Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Project HOPE South Africa

2009 has been a successful year for Project HOPE in South Africa. Our Village Saving Fund (VSF) program closed out successfully benefiting almost 300 orphans and vulnerable children(OVC) in the process and helping many caregivers overcome problems that they were facing.

An example of this is a thank you letter that Project HOPE received from one of the participants:

My name is Dipuo Schalkwyk. I am 50 years old. I stay with my two daughters and 2 grandchildren. I joined the VSF group in May 2009. When I joined, life was very tough because there was no one working at home. I used to go to the Catholic Church every morning to get some food. Some of the days I used to come back home empty handed because there was no food. I tried to apply for the government grant and they told me to wait until I’m 60 years. My daughters have been trying to look for jobs for many years and till today they are still at home. My two grandchildren do get their child support grant but it is not enough. This money is supposed to take the kids to the crèche and feed them. Because there was no income in the house, we used to buy food with it and the children did not go to school. I was hesitating to join the VSF because I didn’t know what it was and how it could help me. Project HOPE staff asked me to give it a try and see the result after six months. Two months after I joined, I borrowed R200.00 and we bought twenty litres of paraffin. My daughters sold that paraffin in a week and it was finished. We bought a further 20 litres for four weeks and the response was positive, we decided to borrow R600.00 to add to what we had and we bought 100l of paraffin. Today I am not depending on someone to give me handouts. I don’t waste my time by going to church and wait for something that I am not sure whether I will get it or not. Since joining the VSF a number of positive changes have occurred: 1) My health has improved and my BP is down to normal again - my secret is eating healthy and not stressing anymore. 2) We eat vegetables every day and meat at least twice a week. 3) For the first time I have a savings account. 4) I am part of the Project HOPE food gardening program where I have been given land and seeds and am growing a variety of fruits and vegetables.”

The Social Fund, which is a form of group insurance used by members of the group in times of emergencies was recently used to allow a participant to travel back home to attend the funeral of his father and see his family for the first time in 18 years! He is one of our male participants in our men’s VSF group:

“I was born in North West Province. When I came here (West Rand), I worked for the mines. When the mines retrenched us, I did not go back home because I was hoping to find another job. Unfortunately it did not happen like that. I am staying alone in a one room shack. The last time I saw my family it was 18 years ago. I did not have money to go there. I joined this Village Savings Fund in May. I did not know what it was. At first I thought it was a woman thing. After I attended a few meetings and got some training, I began to understand it. I started to save a little money every week. I am not working and my family is in North West Province. In September this year, somebody told me that my dad had passed away; I did not know how I was going to bury my dad. I told some of the men in my group about my problem, they told me that I qualified to be given money for the transport to go and bury my dad. I was so excited when I received this R200.00 to go home. Everybody was excited to see me after so many years. Thank you Project HOPE for making this possible.”

As you can hopefully see through these couple of testimonies, it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in people’s lives here in South Africa.

Our team here, myself included, thanks you for your generous support of our program here, and wishes you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Food Gardening Update

It's been a while since I last wrote about our pilot food gardening project in Munsieville. To be honest, at the beginning I was a little bit apprehensive because I wasn’t sure if people would remain enthusiastic or if they would quickly loose interest after we handed it over to the community.

All my fears have been laid to rest! I am so proud of our group of women and men who took on this challenge. It's not just a gardening challenge, but it is also a direct challenge against the hand-out mentality that is rife in the community. These guys are a light to the rest of the community. When people grasp the right vision, it can create such a powerful movement that very quickly it begins to indirectly impact people outside the program looking in and seeing what’s going on.

We have created 23 gardens, plus the keyhole garden and all are doing really well. We planted potatoes, butternut, maize, carrots, beetroot, runner beans, tomatoes, water-melons and pumpkins. The rains have now arrived and with our terracing technique we have managed to prevent the top-soil from being washed away.

If everything goes to plan in a few months time people will harvest a bumper crop that will benefit them nutritionally and any excess will be sold off providing an extra bit of income as well. In the mean time Project HOPE will keep monitoring the progress making sure that no pests attack the crops and will continue to provide help when needed.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Project HOPE Volunteers work in the West Rand

I had the pleasure of co-hosting a Project HOPE volunteer team from the U.S. for two weeks with the help of my colleague Andee from our headquarters in Millwood, Virginia. The team (profiles in the previous blog) came to carry out a comprehensive survey in Zanzele which is an informal settlement in the West Rand. Their first task was coming up with a sampling methodology which involved google maps, and some dice to determine the random houses that they were going to sample.

