Posts Tagged ‘Education without Borders’

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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Many of us in Canada take for granted our access to education. In fact, one may argue that Canada, like many countries in the West, has an excess of accessible education. As long as one has an interest and desire to learn, post-secondary education is reasonably accessible, whether directly at universities and colleges, or online through the internet.

In South Africa the situation is vastly different. As highlighted in a recent Globe and Mail investigative piece, South Africans face enormous barriers to access affordable public education (1). Waitlists for post-secondary institutions are in the thousands, and all this despite a well document need for a more educated work force.

Education without Borders helps to fill the void for many young South Africans seeking to improve themslves through better education. By providing access to improved education, EwB gives the students we support the tools to be one step ahead in the competitive process to access post-secondary education and rewarding jobs.

(1) http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/worldview/in-johannesburg-a-desperate-bid-for-education-turns-deadly/article2297297/

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Rodney, one of our volunteers and supporters, hosts a regular Education without Borders poker fundraising night.

The night includes plenty of beer, refreshments, and prizes. For those who are interested in joining the activities, please contact us at Education without Borders, and we’ll put you onto the mailing list. Activities typically take place at the Shark’s Club in downtown Vancouver.

Participants are not pros, and are out to support a great Canadian-South African charity.

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Education without Borders has many supporters who have been instrumental in raising funds for projects at our two schools in Cape Town Gugulethu.

Joanne Smith, a long time supporter of EwB, recently held another fundraiser event at her home, where she invited Dr. Dennis Glauber to give a presentation on “Shakespeare and Opera”.  Dennis Glauber lived in South Africa in the 1960’s and was well known as the National Radio Quiz Champion. He moved to Seattle, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, in the 1970’s, and has a lecture series of a wide range of operatic topics.

The event was a huge success  and raised $1000 for EwB activities.  Feedback from guests was very positive, including this from Carol:

“Thanks you so much for that lovely evening last week with with your friend Dennis.  I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, particularly the South African production of Othello compared with Otello.  I love that opera, but it was wonderful hearing Shakespeare the way it should be spoken, slow delivery so we could relish every word, and the enunciation absolutely perfect. ” – Carol

This event is an example of how it is possible for you to organize activities with your friends to fundraise for Education without Borders.

How about having friends over for tea? A morning walk and coffee? A small potluck dinner? Simple and small social events with donations of just a few dollars a person add up quickly – you’d be surprised! And donating the funds you collect is easy, just visit: – http://www.canadahelps.org/CharityProfilePage.aspx?CharityID=83035


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Fezeka School, local educators, and Education without Borders volunteers have been organizing a series of motivational talks for students. Ted and Roger, two local volunteers who have been involved with EwB for some time, teamed up with EwB project manager Vimbai, and guest speaker Unathi, to talk to 50 grade nine students. To learn more about Vimbai, please visit this page: http://www.educationwithoutborders.ca/node/124

Here is some feedback from Roger about Unathi’s talk.

Dear Unathi and Vimbai,


Let me once again thank you, Unathi, for an outstanding presentation. There was no doubt in the mind of Ted, Vimbai and I that you really hit a few nails on the head with your eloquence and clarity. You make a wonderful public speaker. I attach a few photos. I also have some video. All will be put on a disc. I can have this ready for you when you return from France and when we meet I can pass it to you.


In one of the videos, you say “it’s not cool to not have a job and it’s not cool to sit at home.” I think this is powerful stuff. The fact that you were once again surrounded by eager learners, demonstrated their wish to learn more from you. The challenge for Vimbai and ourselves is to create follow up from these talks.


I also think the message that there are a variety of jobs is getting across. One expressed an interest in meteorology, the other being a pilot and the one that intrigued me was “how do I become a spy?”


All good stuff.

Below is a summary of some of Unathi’s key points of advice to the students, as well as some photographs (http://s1217.photobucket.com/albums/dd383/educationwithoutborders/Unathi%20-%20talk%20September%2015th%202011/) – Thanks to Ted Weber for these.

-There is career, a job, and a future out there for everyone

-Make a list of your ideal professions and then think where you are now what subjects you need to achieve this as a main goal.

-It is important to know and to focus now on your strengths

-Choose something you enjoy doing, not what you think others think you should enjoy.

-When difficulties occur, choose a teacher adult role model that you can identify with. Choose someone you can trust and who is respected in the community.

-Look for bursaries in the Sunday papers, the internet, or government training grants through Thetas

-Loosing bad friends early on School is a good thing. It is important to hang out with motivated good friends!

-School is a place to learn and prepare for your future, as well as having fun.

-It is no fun being 25 in a township without a job; so use school as a jumping board to get a good job!

-Unathi, who is a respected wine maker and scientist, discussed how agriculture is cool and how she liked nature biology, the trees, the outdoors, and was good at science. She explained to students how science, biology, and respect for nature are key to improving lives, and that there are many careers in these fields for motivated people and women.

Thanks for all the great feed back Ted, Roger and Vimbai on Unathi’s talk. I look forward to meeting Unathi and Vimbai, as well as some of the students when I visit Cape Town next time!


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My partner is studying genetics at one of the universities in the Vancouver area. As part of his early studies he is taking a course in data analysis, studying an application that enables scientists to work with metadata – essentially data about data, or looking at how data can be reinterpreted to give additional unexpected results. In one his classes they looked this data chart: http://graphs.gapminder.org/world/, which was created using http://www.r-project.org/

Click on the first link, it is very interactive!

