Education without Borders hits the Mountains

 These prospects were both thrilling and daunting for all of us. The majority of these students had only ventured outside of their townships a handful of times and had little experience with “the wild”. I myself did not know what to anticipate in terms of the role I would play as an intern and representative of EwB. I was also very excited to see a different side of South Africa, a country I had grown to love in the past couple of months.


We were greeted in Gugulethu by a four-person team from Educo Africa, Lali, Bulwela, Wendy and Gareth, the guides and leaders for this experience. This team was simply amazing; knowledgeable, energetic, fun and inspiring. The long bus ride was filled with singing, laughter, a bit of road sickness and lots of sharing of sweets and chocolate. The last leg of the trip was particularly exciting as we ventured up and up the mountains. The students were mesmerized as we passed through the clouds. Once at base camp we were given a fun tour by another Educo Africa staff member, Reuben. The learners gasped when he told us we could only have 60-second showers as water is an extremely limited resource up in the mountains. I myself was invited to a meeting with the team and was excited when they announced I would be working alongside them to run the activities and workshops.

This trip was truly a time of personal growth and bonding for the students and myself. We had to learn to function together as a group, sharing water, cleaning our cabins, making meals and doing all sorts of fun team-bonding activities. Over the course of the trip I saw the students become more and more effective team members and as a result their trust grew tremendously. At the end of each day we had closing time. Each person would express some highlights of the day and how he or she was doing at that moment, a ritual that fostered stability and confidence in the students.

The major highlight of the 6 days was camping and hiking in the wilderness. Preparing all of our gear was both exciting and educational, we learnt a great deal about safety procedures, cooking outside and setting up tents. We set out from base camp and did a solid hike before we arrived at a cliff where we were to go mountain climbing, a new activity for all of the students. A couple of learners were eager to try right away, but most were very nervous. The large majority of students faced their fears and mounted the cliff in their harnesses and helmets. They were all so excited and proud for trying, even those who did not make it to the top. After an afternoon of hiking we set up camp in a picturesque area of the mountain. We cooked a solid meal under the stars and headed into our tents for a calm but very cold nights sleep.

Before we knew it our time with Educo Africa at Groot Winterhoek was coming to an end. There were mixed feelings amongst the whole group. The students were happy to be soon seeing their families, for most of them this was the longest time they had spent away from home. On the other hand everyone was sad to leave this extremely beautiful place and fun experience behind. We closed off our time at base camp with a great activity in which we crafted beautiful dream catchers, journaled about our dreams and then shared as a group. Once back in Gugulethu many of the learners said they wanted to go right back to Groot Winterhoek, but at the same time were eager to see their friends and family and share their stories.

Within this group of students I observed a new sense of trust and cooperation that had been built during our trip with Educo Africa. During my last week as an intern for EwB I was happy to see many of the learners who had attended the camp at the afterschool Math and English program. They were very excited to see me and wanted to laugh and talk about our Educo Africa trip. This experience had a very positive impact on all of us and has left of with memories we will always cherish.

by Eleanor McGroarty

Coleridge

Educo Africa remembers Coleridge Samuel Daniels (2 September 1954 – 27 February 2014) Coleridge worked for Educo Africa from 2000 to 2008 .We especially remember him for the mountain man he was and for the contribution he made to the development and healing of young people.

We continue to remember him in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains as one of our campsites, where Coleridge held many Rites of Passage Courses, is named ‘Oom Toppie’ – an endearing name he was known by.

We wish him well on his journey.COLERIDGE

Love to the elderly

First they selected a old age home to benefit from their idea (Monawabisi that was established in 2005) and secondly they gathered a group of youth to assist them with this exciting project. They managed to rally up troops from a youth group called Isibanye as well as the Sihambela Phambili youth from Educo Africa. The final step was to come up with a plan of action for the day and implement it!

The result – 30 elders from Monawabisi Old age home were taken for a joyful walk to the beach! Many of these people had never in their whole lives put their feet into the sea! Fun and laughter was had by all as both young and old enjoyed splashing their feet in the water and walking on the sand. Thereafter the youth got into the kitchen at the old age home and prepared a special meal for their new elderly friends!

Thank you to all who helped on the day! Lets not forget

Aging is not “lost youth” but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” 
– Betty Friedan

A moment in time

I was about to give a talk to friends and supporters of Educo Africa. The “sitting quietly in the children’s play area” – well that was all about making sure that I would make sense when I stood up to speak. I mean who really likes public speaking!

It did also give me time to ponder. The purpose for this event was twofold. Firstly to celebrate Educo Africa’s nineteen years of service to young people and secondly to launch our new logo and brand.