Armed with clip boards, scales, blood pressure machines, tape measures and a translator, they spent the best part of two weeks walking up and down Zanzele surveying people. The survey was designed to give us a comprehensive insight into life in the settlement. It asked a variety of questions from demographics, socio-economic, to health and well being. At the moment we are in the process of analysing the results which will determine the type of work that we undertake in the future.

The West Rand government on hearing that we were going to have this team requested that they spend a day doing a facility assessment. Volunteers Brian and Michelle spent the day with the EMS department and learnt that there is only one functioning public ambulance for the area, and Eric and Torrey spent the day at Bekkersdarl clinic which houses a maternity unit and is where most people from Zanzele walk to get treatment. The team used their experience to provide the government with a list of recommendations to improve service delivery to the area.

We were also asked by the government to provide a two day training on Chronic Diseases to the Community Health Care Workers (CHWs) that the government pays. We trained around 30 supervisors, who supervise a further 150 CHWs. They have received basic training on HIV and AIDS, TB and STIs but never anything on chronic diseases as this has not been a priority in the past. We were able to train them on food and nutrition, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mental health. For many of them it was the first time that they had heard anything on this, so it was very fulfilling for the team to teach them basic tips on how to prevent and identify the diseases. These CHWs will now go and share the information that they received with the people that they supervise and in turn this will begin to benefit the wider community when these CHWs do their weekly door-to-door visits.

Overall the volunteer team made a huge impact in the lives of many people in the West Rand and both Project HOPE and the West Rand Government are thankful to them for the time, energy and expertise that they brought to the field.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meet the Project HOPE Volunteers in South Africa

From October 10-26, four Project HOPE volunteers are participating in a pilot volunteer program focusing on chronic disease assessment in two urban slums in the vicinity of Johannesburg.

Dr. Brian Crawford, an emergency room doctor from Colorado Springs, Colorado has more than 20 years of experience. This is his third time volunteering for Project HOPE, previously serving in Indonesia immediately following the Tsunami in 2005 and earlier this year he joined HOPE volunteers in Ghana. He is working as and ER physician in South Africa.

Eric Dinally, from Brooklyn, New York, is a first-time volunteer for Project HOPE. Eric is currently employed at New York Presbyterian Hospital and is an active volunteer in his community. He is also working on his masters in nursing. He will be working as an RN in South Africa.

Torrey Flynn, a first-time Project HOPE volunteer, is a recent master of nursing and pediatric nurse practitioner program graduate from University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center. Torrey is working as a nurse practitioner in South Africa. She currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

Michelle Pena from San Francisco, has participated in two volunteer missions for Project HOPE, first serving in Latin America onboard the USNS Comfort in 2007 and again returning to Latin America onboard the USS Kearsarge in 2008. She is currently working on her Master in Public Health, Epidemiology and Master of Arts, Latin American Studies at San Diego State University. In South Africa, Michelle is working as a nurse educator.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Village Saving Fund Mentoring Day

Because of the way the community is structured in Munsieville, Village Saving Fund (VSF) groups generally tend not to interact with each other because they are based on language group – i.e. we have a couple of Mozambican groups, a couple of South African groups, a Zimbabwean group etc.

Whilst this makes it easier for us to manage and to teach health education to, the groups lose out on benefiting from learning from one another. Over the past few months we have seen some groups do extremely well and other groups struggle. Some groups have started small businesses selling chickens and baking cakes, whilst other have not.

Even though I have built up the trust of these groups over the past few months it’s still difficult for me as a white person to encourage them to do something “foreign” like starting a small business when all they are used to doing is waiting for the government or a local NGO to give them something. So after thinking about this for a while we decided to hold a mentoring day, where all the groups would get together and share with one another about what their group is doing, about the successes and the struggles that they have faced. This way the groups would learn from their counterparts in the community rather than listening to someone from the outside.

To spice this up a bit a few weeks ago we told each group that there would be a prize for the most successful group (based on weekly attendance, savings & loans portfolio, initiative taken to start up a business).

The day was a great success. The groups shared about what they have been doing – one group started by purchasing 10 chickens a week to sell, and now they are up to 25 a week. Other groups shared frustrations about the lack of unity between group members making it difficult for them to work together.

The highlight of the event was announcing who the winners were – a Mozambican group called “Sizanani” which means “helping each other.” They received certificates and a prize of food and clothing. The video below shows you how excited the room got when the winners were announced!

