Archive for the ‘General’ Category

SA project Manager Vimbai was in Vancouver for the past two weeks. Part of her visit included promoting the Vancouver South African Festival, as well as raising awareness of Education without Borders and its work in the Cape Town Gugulethu area.

Vimbai spoke to festival goers throughout the weekend, and concluded the event with an emotional and inspirational talk about the realities of South Africa, the country’s large income disparities, crime and violence, and what it is like to work with young people facing so many challenges. Vimbai’s talk, sobering at times, also drew wonderful examples of how despite such adversity, Education without Borders is making a difference in the lives of so many students.

Besides the film festival, Vimbai also spoke to various community groups while here in Vancouver. Organizations in the area of dance, music, and the local media got to learn first hand how Education without Borders is working to improve outcomes in the area of education. How we are working in english, arts, and math education, and how we are drawing on local talent to find local solutions.

Vimbai, it was wonderful having you here with us! Keep up your hard work in South Africa, and we look forward to hearing more news from you, Courtney, and the students.


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SA Unplugged

South Africa has new version of a not too unfamiliar problem: theft. In this case though it is theft of copper wires and other valuable materials that are stolen off existing infrastructure and the sold illegally.

The new Gauteng highspeed train has been hit with service problems because of thieves taking off with copper wiring. The line, built by Canada’s Bombardier Corporation, connects Tshawane, greater Johannesburg, and other parts of the industrial backbone of Gauteng. Yet while this is a recent problem for Bombardier and it’s 30,000 plus daily commuters, it is a regular occurrence for many South Africans. Entire neighbourhoods are sometimes plunged into darkness as thieves vandalize electrical utility lines.

“Curiously” the country’s “Copper Theft Barometer” has also determined that the volume and total value of copper scrap exports from South Africa has also been steadily climbing alongside the number of thefts. Most of these scraps are exported to China, where the demand for copper and other precious metals is high.

Finally the ANC government is getting serious about tackling the problem by planning new laws that would classify the thefts as sabotage, punishable by life imprisonment. With these new strict measures, maybe the thieves will think twice before they pull out their pliers.


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Cool Story Hansel

So I have officially been in Cape Town, South Africa for three weeks and I feel that now I have both the perspective and the time to finally contribute to this blog. As many of you know, this is the official EwB, or Education Without Borders, blog. What few, if any, of you know is that I am the new Project Manager here on the ground at Fezeka schools. While I will write about my actual experiences, the program itself, the learners (students), etc. I wanted to take this opportunity to just introduce myself to let you know a little bit about myself.

My name is Courtney Lemm, and while I moved around a lot due to being a navy brat, I was born in San Diego, California but tell people I am from the great state of Virginia. I did both my bachelor’s and masters degrees (sandwiched around a year spent abroad in England) at Old Dominion University. It was here that I became acquainted with Dr. Jennifer Fish, and as a result Ruth and Cecil Hershler. They hired me for this amazing opportunity to work with both there organization and with the kids that their program works with/for, along with the countless others that this type of work touches. While I have been here for only three weeks, I have instantly felt at home in both the organization and as Cape Town as a whole. It has everything to do with the people and this place. It is absolutely accommodating and intoxicating.  It is unlike any other place I have ever been.

So one of the many projects that I hope to turn into a success is furthering and enhancing the social media of EwB, starting with this blog. I will be continuing and expanding my role on this blog with my own posts, but also will be bringing in more voices into the fold. I hope to turn this into once EwB voice that encompasses all of those involved within the organization. I hope that this blog includes not only myself and those that are already contributing, but also volunteers, tutors, learners and the other project managers that I work alongside daily. All of these voices will give a well rounded and strong voice to the importance and successful nature of EwB as a whole. I hope to have my first two guest bloggers up and posting within the next week.

In the future I will be updating about the daily events that are happening on the ground here at Fezeka schools. From the end of term anxiety that the learners go through, to our various excursions we take on holiday programs, our end of the year programs, the ins and outs of our learners, volunteers, tutors and project managers lives, to the successes and failures that we as a group, program and organization face here in Cape Town. It is an exciting opportunity and i’m so very happy to be a part of it.

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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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Fezeka Secondary students in Gugulethu, South Africa

This morning I had the opportunity to chat with Nic at Kwela Leadership and Talent Management. We had an informal chat about Kwela, their unique method of working with charities such as Education without Borders (EwB), and Nic’s involvement with EwB.

Nic is a Greek born South African who has lived in Vancouver for 17 years. His background is in the area of human resources and operations management, and he and his business partner Russel Horwitz started Kwela a number of years ago. Kwela’s specializes in leadership, team building, and organizational development for businesses of all sizes.

Nic and Kwela take a decidedly ecological and community approach to developing their business. As part of their business model, they give 1% of their organization’s profits to three NGO’s who fit closely with Kwela’s organizational values. These NGO’s include the Sea Shepherd Conservation SocietyEducation without Borders, and SOS Children’s Villages Canada.

Nic first became involved with Education without Borders after meeting Ruth and Cecil Hershler, the founders of EwB. Nic took to the organization because it embraced his values of community development, while also allowing him to reconnect to South Africa in a meaningful way.

EwB is a highly effective organization; however, one of the problems Nic has encountered as a board member with EwB, is that because the NGO is volunteer run, it can be difficult delivering projects on tight timelines. In order to resolve this, Nic has focused on bringing more structure to volunteer time commitments, for example requiring all volunteers to commit to a minimum number of productive volunteer hours per month.

Nic and I discussed various challenges facing EwB, one of them being how to grow our donor base in order to have a greater impact on the communities we work with in South Africa. We discussed the importance of engaging a broader range of South African emigrants to give a more multicultural image to our organization outside of South Africa.

We also touched on potentially expanding to other South African Diaspora communities in other Canadian cities. One issue we did not have time to discuss was how to get our message out to a broader public. EwB is working on this through its new Communications Committee; however, our blog and newsletter are still not getting the visibility we need to spread the word about EwB’s work.

It was interesting learning about Kwela and Nic’s work with Education without Borders. It is through the time and donations from people like Nic that we are able to deliver sustainable community development to youth in schools such as Fezeka in Cape Town.   Thanks for your time Nic, it was a pleasure meeting with you!

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One of the benefits of donating to Education without Borders is that  your donations are going directly to projects on the ground and not to adminstration. Education without Borders is a volunteer run organization, which means almost all of the funds collected go to improving livelihoods in South Africa, and not to administration.

In this blog I periodically highlight certain projects that EwB finances. Some of the projects include the windmill electrical generator and the Maths and English programs at Fezeka School. Programs such as the windmill electrical generator have not only provided electricity for Fazeka’s science lab, they have provided the means for students to remain in school and acquire skills that will enable them to contribute to the development of their communities in South Africa.

Education without Borders appreciates your help. How can you help us? You can help our organization, and students at Fezeka School in Cape Town by spreading the word about us on facebook, twitter, and amongst your friends; you can also make small monthly donations; and you can enrol as a local volunteer in Cape Town, or as a volunteer in Canada.

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