Posts Tagged ‘EwB’

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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This past weekend was the second annual VSAFF. The event included the opening gala fundraiser, as well as a host of other films from South Africa.

The event has been for the most part a success, with us raising lots of dollars (rands) through ticket sales, the gala, sponsors, and one off donations from film patrons.

My role in the festival has consisted largely of setting up the ticket management system – hardly a simple task! The system saved us a considerable amount of time as it handled all of the pre-event tocket sales for us, and also helped expose the festival to a wider audience; however, the back end of the ticket site was nothing short of a nightmare, and then add the fact that it took on a mind of its own once the event started….

Anyway, the opening gala had over four hundred patrons, and despite all the problems with the ticket system, we still managed to get everyone happily through the doors and into their seats! – pheww!

Tickets and galas aside, I had the chance to meet Vimbai. Let me say she is amazing, and has everyone so impressed. We are so fortunate to have such a motivated, intelligent, and creative young woman doing such great work on the ground in Cape Town – students, Vimbai is your role model!

Vimbai and I will meet up next week to have a chat about arts projects, books, and how to get students more involved in getting their creative work out (stories, photography, drawing, painting, poetry, music, etc). Looking forward to this!

Well, gotta go, Johnny Clegg film is playing, and I’d like to sneak in and see a bit of it.

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Since I started working at the after school programs for EwB I have been attempting to make the English lessons a tad bit more creative, while at the same time to continue working on the tools we are trying to instill in our learners. With the help of Joy, one of our tutors, we decided that every Monday would be a perfect place and time for the more creative ways we wanted to teach. So on Monday we both decided that we would play the students two songs that had some overarching theme and discuss these songs at length. I decided to play The Streets-Everything is Borrowed first and then gauged there reaction. It was mixed at best, but that didn’t matter since the point was that they were more actively engaged in the lesson than they normally were. So then we listened to M. Ward- Chinese Translation. Give it a listen and see what its about.

After they had listened to the song I gave them simple instructions. If you met the wisest person on Earth, what are the three questions you would ask them? These are a small sample of what I got.
1) What happens to you when you die?
2) What made God to think about making everything?
3) Why did God create a male and a female
4) Why is it important to love?
5) Why is life so difficult sometimes?
6) Who will be the last man on Earth?
7) Are there people living on other planets other than on Earth?
8 ) Who came up with the idea that there must be school in the world?
9) Why are there black and white people?
10) Why are people not the same?

These questions highlight these students intelligence, curiosity, and their knowledge of “Life’s Questions”. It was a privilege to read these questions and to witness the engagement of the students with a song and the concept behind it.

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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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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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Education without Borders received a recent update from Tanya Arshamian, the assistant artistic director at Cape Town’s ikapa Dance Theatre.

ikapa Dance Theatre is one of Education without Borders’ local partners in the Cape area. They deliver training and outreach programs to bring dance and theatre activities to schools in the Cape Town area. A total of 15-20 students from Songeze Middle School and Fezeka Secondary participate in the program, which has allowed them to develop their dance skills and to take part in a number of dance productions.

Students took part in a four day day-camp at in Stellenbosch hosted by the Department of Cultural and Sports Affairs. The camp included workshops in arts, music, and drama, and allowed Songeze and Fezeka students to interact with other students from across the Western Cape.

Theatre and the arts are important media for youth to express themselves and to learn essential life skills. Education without Borders, ikapa Dance Theatre and the students appreciate the support of volunteers and donors in making this happen!

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The new report on EwB and IkamvaYouth’s joint “Yes We Can!” maths project is now available. The program is the result of a joint effort by EwB and IkamvaYouth to improve math scores amongst Khayelitsha students.

Teachers had identified low pass rates amongst their graduates. The primary reason for the poor math results was that many students lack the basic skills in mathematics in order to be able to “bootstrap” their way up to more advanced levels. As explained by the author of the report, Phillip Luyanda Mcelu, IkamvaYouth’s “Yes We Can!”project coordinator, “maths is like a ladder, you can’t jump one step and expect not to fall. Without understanding grade 8-level maths it makes it difficult to fully grasp grade 9 maths and the chain continues to grade 12.”

The feedback from the students has been positive; however, one of the major challenges over the course of this ongoing program is to ensure high student participation and attendance. Mr. Mcelu has worked on resolving this problem through frequent communication with parents, and also encouraging students to do homework at home by taking their books and materials home with them. Doing so has helped demonstrate to parents the importance and benefits of the math program.

It is hoped that over the years Khayelitsha will be able to graduate more students with the math skills to be able to help them find employment after they finish their studies, thus ensuring livelihoods.

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