We are hoping now that this day provided the needed motivation to the groups that are struggling to get on the right track, and our team will be following up with house visits to encourage further the important difference that VSF can make on the health and lives of people living in slums here in South Africa.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Food Gardening & Vermiculture

As you read the title of this you might be asking, “What is verimculture?” Vermiculture or “vermicomposting” as it is sometimes known is using a specific type of worm called a “Red Wriggler” to break down materials such as vegetable peels, leftover fruit, bread etc into a black, nutrient rich compost that can be used to grow vegetables in, and regenerate soil. A by product of this is a liquid known as “worm tea” that is a concentrated organic fertiliser that you water down and can feed your vegetables with.

Poor nutrition impacts people particularly in a slum environment where there is not much space to grow anything, and where the soil has been eroded away. This means that people have to buy most of their food that they live on. With high unemployment in these places and inflation causing food prices to increase, many people are forced to buy cheaper food with little or no nutrient value to it. For children under the age of 5 years old this can have lifelong impacts as it can effect physical and cognitive development.

Through Project HOPE's Village Saving Fund(VSF) program we have been encouraging caregivers of young children to set up food gardens so that they can grow vegetables and fruit that will benefit their children. As planting season is almost upon us, last week we spent a couple of days clearing a piece of land that has been donated for us to use for gardening. As you can see from the pictures the place was a complete mess, full of trash, but we cleared it all and are in the process of preparing the land for planting.

As an experiment, we are preparing a keyhole garden, which has been designed to be placed in areas with little available space and can continuously grow a variety of crops. Using manure and vegetable peels, fruit, husks etc this garden will be able to grow enough food to support a small family. The picture to the right is the outline of one, and the second picture is of one that I did earlier to show you how productive it can be.

We are also going to experiment breeding worms, to decompose organic matter so that we can use the by-products to enrich the soil thus making it more productive. There will be the potential then to market and sell the compost and liquid fertiliser that is produced further benefiting the women in the VSF groups.

I will follow this post up in a few weeks time when we have planted our crops so you can see how the garden is progressing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Volunteer Development Officer Needed

Project HOPE has an immediate need for a volunteer development officer for our office in South Africa. Learn More Now

Monday, August 10, 2009

Project HOPE Assessing Needs in South Africa

Over the past few weeks, with the help of a couple of interns, Project HOPE has been very busy conducting rapid needs assessments in a number of slums in and around the West Rand area.

We put together a survey to ask some specific questions about access to health facilities, water, sanitation, food, education and economic status and then went with someone from the local government into the slum area to begin conducting the survey.

The first thing to do is to count the number of shacks – as these slums are “informal” there are no statistics on them, no one even knows exactly how many people live in them! So we walk up and down the rows of shacks counting them. This gives us an estimate of how many people are living there. With that number we can work out how many people we need to survey to get an accurate sample of the population. After that, it's going randomly throughout the slum interviewing people and getting the information that we need.

It has been very interesting because it provides the opportunity not only to get information, but strike up conversations with people and let them tell you what the problems are and what they feel the solutions are. We have been having municipal strikes recently which has meant that a couple of these slums have not received any water. The government uses a tractor to pull a tank of water a couple of times a week into these areas. No water means limited cooking, washing and having to walk a distance to buy little bits of water from a shop when desperate.

In all of these slums that I have visited, little food is grown, which means that people have to buy everything that they eat. With soaring food prices the amount and quality of food that people are buying is being reduced. I like to dig a bit deeper with questions about food asking where they get their food from, and what they eat each day. A few people I interviewed were very honest. Their response was, “We don’t have money to buy food, so we steal it from the local farmer.”

Walking around these areas you can see the intergenerational transmission of poverty very clearly. The mom who had a child at a young age is illiterate. Her child went to primary school but had to stop because she was “naughty” which means she got pregnant. Her child faces so many barriers to overcome and break free from this cycle.

Project HOPE is right now designing a specific program to address the needs of children under the age of 5 years to help break them from this cycle of poverty and help give them a brighter future where access to quality health care, education, basic services, employment opportunities and food will not be a dream, but a reality.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Now Recruiting Volunteers

Project HOPE is recruiting volunteers for a land-based mission in South Africa from October 10-26, 2009. This pilot volunteer program will focus on chronic disease assessment in two urban slums in the vicinity of Johannesburg. Learn More

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hello From the Project HOPE Staff in Africa

Project HOPE group photo from the Africa
“Fall Leadership Conference” held in Namibia in June.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Moving Forward...

