Happy New Year! We really can't believe that it's already 2017. Last year flew by so quickly that we feel like we blinked twice and it was over.
As we start this new year, we wanted to share some highlights from 2016 and a handful of our goals for 2017, but before we jump into that, we have some really exciting news... we are GoAbroad's Top Rated Volunteer Abroad Organization of 2016!
It's a huge testament to the passion and dedication that our team of staff and volunteers have across Africa, as this award is given solely on feedback from our volunteers. We really do pride ourselves on our meaningful, fun, and responsible volunteer projects and we can't wait for another hugely successful year ahead!
NOW, get ready to hear some of our awesome achievements from 2016, as well as what we're hoping to achieve this year...
African Impact and our sister charity, The Happy Africa Foundation, continued to partner together in 2016, adding a second classroom on to the Siyanqoba Creche in Ezwenelisha, a rural Zulu village where our Orphan Day Care volunteers work.
This has allowed the approximately 100 children who attend this crèche to not only to fit inside the building, but also be separated into 2 age-appropriate lessons. It has already helped to keep all of the kids safe and dry during the rainy season, and the older students are now able to get a more focused pre-primary school education to help them head into Grade R, while the younger kids have more structured play and social development opportunities.
We also made huge strides on our Family Empowerment Program, where our team work alongside 10 families living in poverty to help them find sustainable solutions to a variety of issues; including income-generation, housing, education and more.
In the final phase of our time working with a family (known as ‘GoGo 4’), we built a new permanent house for the family, as well as assisted with adding concrete floors to several other stick and mud huts that were already on the property.
The family, headed up by 1 grandmother (Gogo!), now has 13 children living on the property and this has given them all safe and hygienic places to sleep.
We also ensured all of the children have birth certificates and are able to attend school, as well as assisted them to build and plant a fenced garden, for a sustainable source of food.
Our plans for 2017:
We plan to build temporary houses for 3 deserving community members and their families, who have been waiting for government houses to be built for many years. This will provide safety and security for the individuals until their permanent residences are completed.
With the help of The Happy Africa Foundation, we also will roll out our Rural Teacher Training Program and see the first group successfully complete the training. The women selected to participate are passionate and dedicated to the cause of helping children in the creches they work at, but until now will have never received any formal training. The course will allow them to better understand the needs of children as they develop and how to prepare them for school, which will, in the end, lead to both improved results for the children they teach, as well as better job prospects for the teachers themselves.
Up in Zambia, our Victoria Falls/Livingstone community projects also had an amazing 2016...
We work closely with The Happy Africa Foundation in Livingstone, Zambia to support Linda Farm: a community set up to empower and rehabilitate those with disabilities. The farm uses agriculture to teach skills to those who would otherwise struggle to survive by providing them with the skills to generate their own income. Before this can become a reality for the residents, the farm requires support, and this is where we step in.
In 2016, we completed one ablution block (toilets/shower) for Linda Farm and the second one is half completed. These facilities will now service the 90+ residents who are housed under the Zambian People with Disabilities (ZAPD).
We’re also proud of our sustainable veggie gardens that were started in 2016. Our most significant garden is cared for by volunteers and young women in the community who are part of our Girl Empowerment initiative. The farm is used to give young women valuable farming skills and from the production of the vegetables they are able to use some of the produce towards the feeding program and also generate some profit to put back into the program.
In 2017, we hope to expand this program by offering workshops on farming to the residents of Linda Farm, as well as giving guidance on bookkeeping.
Just next door in Zimbabwe...
Our most tangible achievement is in the form of two new classrooms that volunteers build for the local Julena Primary School. This has given the students a much safer place for them to learn, compared to the dilapidated farmhouse that they had been learning in. These 2 classrooms can now safely host 90 school children, which is over half of the school!
Outside of the classroom, our volunteers also work a local drop-in centre for street children. Through sponsorship from volunteers, 5 boys have been taken off the streets, provided with accommodation and are now attending school. 2 families have also been taken off the streets, provided with accommodation, groceries for a month and wages to start a business.
We’re also proud to say that 17 students were moved from the special needs class to regular (mainstream) class at the Mkoba Primary Special Needs Class after evaluation by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Over the course of 2016 on our wildlife conservation programs, volunteers helped to locate and remove over 30 snares (animal traps) found within the park… potentially saving the lives of over 30 animals!
Our lion conservation programs, run in partnership with The African Lion and Environmental Research Trust, have also moved from strength to strength.
Our plans for 2017:
Following on from 2016, we plan to build another classroom block at Julena Primary School, as well as continue our work at Mkoba Primary School’s special needs class, to get as many students as possible through to mainstream education.
Our work at the drop-in centre for street children will also continue, and we hope to provide accommodation, education and business opportunities to as many people living on the streets as possible.
We have very exciting plans for our lion conservation programs in 2017, as well as continuing sweeps of the park for any animal traps set by poachers on a routine basis in order to deter hunting activity and protect the wildlife of Antelope Park.
Over at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe...
Volunteers were very busy in 2016 building Chikamba Primary School’s storage room and Monde Primary School’s Preschool building, which will allow over 80 children to attend school for the first time – a huge achievement for our Orphan Care and Teaching volunteers!
On our wildlife research and conservation programs there, 2 adult hyenas were successfully collared, which has allowed us to learn more about their hunting and scavenging habits, as well as their movements.
Moving forward in 2017, we will continue aiding in data collection for Lion Encounter, ALERT and various wildlife trusts around Victoria Falls to maximise conservation efforts throughout the community and protected areas.
On our community program, we will be helping rural schools with teaching assistance and learning resources so as to improve their quality of education and help the students raise their literacy levels.
Down South in Cape Town…
In 2016, a new partnership with a Preschool Educare centre was established, meaning that 4 Educare centres now have the support of African Impact teaching volunteers – which is amazing! This means an additional 130 children now have a better start to their education.
In 2016, Red Hill Preschool saw a 45% increase in the number of children who could successfully identify 10 or more letters, and a 60% increase in the number of children who could write their name.
The most recent addition to our projects, our Girl Impact project, launched in March 2016, and has proven highly popular and successful.
In 2017, Cape Town aims to make this a full-time project, which means we will be able to reach a far greater number of women and girls in the local communities – watch this space!
Last, but definitely not least, let's take a look at our volunteer programs near Kilimanjaro, Tanzania:
In 2016, staff and volunteers in Moshi fundraised over $44,000 to build a security wall for our partnering Home for the Elderly. This wall will prevent further theft in the centre and ensures our adopted grandparents will now be able to sleep in peace.
Meanwhile, on our Education Project, we made great progress with our kindergarten project. Based on our quarterly exams which assesses the ability to trace, write, colour, do math and to introduce themselves in the English language, our students have improved by 43% on average over the course of a year.
This is just a handful of some of the amazing things our volunteers have achieved (can you believe it?!).
We want to say an enormous thank you to everyone who joined us in 2016 and look forward to making an even bigger impact this year!