The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Month: February 2017

Kliptown Youth Program

I didn’t want this organization to be buried in a blog post as it really is an amazing place. Kliptown is one of the oldest districts in Soweto and is where the Freedom Charter was signed in 1955 but it seems to have been left behind the other areas and is painfully poor despite more than 45,000 people living there. There is no electricity or running water or sewer available. People rig wires across roads to other areas and manage to steal electricity for periods of time but nothing is permanent. Water comes from 50 wells that are around the town and people gather here to fill containers for drinking and cooking, washing clothing, and cleaning off children. Toilets used to be buckets that were emptied in the night by paid workers but now they have porta potties in various spots around town. Sounds like an improvement but we were told that these are often not emptied for a long time and when they are, it’s during the day and fills the entire area with smell. Anyone can use them who walks by – community toilets.

Inside a Kliptown house

There is an estimated 75% unemployment rate in Kliptown and one third of the residents are HIV positive. Many of the families are single mothers and teenage pregnancy rates are high. There are no schools, no healthcare, and no real shops to buy food and goods: remember this is for 45,000 people!

After School Program

KYP

Within Kliptown is a charity youth program called KYP. They now help over 200 children everyday with breakfast, lunch, and after school academic, social, and sports support. KYP is working toward empowering young people to become self sufficient, successful and also to give back to the community along the way.

They received a large grant through CNN and were able to build a computer lab. The children take classes and use this after school plus during the day, classes are held for adults in the community. There is a large kitchen where staff prepare sandwiches for children’s breakfast and then later a hot lunch.

http://www.kliptownyouthprogram.org.za/

 

One of the community wells

There are NO schools in this township. Children must walk to other areas for school and this is often around 45 minutes each way and across rail lines and busy roads. If they are able to get there, they face stigma at having no uniforms or books and so KYP provides these. Children were also hiding in classrooms during break because all the other children had sandwiches to eat and they had nothing. KYP now provides sandwiches, as that is often the children’s only breakfast/mid morning meal.

When they first started, KYP promoted university attendance with all their graduates but quickly found out that this was not necessarily the best fit. So now they work one on one with high school students to help them figure out what they would like to be trained in or learn as a career. Sometimes this is a trade school and sometimes two year or four year university programs. They have quite a few successful graduates who now give back to KYP.

There is a community garden and parents are asked to help work in the school in some capacity. Extra vegetables are given to parents and very little waste is thrown out because much of the kitchen scraps are also given to families in need.

The program fund raises through sending the dance group and teacher abroad plus of course visitors who are offered t-shirts to buy (no pressure is put to donate at all), and online fundraisers.

Anyone traveling to Jo’Burg is invited to visit the program or spend time volunteering, as there are many ways to help. Please consider taking a look:

http://www.kliptownyouthprogram.org.za/involved

Cruel Trip!

We knew it would be tiring but wow were we wiped out the first couple of days in South Africa. We left Florida on a Tuesday evening and had an overnight flight to Gatwick (9 hours). Then it was a car across London to Heathrow where we couldn’t check in and so hung around the front of the airport a few hours until they accepted our bags 3 hours prior to flight time (9 hour layover). That was Wednesday. We got onto the flight Wednesday evening and flew 10.5 hours to Johannesburg, which meant we had two overnight flights with one day at an airport in between. We were highly ready for proper beds and a shower by that point.

We got money from the ATM and a local sim card and then an easy drive to our apartment hotel. Then we slept – a lot. The first few days we took Uber to the mall and the Big Red tourist bus, which allowed us to see the city as an overview. Another day we headed to the zoo because we wanted to walk and enjoy being outside but since our knowledge of the parks was limited, the zoo was a safer option. It was a little sad in terms of animals but fun watching large family and friend groups picnic and play. We always like to visit zoos in new places as you tend to see locals more and get a feel for family life. Although the disclaimer at the zoo was a bit disconcerting given lions and tigers — oh my!

 

The best thing we did in the city was a tour by Felleng Tours. It’s run by a husband and wife who have really taken great pains to know the city and get to know local people; especially in Soweto. We spent a day with Rudy and it was such a joy getting to know him and see the city and hear so many stories. We went to Soweto because he was able to take us to an after school program and spend time visiting with them. I had been unsure before because I had visions of tourist buses zipping around to take pictures of all the poor people. But this was not like that thankfully. We visited a tiny little roadside café and tried the corn meal (think grits).

 

Max wasn’t too impressed with the roadside cafe.

Traditional Healer

We went to a market and met a traditional healer (picture above). They are paid by the government to treat patients and are quite respected by government and local community. We ate the local doughnuts and walked around Freedom square where copies of the Freedom Charter are on display.

Then we went to Kliptown, which is the poorest township within Soweto. I had thought of Soweto as all one township when in fact it is many with millionaires (just a few) down to those still living in abject poverty. Some of the areas have small blockhouses and others are corrugated metal cobbled together into shantytowns. It was a huge area that seemed very vibrant and full of life.

Kliptown Market

Later we visited the Mandela Museum, which was small (his former home) but interesting. Winnie Mandela still lives nearby and we drove by her house, which is quite a fortress with bulletproof windows etc. Still if you saw the bullet holes in their shared home and the stories about police firing shots and petrol bombs at the home when Winnie and her children were living in it, it’s easy to see why a fortress would be preferred.

Great information — Apartheid Museum

We were able to spend a few hours at the Apartheid Museum. It’s a lovely modern museum that shows the development of apartheid, South African history and the life of Mandela. A good way to spend an afternoon learning about the local history and also to see the links to other countries, political beliefs and find (sadly) crossover to current affairs in the US.

Anyway I highly recommend Rudie’s company: Felleng Tours.

http://www.fellengtours.com/

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