Ive just come back from a trip to Namibia where Project HOPE held its Africa “Fall Leadership Conference.” Colleagues from Mozambique, Malawi, and Namibia plus me representing South Africa all met in Windhoek with our Senior Vice President, Monitoring & Evaluation Director, and Technical Backstop from the U.S. to spend a week strategising how we want to move forward here in our respective countries as well as learning new Monitoring & Evaluation techniques, program design tools and operations research methodology.

It was really nice to catch up with friends and learn more about what is going on in other countries close by. I love strategising! It gives you an opportunity to dream big, but also realistically put a time frame together of what we want to do. I hope to share this strategy with you in full as soon as it is finalised. However, I can tell you that we are entering a very exciting time here in South Africa. We believe we have found a niche for ourselves targeting the health of people who live in slums on the outskirts of cities such as Johannesburg. These people face a double burden of disease – high prevalence of infectious diseases like HIV and TB as well as an emerging problem of chronic diseases arising from lifestyle behaviours such as alcoholism, smoking, poor diet.

One of the things that became quite clear at the FLC was the fact that the current economic crisis is affecting the charity sector in quite a big way. We knew that it would; when ‘purse strings’ are tight a lot of the time charitable giving is the first to take the hit. It hasn’t just affected Project HOPE, but is affecting most charities big and small. Here in South Africa we are seeing many smaller NGOs simply close down because funding has dried up, others are barely functioning. This economic crisis is also affecting charities in the sense that government charitable giving is also taking a hit. We know for example that PEPFAR II when it comes out will most likely be a smaller pot of money. There are a few NGOs here in South Africa that get their money directly from the South African government and they haven’t received it for a few months. What does this all mean?

Well I think there are both positive and negative impacts. On the positive side (my opinion!), the crisis is forcing the charity sector to re-evaluate itself. We spent a lot of time at FLC discussing who we want to be known for – our branding in Africa, highlighting our technical capacities in certain areas. This is a good thing. It’s also forcing charities to be more creative, open and transparent about how they obtain and use funds. Knowing that the potential pot of money is smaller, makes competition fiercer between charities to win grants. This can be positive too. It means that charities will have to put in more effort to design quality programs that have real impacts. It will also force partnerships between charities with specialised capacities which is good. It also means that what in the past might have been a safe bet in terms of winning a specific grant is no longer the case, forcing charities to rethink and design new and innovative approaches to targeting poverty reduction and health issues in the third world.

As for the negative impacts – there are now 1 billion people that go hungry each day, up from 800 million. Government expenditure is being cut across the world, in vital sectors such as health and education. Who does this usually affect the most – the poor and underprivileged. A smaller pot of money for the charity sector ultimately might mean reducing the number of beneficiaries that we reach.

Here in South Africa we are busy moving forward implementing our new strategic direction. Our VSF program is teaching us many things about reaching people in slums, we are busy making contacts with other NGOs, and are currently in the process of writing a couple of grant applications targeting OVC in the slums. If you have any comments please feel free to contact me. Until the next time!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can You Help Project HOPE Today?

Project HOPE is funded from the grassroots by caring people like you. Our financial year is ending on June 30th and we need your help to continue providing lifesaving health education and humanitarian assistance to those in need around the world, especially children. You’ve been following our important work online and know about our lifesaving programs around the globe as well as our inspiring new program in South Africa. Can you help today. Donating online is the fastest and most efficient way to help Project HOPE continue saving lives. Donate now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Countering the “Hand-Out” Mentality in Munsieville

Both the formal and informal settlements of Munsieville have been around a long time. Over the years there have been numerous NGOs both small and large that have come in, run a program and then left – both in good and bad circumstances. Right now as I write this sitting in the container office, there is a small NGO handing out food packages to vulnerable women and children. Other NGOs give out clothes, food, soap sporadically depending on when they receive donations in.

This is valuable and needed, people need to eat, and need clothes to wear, yet this has created over the years a “Hand-Out” mentality or “dependency syndrome” in which people expect to get. So there is this difficult tension between trying to meet immediate needs, and looking longer-term at trying to address root causes of the problems. The government has acknowledged this problem, it wants organisations to empower people to dig themselves out of poverty. We (NGOs and government) can give people the tools, but they must do it for themselves.

