Mubaza is but one example in a particular industry of how those who have the right skills can achieve great success. Developing skills like Mr Mubaza’s require young people to commit to staying in school, learning a profession, and then later on transferring these abilities to other fields as they pass through life. What makes South Africa and countries similar to it (Brazil, China, and Vietnam) so exciting, is that this is actually now a possibility. Unlike failed states such as Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan, or decaying ones such as Greece, Italy, and Venezuela, young South African’s are blessed with a dynamic country rich in natural resources, a growing middle class, and a mature stable democracy. In South Africa it is possible!

Unfortunately the problem in South Africa is that while the country is on a good track, access to quality education remains a huge barrier for many young people. For this reason the work of organizations such as Education without Borders is so critical, because it enables young learners to develop the essential skills to enable them to participate in the development of country that holds so much promise.


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In the early 1990’s South Africa’s brutal Apartheid regime was brought to its knees, ushering in a new era of freedom, democracy, and expression. Many young South AFricans have no living recollection of the Apartheid era, and know only of the country as it is – a place where people of all races have complete liberty of movement.

Yet one of the overarching themes in this past edition of the 2012 Vancouver South African Film Festival is that xenophobia, while no longer legally legislated, is widespread and tolerated in South Africa.

Rape, homophobia, child poverty, and racism towards immigrants are sadly a reality in South Africa. Several films at the VSAFF highlighted these issues, include the acclaimed “Man on the Ground”, the story of immigrants living in South Africa’s vast townships during the wave of xenophobic violence that swept the country three years ago.

The courts in South Africa have begun to deal with certain abhorrent acts of violence, including cases of “corrective rape” – the idea of raping lesbian women to rid them of their homosexuality. Yet the legal system is far behind the situation on the ground, and women continue to die in increasing numbers. (1)

Recently Somali immigrant shopkeepers found themselves the victims of hate attacks, including the destruction of personal property and theft. Many immigrants fear for their lives, but have nowhere else to go. (2)

Apartheid in name is over in South Africa, but in practice the country remains a deeply divided place. Disparities in income, education, land ownership, are exacerbated by government corruption from an ANC in power for nearly 20 years. It remains unlikely that there will be any drastic improvement in the situation in the near term. Ultimately a combination of new governing parties, improved education and literacy, and better health care will allow the country to face down corruption, xenophobia, and poverty.

In the meantime, NGO’s like Education without Borders continue to deliver significant incremental change in South Africa’s townships. Events such as the VSAFF raise funds for real projects run by volunteers and local people. These projects not only improve the lives of South African youth, they also help raise a future generation that will be more tolerant, informed, and productive. (3)

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13908662

(2) http://www.iol.co.za/capetimes/storekeepers-smash-somali-shop-in-khayelitsha-1.1302825

(3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gn3aJKORPEQ&feature=youtu.be

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This evening, after leaving the office late, I was tempted head straight home and go to bed early. This past week I’ve had very little sleep; the unfortunate juxtaposition of my obssession with early morning starts, and my partner’s obligation to study well into the morning hours for his Ph. D. Call it burning the candle from both ends.

An early Friday night seemed awfully tempting on a cold and rainy winter’s night, but in the end I stuck to a promise I had made myself earlier in the week, that I would go to synagogue to practice my Hebrew and connect with my community. Now don’t get me wrong, I am about as religious as an apple can be an orange; however, religious event aside, there is something special about being part of a community, being connected to people of similar backgrounds and interests.

Community is important. It connects people together to a common project to better their lives and the lives of the people who live around them. Education without Borders’ mission is to empower parents, teachers, and students to build a community around their schools. The long term objective is not just education, it is also to create a community around the schools EwB supports.

Yet EwB also indirectly helps build community amongst South Africans living abroad. Our NGO achieves this by offering meaningful cultural and fundraising projects (such as the Vancouver South African Film Festival) that bring expats together in a common cause to help improve the lives of fellow South Africans.

In the end everyone is looking to belong somewhere. We are all in search of a community where we can contribute, and where we feel we belong, and where we can be better human beings. Projects such as EwB help build that sense of community for so many people, whether in  Gugulethu at the start of another school year, or here in Vancouver on a cold raining night.


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Famous Capetonians

Recently one of South Africa’s most famous citizens had a birthday! Bishop Tutu, SA freedom fighter, global activist, and Nobel Prize winner turned 80 on October 7th. He was joined by friends, family, and well wishers for a giant ceremony at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town, where he was Bishop for many years, before becoming Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Cape Town. Guests included U2’s Bono, state presidents, prime ministers, and the Dalai Lama was present by camera (the ANC barred his visit after much pressure from the Chinese Communist Government)


As a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tutu has continued his fight in post-Apartheid South Africa, becoming a vehement critic of corruption in the ANC ranks. In fact Tutu has gone so far as to call on his fellow South Africans to vote for opposition parties to end what has been ANC single party rule since the end of the Nationalist era in the early 1990’s. Tutu has now become a thorn in the side of the ANC, criticizing them for choosing a man accused of rape to be the President of South Africa. Tutu is no fan of Jacob Zuma, just as he is a strong opponent of other Southern African leaders, including Mugabe, whom he has called autocratic and should step down. After Zimbabwe’s last failed elections, Tutu called for the West to remove Mugabe through the use of force.


Bishop Tutu’s interests also extend to the children’s rights, education, gay rights, and the Palestinian question. In the case of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Bishop has on several occasions gotten himself into hot water by equating Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories to Apartheid, even when it is fully known that Arab Muslims and Christians living inside the State of Israel enjoy the same freedoms as those of Israeli Jews. Yet despite its controversy, Tutu’s voice has been an important one in pushing Israel’s Conservative Netanyahu government to negotiate with a willing Palestinian leadership.


At 80 Bishop Tutu is as vibrant as ever. His involvement in social issues, as a fighter for those who have no voice, and as a defender of human rights, he is an inspiration for people around the world.


To Tutu, L’Chaim.






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Cape Town: not a melting pot, but rather a multicultural blending machine


Cape Town is a city of contrasts and stunning beauty. It is an ethnically diverse place, considered to be one of the world’s most multicultural cities. Tourists visiting the Mother City are often struck by how mixed the population is; walking through Cape Town’s downtown one could be in New York, Paris, or Toronto.


Cape Town is a mixture of Dutch, French, Malay, West and Central African, Portuguese, Italian, Jewish, and British immigrants, with a large vibrant Xhosa population – wow, now that’s a lot of different cultures!


The early Dutch and French populations also mixed significantly with the now extinct indigenous Hottentots to create the foundation of a significant Afrikaans speaking mixed race ethnicity, known as Cape Coloureds.


This interesting tapestry of peoples has given Cape Town a well-deserved reputation as both a culinary and a cultural powerhouse. From the Cape, dishes such as Cape Curries, Boboties, local seafood and game meat dishes have become famous the world around, as immigrants, expats, and tourists take the recipes home with them.


Musicians from the Cape have also had significant success on the world stage. These include artists such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Morris Goldberg, and David Kramer, who gave name to Cape Jazz genres rooted in the famous former District Six area of the city. More recently groups such as Die Antwoord have taken Cape Town’s multicultural Afrikaans roots and blended it to a ghetto rap sound that sounds as much at home in Harlem, as it does on the streets of Paris’ sprawling immigrant suburbs.


For Capetonians this success is proof the city’s rich ethnic mix is an advantage, an example of how diversity drives creativity!


Cape Town







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