Bee Hives of opportunity…

Hlabisa is not a well known town. In fact, as you are reading this, it may even be the first

Ps Mavundla - 29 and ready to bring the world to Hlabisa

time you’ve ever heard of it. The only thing Hlabisa is known for, is having one of the highest rates of HIV/Aids infection in the world. Growing up in Hlabisa, most youngsters live without hope. Most of them dream of getting out, leaving, and making it big, somewhere else. A vast majority live without clean water, electricity or sanitation, like far too many rural areas in Africa. In Hlabisa, there are some who wish to change this. There are a group of young men, who dream of staying there, and making it big, in Hlabisa: a place to be proud of. They will no longer settle for living below the bread-line and depending on government grants. They have a cunning plan.

Colourful Homes of the Hlabisa region

The local economy of rural areas within KZN is very poorly developed. One of the reasons is “economic leakage”: rural people are forced to spend their money in economic centres instead of their own community due to lack of infrastructure, or lack of knowledge on how to conduct business. By finding business solutions within the immediate community, adapted to local circumstances, capital can be kept circulating within the community, through the establishment of small- and micro-businesses. Let Us Work is running a volunteer program, through Be-More (a Dutch organisation), with the objective of using knowledge and experience of foreign business people or students, to assist with training, advice and hands on assistance. Most of the areas that we work in are situated in rural communities in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. These areas are far from any major cities and therefore accommodation is not easily accessible.

In Hlabisa, the only available accommodation is in the Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Game Reserve. This is catered to foreign tourists and is therefore rather expensive for volunteers, trainers and any other businessmen wanting to visit the area. Aspirant young men from the local community are in the process of setting up a Bed and Breakfast as alternative accommodation for foreign volunteers, trainers, businessmen and tourists. This is phase one of their plan. Once the Bed and Breakfast is running well, they will be setting up more tourism initiatives to generate interest in the area. Just like they do not want to rely on government grants, they do not want to rely on tourism either. They want to put their town on the map. They have plans to start-up other small businesses in the area, so that their neighbours do not have to travel to other places, to get services and goods. This will all be part of a larger plan, to build their town into a place where people want to stay… Who knows, maybe one day, it will be a bustling city.

Uniforms of Pride: Local Soccer players use a piece of flat unoccupied ground as a makeshift stadium.

Initially, two traditional style “Bee-Hive” huts will be built on land acquired in Hlabisa. This land is situated within a rural village community, with a picturesque view and close proximity to the small town of Hlabisa. Initially the Bed and Breakfast will be used to accommodate Be-More volunteers working in the area. Its proximity to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park would also attract tourists looking for a more traditional experience and a cost effective alternative to staying in the park, in order to cover running costs in periods when foreign volunteers are not using the facility. There is currently no other commercial accommodation available in the area. Ammenities will include the set-up of basic sanitation, clean water and beds, with enough rustic appeal to be considered as a traditional experience.

An example of the spacious layout.

An example of a smaller bee-hive hut in Hlabisa

The business will be owned and run by members of the community, who would interact with guests, and give them information and insight into the area, as well as Zulu life. Hlabisa is accessible through the old Nongoma road, which runs through the game reserve. Quite often when driving this road, you can see elephants, rhino and various other game, without even officially entering the game reserve. Therefore visitors will get to see the park, as well as have the opportunity of experiencing day to day life in a rural Zulu community. This project will also collaborate and generate other business start-ups in the area, such as catering of traditional food, cleaning and other requirements. This means the business would directly benefit the community by helping to build the local economy, as well as boost tourism and business investment into the area.

Here are some pictures of some wildlife seen on the old Nongoma road and within the Hluhluwe game reserve.

Lion

White Rhino

                                                                      Elephant

Wildebeest

Bee-eater

We look forward to writing a blog post about the finished project. Until then, we would like to say thank you to Be-More for their support and for helping with start-up capital through partnership with volunteers.

Always sad to leave Zululand.

NGO’s to go…

How did the chicken cross the road? Does it matter, or is it more important that it got there?

The “Let us Work” program is not only about business, but about finding ways to improve people’s lives. It’s about finding a way out of poverty and improving access to services. We aim to nurture NGO’s that have unique ideas on how to reach out to communities and co-operatives that can access government funding to uplift their communities. We would assist with training, registration, constitutions and other starting point issues, the same way that we guide start-up businesses. Just like a hand written IOU means nothing in the real world, a hand written proposal usually doesn’t inspire much confidence in an NGO’s ability to comply with accountability and reporting procedures often required by funders. This limits the growth of NGO’s that have the heart to make a real difference. The “Let us Work” program has the resources and staffing to partner with NGO’s to access better funding resources, without NGO’s struggling to source additional admin staff and assets.

We have already seeded an NGO called “Mobilize for Mobility” that sources second hand wheelchairs and other similar assets and donates them to disabled people who do not currently have access to them, as well as creating awareness and support for disabled people. We will also be assisting with the establishment of food projects for sustenance and market, such as vegetable tunnels and vertical herb gardens. Once funding is available, we have some farmers on board, ready to provide training on sustainable, eco-friendly agricultural practices that utilize plant succession as a means of soil preparation.

We have also been very involved with a project out in Mfume (you have no idea where that is do you?). Mfume is out in the South Coast of Durban, unapproachable by tar roads.

The project is called Siyabathanda: They take in disabled children from the rural communities. Some are orphans, some are left there because their parents aren’t able to take care of them. We have helped them with their constitution and wheel chairs, clothes, toys etc have been donated by people connected with be-more and Isaiah 54. Step by step they are improving their organisation. They currently have to walk far to get clean water and have no electricity. Please get hold of us if you want to help them!

This young girl is deaf, blind, dumb and mostly paralyzed. She now has a new wheel chair thanks to donations organised through Let Us Work and from other organisations. Even though she cannot see or hear you, if you hold her hand, she has a smile that could light up the world!

Windows of Opportunity

This is a preview of the content that is going to be up on the website once it is done….:

International co-operation to open windows of opportunity for economic growth.

Sometimes we feel we can do everything on our own, but isn’t it nice to get a little guidance from someone who has been through it? By opening up the program to international volunteers, it provides a unique opportunity for co-operation. Let’s face it, co-operation is always great for business. What I don’t know, someone else might have a fresh perspective on! International volunteers provide expertise and training and have an opportunity to gain a unique perspective on what life is like in rural South Africa. It doesn’t hurt that there are beautiful scenic beaches and game reserves along the way. International volunteers get to experience tourism through a very unique perspective, interact with real people, and make a difference by helping to grow local businesses. Volunteers raise their own money and volunteer packages are coordinated through Be-More, who arrange all the logistical considerations. Altruistic tourism, is there any other kind?