An example of this would be Project HOPE's Village Savings Fund. This is a program in which groups of 20 are formed, and trained to collect savings on a weekly basis – even if it is only 10 cents - and put it into a pot. From this pot loans can be made out to the group to start a business, expand an existing venture. These loans are paid back with interest thus increasing the savings pot. They also supplement this with a Social Fund which acts as a form of insurance. Each member puts the same amount into the Social Fund each week until it has reached the designated pot size. From this fund emergencies can be met like paying to get to the hospital, funeral expenses etc.

A key component of each meeting is health education – talking about relevant issues such as HIV, TB, legal access to government services.

The concept of the Village Savings Fund is a great one, and it has worked well in many other places in Africa, and also here in South Africa. We are taking it to the people and hitting the dependency syndrome right on the head with it. Its not an over night process trying to get people to see that they can better their lives for themselves, it takes a lot of time and a lot of convincing. But we are sure that once the first group of Village Savings Fund participants have gone through the cycle and they can see the tangible benefits, then they will become advocates for it and recruit others.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Are We Here? Project HOPE in South Africa

Last week my wife had a baby girl called Hannah. We now have a 2yr old son called Sam and Hannah. Travelling back and forth to the hospital I got thinking about the contrasts in healthcare available here in South Africa. We are very fortunate through Project HOPE to have medical insurance. This meant that Jenni got to see an excellent OB/GYN, and have the C-Section in a very modern, well equipped hospital, no different to any public/private hospital in the UK or US.

Contrast this with Munsieville where we are working – a tiny clinic with 1 doctor and 3 nurses covering a population size of 50,000+ people. A pregnant woman there does not have the same excellent health care facilities that the private hospital afforded us. Yet, is not her child’s life just a valuable as my own Hannah’s or Sam’s? Shouldn’t everyone have the same access to excellent care when needed, or should it be dependent on one's economic status?

HOPE stands for “Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.” That’s why we are here. We believe that everyone regardless of race, economic status, sex, should have access to good quality healthcare. Sure, the problem is too big for us to solve alone, but I don’t look at the problem. Many people focus on the problem, get discouraged and walk away. I look at the family that lives in a shack, who face unimaginable hardship, and I do my best to give them HOPE.

We are not going to save the world overnight, but one family at a time, bit by bit, we seek to empower people here in South Africa so that they live healthier lifestyles, and when in need of a doctor or a nurse, they have the knowledge and the resources to access them. Why? Because life is a great gift, and whether you live in a suburb in the western world, or a shack in Munsieville you deserve HOPE.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Opening Doors with Donation of Medical Supplies

Poduct Donation from Smith & Nephew and GlaxoSmithKline

Project HOPE is known for its ability to effectively procure and distribute needed medicines and medical supply donations with high levels of accountability. We call this Gifts-In-Kind or GIK for short. It can act as a great introduction when one is beginning work in a new country.

In South Africa the Ministry of Health spends the largest portion of its budget on procuring drugs and medical equipment for the country’s patients. Therefore any donations are very welcome, and in fact are relied upon to make sure that the people living in South Africa have access to healthcare when they need it.

Project HOPE UK had been working for a number of months to get product valued at £200,000 (more than $293,000) from S&N and GSK to South Africa. After a few weeks on a ship and it passing through customs it arrived at our container warehouse from where it is being stored and distributed throughout West Rand to NGOs and clinics benefiting the community which we serve. Some of the itmes include peak flow meters, blood pressure monitors, scales, blankets, tissues, gloves, crutches, bandages and more.

To show our appreciation we had a ceremony inviting the South African representatives of GSK and S&N as well as the Executive Mayor of West Rand District, representatives from the West Rand Ministry of Health and other NGO beneficiaires including our partner The Haven.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The first couple weeks...Setting up office in South Africa

I have lived in Africa for a few years, so coming here I didn’t anticipate too many problems immersing myself into South African life. But I have been living in London for 2 years and Portugal before that so I have been away for a while, and I guess you forget certain things that are not applicable to the country that you are living in at the time.

You’ve heard of the saying, “what came first? The chicken or the egg?” The past couple of weeks have been trying to figure out what needs to be done first – I need a phone, but I can't get one until I have a bank account which I can not get until I have updated the registration documents for Project HOPE. I can't do that until I have a place to live and so it goes on!

I arrived and wanted immediately to start sprinting, getting it all done. By the end of the second night, I realised I was back in Africa, not London and things dont happen that fast. An old mentor of mine years ago when I first arrived gave me a piece of wisdom that has proven so true here, “life here is not a 100m sprint, but an ultra-marathon.” In other words things move slowly here, and we need to adapt to that too. I’m adjusting back to that mentality.