Across from where I was sitting there was an exhibition of our nineteen year history. A collection of photos, t-shirts, flags and even a few old boots. I watched as people arrived and walked through the exhibition. I watched as fingers were pointed to specific photographs – memories of time spent in the wild places of our country.

Exhibition stand

It was a brilliant evening. Educo Africa proudly launching a new identity that more accurately expresses our work.

Young people and old people stood up and spoke. They spoke of impact, of change, of growth that they had experienced through time spent with Educo Africa.

A toast

A moment in time, a wonderful, heartfelt and deserved moment of celebration for Educo Africa. A plucky, tenacious and courageous non-profit that continues to grow and thrive in supporting young South Africans to discover and live their inherent potential.

Thank you to all that were able to join us on the evening. Thank you to all who have contributed to Educo Africa. 

– Mark Gamble CEO Educo Africa

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Some feedback re our event and new logo:

Fiona Ronquest – “it was a spectacular evening, as a facilitator I loved your process of handing over the mike to get the “audience voice” – and I thought each speaker added such a special aspect to the event.

Emily Rudolph – “This is more than impressive, and you and the whole Educo family should be very very proud! Your contribution to the numerous organisations and communities you work with, and the benefit for the countless young people within them, is tremendous”.

Marlene Whitehead –“ Congratulations on Educo Africas new look and practice! I wish you all the success you deserve and look forward to reading more about your great work”.

Masakhane Matushe – “ I had a look at the new look of the website and loving it….. Thank you for allowing me to be part of the amazing journey of Educo. Much appreciated.”

Steve MacDonald – “I really like the new look. The work you do is such an inspiration to me”.

Benna van der Merwe – “ I was encouraged by the fantastic work done at  Educo Africa and want to commend you on taking the organisations to the heights that it is at. Your vision and drive is evident.

international

International Programme

Please have a look at this exciting training opportunity in May this year.

We will be welcoming Meredith Little here in South Africa. Meredith Little and her husband, Steven Foster, co-founded Rites of Passage Inc. in 1976 and The School of Lost Borders in 1981 – pioneering the methods and dynamics of modern pan-cultural passage rites in the wilderness, and “field eco-therapy”.

Many of Educo Africa’s staff have been trained by Meredith Little and our courses are fed in many ways by the methodologies used and taught by the School of Lost Borders.

Please feel free to contact Wiebke Nedel, International Programme Manager at 021 761 8939 or via email at Wiebke@educo.org.za if you have any questions about where and how you might benefit from taking the courses as they really are addressing a very broad range of professional and individual interests. Also to request the registration form for the courses please email Wiebke Nedel.

Three courses will be offered by Meredith in conjunction with Judy Bekker and Educo Africa staff. Because we are anticipating a great interest in this one time opportunity to meet and learn with and from Meredith we will be offering two courses in ‘The Psychodynamics of Mirroring and Empowerment’, both held in Simons Town (see details in flyer) and one course in the ‘Practice of Living and Dying’ in our Educo Africa Learning Centre in the Groot Winterhoek Mountains.

We are looking forward to hearing from you and hope you will be able to take advantage of this unique training opportunity.

My Journey to Mother Nature

Vicovia (Vicky) is a trainee facilitator who has been working with Educo Africa for the last year. She was born in Valhalla Park, Cape Town and currently lives in Delft. She is trained in Child and Youth Care, and has developed a passion for mountains and truly believes in the restorative and healing power of Mother Nature. This is her story of the beginning of her love affair with the mountains:
It is believed that the wilderness can heal, rejuvenate and help you find calmness, perspective and help set your goals and objectives in life. This is so because Mother Nature has a natural way of holding whatever we want to leave in the mountains, these include stories of joy, pain and suffering and everything in between. So – welcome to my personal experience of the wilderness.
For me, stepping into the unknown brought a lot of fear, uncertainty as well as some excitement; it was these mix feelings that kept me going through the process. The first thing that drew my attention was the beauty of nature, and how nature takes care of itself. One thing I found fascinating was the number of all small rivers running individually, but yet all connected to a bigger river, and it symbolize how we as individuals all lead separate lives, but yet we are all connected and inter-dependent on one another. Secondly, the freshness of the air and not to mention the beauty of the stars at night, these are all natural gifts we get to enjoy at no fee. At first I had a fear of seeing wild animals, but once I saw some, which was a snake and wild Bok, the blessing of witnessing wildlife at its best flushed away my fears. Thirdly, another fear I had to deal with was the fear of the dark and being by myself, the Solo Nights have provided me with an opportunity to deal with those fears. What made me overcome my fears was that I knew that I was not alone, I had Mother Nature who was looking over me, and watching the stars really brought calmness over me. .
When I step into the wilderness now, I know what I lead my participants into, I know whatever weight they are carrying on their shoulders, whether it is the backpack, emotional weight or any other challenges they are faced with, Mother Nature will provide relief – and this I say because of my personal experience with Mother Nature. I remember after Solo Night getting into the circle to share my story – I shared it with tears and bits of laughter. After sharing, my heart felt free and I could feel a sense of moving forward and leaving the baggage that has been a barrier keeping me from living the life I was destined to live. What I enjoy now is to see how the wilderness opens that opportunity for all the beautiful young people that I work with. It moves my heart when they realise that the wilderness is a secret place where you can just be who you want to be.
The mountains and the wilderness have now become a home away from home for me. I no longer have any fears around it, instead when I’m not there; there is emptiness in my heart. I feel a very strong connection between me and nature now and there is always excitement when I know I will be visiting the wild. The work that I do in the wilderness feeds my soul and I feel blessed knowing that I get to see the beauty of the mountains often.
Our wilderness has a lot to give to us as people – physical, emotional and spiritual upliftment. Through continuous education, we can help others to see that we can learn so much from Mother Nature.

