Making a difference

Tourists spend millions of rand every year to come and visit South Africa, with a visit to the bush or a safari usually being high on their list.

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Also high on many people’s agenda are a visit to Cape Town, the stunning winelands close by and maybe some other areas of interest, such as Soweto.

Unfortunately, most tourists spend their time in South Africa shrouded in a protective, Westernised bubble: they may stay in fancy lodges with five-star service, and enjoy private transfers and fine dining. Few are bold enough to visit the true Africa.

This land is the birthplace of man. The culture of man (whatever that may be) originated here; our ancestors originated here, and thus we all have an undeniable connection to this magical continent.

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Millions of people, including young children, live in heart-rending conditions in Africa. “I can’t make a difference on my own!” we hear some of you cry, but there is an old African proverb that says: “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.”

Every little bit helps and we as a nation, and a continent, thank all those who have contributed in some way.

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Recently, a group of schoolgirls visited EcoTraining’s Karongwe Camp in South Africa to learn more about our place in the wild. Of course, the major focus of the trip was to view some of the spectacular wildlife on offer, but it was also important for them to experience life in the local community.

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At their request, EcoTraining organised for the group to visit the Maahlamela High School, in a small village close to the reserve, and to help to improve learning conditions for the hundreds of amazing local children who attend it.

Three of the classrooms were nothing more than bare shells with only basic equipment, the walls drab and dreary – hardly an environment conducive to fun learning. But that was about to change!

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Armed with paint, brushes and rollers, we arrived at the school gates, eager to begin transforming the classrooms. For the next day-and-a-half, the girls toiled selflessly and by the time they had finished painting the walls yellow and red, the classrooms looked like new! Admittedly, more of the paint apparently ended up on us than on the walls, but the whole experience was great fun and very rewarding.

The girls’ enthusiasm for the project was contagious and we were hugely impressed by their desire to get involved. It is very easy to shun responsibility and ignore the plight that so many rural areas face, but we have to say that the group applied themselves admirably and seemed to relish the chance to make a difference.

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We have not had the opportunity to do much work in the local community myself and cannot speak for all, but we are very proud of what we achieved. And the thanks from the principal and local children were a more than sufficient reward!

Despite being a public holiday, many children were present, and the girls took great pleasure in transcending language barriers and getting to know the local children and members of the community.

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Names and contact details were swopped and many promised to keep in touch. We would love to have done more, but the group also made a very generous donation to the school to aid in the purchase of better equipment, stationery and books.

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Every little bit helps and it is a heart-warming feeling to know that our work, and the group’s donations, will have an impact on shaping the opportunities afforded to the next generation.

These kids will inherit the Earth that we leave behind and the more help that we can give them, the better!