Uthando is a non-profit organisation that supports and works with independent, innovative and inspiring community development projects. Steppes Travel are one of a number of responsible travel companies that contribute a small amount via tourism.

On my most recent trip to South Africa, I found myself in Cape Town with some time on my hands, so I signed up for a short tour of some of the projects that Uthando supports:

Isiseko “The Foundation” Educare Centre

It was the noise that I heard first, a deafening joy coming from the open door in front of me. Some of my group had entered through the class door and were greeted with a very loud cheer. I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and tentatively crossed the threshold, to be greeted by approximately 30 smiling children holding their thumbs up. This was a hello, and even a goodbye, to them. They were happy children, keen to interact with us in their classroom.

This was the first community project we saw that morning. Isiseko is a pre-school, non-profit-making daycare centre for underprivileged and vulnerable children in the township of Mfuleni. This school was one of the projects Uthando support and was certainly a worthwhile cause.

The teacher put the children through their paces – they were all four years old and were keen to show us what they knew and what they had learnt. Days of the week, months of the year and numbers up to 20 were quickly reeled off with such enthusiasm and clapping it was difficult not to be impressed.

We also popped in to see the younger children in the next classroom – the same roar of cheers greeted us. A lady knelt down to chat with one child and, immediately, she was engulfed in a ten-deep hug of three-year-olds. It was such a joy to watch and it made my day.

I was so glad to have experienced this project, which grew hope from the grassroots. Tearing ourselves away from this fascinating centre, we left for the next project, just a stone’s throw away.

eKhaya eKasi “Home in the Hood” Art and Education Centre

This community project, eKhaya eKasi, is an oasis for poverty-stricken families. Immediately upon entering the facility, we were greeted with warm handshakes and hugs from everyone. The ladies here were delighted we had stopped by and were keen to show us how they were turning their lives around and making a difference to other families within their community.

Making jewellery was the order of the day – a very intricate and time-consuming mission. They sat patiently making their wares, which were all available for purchase in the Boutique Arts shop. Additionally, the centre offered skill training for the unemployed to encourage entrepreneurship. A rooftop garden grew a plethora of vegetables for the soup kitchen, with training to learn how to grow them.

Whilst I was there, I was entertained by the Youth Male Voice Choir – again, another example of the youth within their community trying to improve their lives through dance and voice. I learnt that this group spends a lot of time making visits to local communities.

Macassar Pottery

My last stop was Macassar, a township that has its very own pottery studio. Aimed to give the youth an opportunity to be employed and learn new skills, this business is a focal point of the community, using storytelling as a healing process that hopefully can unravel the enduring pain of apartheid.

I met a couple of young people who were very proud to be working there. Enjoying a little fun with ceramic drums, we all sat in a circle trying to make some kind of rhythm between us. Obviously, there were a few of us that did not get a rhythm out of these drums (Phil Collins has nothing to worry about), but we all very much enjoyed the experience.

When you visit Cape Town, I strongly recommend that you take some time to visit a project funded by Uthando. It offers a very different perspective from the usual tourist traps and I for one very much enjoyed.

Thanks for reading

Author: Deborah West