The kids from Mitchells Plain

This is my second week with Educo Africa. Last weekend I’ve been at a course in the mountains. It was a group of children between 8 – 12 years old from Mitchells Plain a Township in Cape Town. It was a camp for them at the end of their school year.
It was amazing what has happened during this weekend. At the beginning the children has been very shy, but during the weekend they “blossomed”.
We provided several activities, for example rock climbing, swimming, a nature hike and creative arts.
The natural hiking impresses me in a special way. The participants has been invited to be aware of what they hear and what they can see in the nature. Than we debriefed the findings and compared it with the noises they hear in Mitchells Plain and the things they see at home. The children found out that nature is quiet and in the town there are many noises.
Then the participants were given cards with several pictures of animals and plants and they had to find out how these things are connected, for example the monkey lives in the tree or the spider eats the fly. They get a string, to throw it to each other. At least we had a web which showed us, that everything is connected. We put a bottle of water on the web as a metaphor for the human beings. We are living on this connection of the environment. If one string breaks, all the others are affected.

On the last day we gave the participants space to debrief their experiences. We split them into small groups and encouraged them to speak about their personal highlights. After that we came all together. They get a candle with a candle holder which they made with clay before. Then they took it and told the whole group about their personal highlight.
This has been a very good closure. The children were so happy and thankful. Even the accompanying adults were filled with enthusiasm!

Hello I’m Chrissy

This is my second week at Educo Africa. My I’m an intern from Germany and I’m going to stay at South Africa for 5 months. I’m looking forward to taking part in the courses and learning how the Educo staff members work.

I arrived at Cape Town on the 17th of November. Duncan met me at the airport and brought me to the Educo Office. First he showed me the City, the Table Mountain, the Devils Pick and the Lions Head so I can orientate myself. He explained me something about Cape Town its inhabitants, the social structures and the social levels.
As we arrived at the Educo Office everybody welcomed me. We had a meeting with all staff members to say good bye to Wiebke and Duncan and give them wishes on their way to their Vision Quest in the mountains.
The first days at The Educo Office I get to know the staff and the work they do at the office. They were very friendly and helpful.

My first impression of South Africa is that it’s a land of opposites and extremes, the rich and the poor people. The people on the road and in the shops are very friendly and helpful to foreigners.

The Power of Humanity

This is my last week, feeling that it has been a long time that I have been at the organisation.It just goes to show that it was a very busy 3 months. I feel blessed to have been part of that process and contributing.

In this mornings check-in,in the closing Alison gave me a mug..with a photo of myself and my intent statement.Whenever I look at that mug it takes me back to the Rites of passage experience,it was powerful and it still is. I am currently living my dream and I believe it is about to blossom as time goes on.

The organisation has taught me the power of humanity and how each individual holds one another in a space of support, love and with compassion.I have seen that in each individual at Educo and therefore my wish for the organisation is to not give up.Take risks and if things don’t go your way its ok!Life is all about taking risks and learning never stops!