The graphic plots development and life expectancy against time for the world’s nations, and shows how countries have improved life expectancy as they have become richer and more economically developed. The animation also shows the effects of World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the ravages of AIDS on human development.

One can also track individual nations by selecting particular data points and charting them versus time. In the case of South Africa, the effects of AIDS are shockingly noticeable in the 1990’s, causing a massive decline in standards of living for most South Africans.

Education is the best defence against the progression of AIDS. An educated youth can confront this disease without prejudice, and can adopt safe sex practices without stigmatisms. Investing in projects funded by Education without Borders is a way for you to improve human health in South Africa, and help confront this disease over the long term.

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Greg Hillyard is a Cape Town based professional photographer and local Education without Borders volunteer. Greg and EwB have developed a photography program designed to give at risk students a chance to find creative outlets through photography and visual media, while also connecting with the natural environment.

Recently Education without Borders and Greg organized a photography excursion into the surrounding Cape Town wilderness in association with a local NGO Educo. Below is a wonderful post from Greg about the event.


Amongst the clouds at Grootwinterhoek

By Greg Hillyard

We are truly blessed in the Western Cape with such a choice of awe inspiring destinations! In 2010 we were exploring the northern frontier on the banks of the Doring River whilst this year the lofty Grootwinterhoek reserve served as our photographic playground.

The reserve lies merely 120km from Cape Town and to the amazement of the students, Table Mountain can be seen far off in the distance. For more information on the reserve, go to the following links…


and to locate the campsite…


As with the previous year’s excursion, the reasons for choosing such a remote place were to show the students a completely new part of South Africa, so as to stimulate excitement, giving them the freedom to practice their photography in a beautiful and vast landscape, and of course give them a fond memory of their time in our care.

We set out from the Fezeka High at 2pm with a few delays but as the drive was not too far we were not stressed. The cameras were out and snapping, the voices rapping and soaring in song as we motored along, making our way towards a weekend of play. Mark Gamble of EDUCO had been complaining of a particularly hard week at the office and it was remarkable to see how the mirthful energy of the students totally moved him to a high state of enthusiasm and got his eyes sparkling once again.

One or two stops for petrol and supplies along the way and a few more delays for photographic opportunities saw the group trundle into the campsite. The sun was getting low and it was already cold at an altitude of one kilometre. With beanies on heads and jackets keeping us warm, we unpacked, started with supper and made a fire in the chalet whilst sorting out sleeping arrangements.

After wolfing down an impressive lamb stew, Mark assembled the group into a circle and led a very informative and clever check-in with all present. We were asked to be a traffic light and then give reasons for being a certain colour. Red if you were feeling bad, orange if you were ok but something was bothering you and green if you were super happy. We thankfully discovered through the one red that Asemahle had a serious tooth ache and we were able to administer pain killers so she could at least get a good night’s rest.

The rest of the evening was a blur of some very raucous singing and dancing. We have five budding thespians in the group and all were in full flight with the rest of the class joining in with djembe drums, dance or song. Somewhere in the mayhem we were quietened with a prayer for a classmate who was absent due to the tragedy of losing her mother the night before. We sent love her way and at the same time acknowledged how lucky we all were to be alive and full of youthful energy. After the prayers we watched a BBC documentary on the making of the “Living Planet” series just to show how photography can be used to communicate and as a source of income.

Saturday dawned bright beautiful and crisp! We were in for a great day! After breakfast we applied sun-cream and sauntered off into the pristine veld for a few hours. It was a photographer’s delight and Mark and I both found many moments to laugh at the antics of the enthusiastic photographers. They were clambering on top of rock formations, inside rock formations and were often seen on their knees in the dirt capturing flowers and insects. We picnicked at a Palmiet surrounded pristine red water pond that few dared to swim in. It was freezing, far colder than any Clifton experience. We created some group shots and then headed back to camp for a well earned afternoon siesta.

The sunset was spectacular and for this we walked to a lookout point where one could spot Table Mountain far into the hazy distance. It was a vast and quiet space and the beauty of the syrup like light gave us all a great opportunity to create some amazing moody and creative photographs. One by one we found our reasons to tear ourselves away from the fading light of the sunset and head back down in the dark to the chalet where preparations for supper were underway.

After a healthy braai we proceeded to play a variety of games in a variety of languages around the fireplace, accompanied by some song and dance of course. In stark contrast to the night before, by eleven o’ clock most students had run out of energy and proceeded to their dreams. With those that still had some gas in the tank we went for a night walk and tried our hand at night photography which proved to be a lot of fun.

The final day was very relaxed, the environment and the energy spent had affected everyone and we took our time eating breakfast and packing up. To bid farewell we climbed a short yet demanding little mountain to get one last bird’s eye view of the landscape.

Once again I count myself lucky to have been a part of this experience and would like to add my thanks to Sikhumbuzo, from last years class, for his sense of responsibility, enthusiasm and helping me manage this group of energetic young people throughout the year. Mark Gamble from EDUCO is an amazing person who is dedicated to social upliftment and has an amazing gift in communicating with the youngsters. I hope we will create many great experiences together in the future.

Thank you Ruth, Cecil and all at EwB for your support.

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