In closing I just want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the following people.Firstly Alison Lee,a person of great faith in her God and also who has a soft heart for people.You love your work,sometimes I wonder what is your job description..hahaha..because you do alot.A mother who never stops talking about her kids evening during the meetings we had.Also a friend, who really knows how to give support.My wish for you is to keep that faith and continuing praying.Then Mark Gamble,new CEO. I guess we stepped into this organisation more or less at the same time of the year. You are leader with a vision and knows what your intent statement is in life.You are passionate about your work,a man who is driven and brings management skills to tjis environment,which in my opinion is great for being a business student.But most of all you are compassionate and bring about that humanity piece into the organisation.I thank you for your spirit and my wish for you is take Educo Africa and let it fly,let it soar like the eagle.Lali Milli-aah man;) you an individual that really reflects the aspect of being aware of reality and how one needs to be realistic of life.I met you on the Rites of Passage course, where you were facilitating and I was your co-facilitator on the Living and Dying Course for James House. I observed you in the office environment and yet you remain that gentle,easy-going and humorous human being,and my wish for you don’t stop in sharing that wisdom you possess, you are a man with wise words.Oh yes you cook a helluva meal on courses…speaking of food;Siphelele Chriwa-a woman who knows how to feed people.You are a beautiful african woman, who brings your own uniqueness to Educo.Gets things done,says whats on your mind and I admire that of you alot.I met you in 2007,when you facilitated the TSiBA leadership course, did we have lots of fun& 4 years has passed and there you are again, but this time on the Rites of Passage course, how ironic!my wish for you is continuing blossoming and spread your wisdom.Linda you are a woman who is strong and that your laughter…WOW! it has to make others laugh too.You are passionate about making difference in this country called South Africa and you surely walk the talk.My wish for you is continue aiming for greater heights and never stop smiling.Duncan-a man who is gentle, focused and is hungry to make a difference in people’s lives.In 2008 I was on one of the holiday courses with you and you brought along, passion,courage and even lots of humor and also the your powerful energy.My wish for you is continue what you are doing because you are doing a great job.Alexander known as Alex-what a sweet spirited individual.You are passionate about nature and very mindful of the environment.We did not spend that much time together,but I have discovered that you are very down to earth human being.Oh yes you are appreciated for keeping base camp in shape. My wish for you is stay as gentle as Mother nature and may your daughters see that father figure role that you play in their lives.Anita-the finance guru,a mother, a wife and one who is very faithful unto God.You carry with you the presence of God and when you speak you speak His words.Which is encouraging and motivating.Also the way you enjoy the working environment,I believe God has put you in this position for a reason.Therefore my wish for you is never stop believing,because your faith will set you free.Wiebke-I cant actually believe we share the same birth date! ;)a woman who is firm& wants to get things done asap,but I also discovered that there is gentleness that you have.My wish for you is that all the international programmes prosper and may expand.Reuben the community man,the man who is hungry to know what his identity is,a man who is hungry to make a difference in his community and a man that is very aware of his surroundings.We have had random conversations and what you say always leaves me thinking…My wish for you is explore the unknown because you will never know what you will discover.Then to Andile & Vicky welcome!you to have great potential which Educo will tap into.My wish for you is show them what you are made of and I wish you well for the future.Then Milly-the Mother Hen of the organisation.I leave you last because you are the person that holds together the family.You have enormous wisdom,been in the organisation ever since it established..what a legend!;)I have learnt so much from you and asked so many questions and not once were you too busy.You are indeed the elder at Educo & I am sure that the rest of the staff really appreciates what you are doing.I can continue the whole day but I wont.My wish for you is that remain the strong,wise woman you are..oh yes the humor is great!

My wish for Educo Africa is continue flying and continue to make that difference.

By

Niki Alexander

A season for New beginnings

The time spent here was something I will cherish and from all the learnings of each day it has defined unanswered questions.

When I arrived at Educo it in a space of rush rush adapting to changing.The welcome from staff and even the new CEO, Mark Gamble was warm and full of joy.This way of practise in the work place has reminded me of the saying ‘one should treat others the way you want to be treated’and it is that simple.Educo Africa’s culture has beautifully defined that saying and it doesnt mean that people should step out of line and not know where the authority lies.

The people that I have connected with reflected components of how a human being should treat one another and also oneself.

The organisation is in a stabilisation phase and the changes that I have witnessed myself made me realise that there is hope and a positive future for this organisation. Reason being, firstly the employees that are dedicated, compassionate and believe in the power of the work they do, it takes courage, sacrifice and perserverance to be able to work in this sector.

I am not saying these things to make the organisation look and feel good but I am saying this because I have witnessed it with the naked eye and I will say it again-“this is a season for new beginnings”out with the old and in the new-just like the when seasons change change and give way for another season to step in.

When I leave on 18th November 2010,I will physically leave but my presence will be here and I hope in the future that I will return again and with a new objective and goal in mind.

by
Niki Alexander(TSiBA Intern)