The other thing that I had forgotten about was to do with culture and shame. When someone is struggling with something, they wont admit it and ask for help, but carry on as if nothing is wrong. To ask for help is to admit failure and that is viewed as shameful. This plays itself out in meeting with my staff. I will be explaining something and then ask if they have any questions. The answer most of the time is no. I ask if they understand and they say yes. Yet I have realised very quickly that they did not get what I was saying (this is not because they are dumb, but rather a combination of English as a second/third language for them, plus me talking too fast, plus assuming that what is said in English translates exactly into their own languages!). So now instead of assuming that they understand I ask them questions to make sure. There is a great book called “African Friends and Money Matters” written by David Maranz on cultural differences between westerners and Africans. I read it along time ago, I must re-read it again soon!

Enough for now. I’ll write more later! Stefan

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Our Program Site in South Africa

As you can see from the picture we are based at the moment out of a container office in the middle of a township called Munsieville. Munsieville’s most famous resident was the Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) who went to school there. Munsieville is situated in the Mogale City Municipality and the West Rand District of Gauteng Province, South Africa. The whole area has been a target for African population movement over the last few decades drawing people from all over the continent to come work in the mining industry. At the peak of the “gold rush” many immigrants (predominantly males) found lucrative work, and over time brought their families from their home countries. However, with the downscaling of the mining industry, thousands of people have become unemployed. Formal rates of unemployment exceed 30%, with estimates up to 70% for the informal settlements. This is continuing with the shedding of jobs due to the current global financial crisis. With the rapid rise in food prices and tightening of credit availability, thousands of people are facing increased hardship. Even though many immigrants are now facing unemployment, the majority are not returning home, but staying in South Africa, as they have been in the country for multiple years.

Munsieville has two parts – a formal part and an informal part. In the formal part many South African residents live in low cost concrete houses to which services such as water and electricity are supplied. The informal part is made up of predominantly foreigners living in the country illegally – mainly Mozambicans and Zimbabweans. They live in shacks made from scraps of wood, plastic and metal. They have no electricity, water or sanitation services provided. Disease is prevalent in the area and unemployment is high. As they are in the country illegally many cannot access any form of healthcare, education or social service grants because they have no formal identification documents.

If you want to read more on the history of Munsieville you can follow the link:

Keep on checking this blog to see how Project HOPE is meeting some of the many needs in this area!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Welcome to Project HOPE in South Africa! Meet the Staff

It's taken a long time, but finally Project HOPE has arrived in South Africa! Project HOPE in partnership with Project HOPE UK is setting up a country office in the West Rand District, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Over the coming months, I (Stefan – the new Country Director) will be sharing my thoughts, feelings, experiences of what it is like to set up a new office, try to strategise and focus on specific need areas, implement programs and generally try to make you feel part of what Project HOPE is trying to do here! So enjoy!

Our Staff

At the moment Project HOPE in South Africa has 4 staff members – 2 full time and 2 part-time. Here is a little bit about each of them:

Betty Nkoana – Betty was born in the West Rand District and has been living in Randfontein for 27 years. Her husband is a retired pastor and she has 4 children of her own and has also adopted her sisters 1 child. Betty is muli-lingual speaking English, Xhosa, Tswana, Zulu, Sotho, and Shangan. Betty has been working for PH since last November, and before that was employed by the Haven (our partner here) to run a small Village Savings and Loans VSL) program that was funded through UK donors. Betty is our VSL Project Officer and has been overseeing the formation of the groups as well as supervising our two part time staff members.

Eva Mogopodi – Eva comes from Munsieville and is a native Tswana speaker. Her husband is a local pastor and she has 3 children. She is one of our part time volunteers who predominantly oversees the Tswana speaking VSL groups and is passionate about helping orphaned and vulnerable children

Engeliniah Mogebisa – Engeline came from Limpopo Province, but moved to Munsieville 3 years ago. Her husband is a traffic officer and they have 2 children. Engeline speaks fluent English and Shangan and oversees the Shangan speaking VSL groups.

Stefan Lawson – I am the new PH Country Director here in South Africa. I love Africa and I love my job! After school I came to Mozambique and for the most part have been on the continent ever since. I met my wife Jenni in Maputo and we have a son aged 2.5 called Sam and another baby due at the beginning of May. It's my job to build our portfolio of programs with lots of help from my great colleagues around the world here in South Africa starting in the West Rand and expanding outwards throughout the country.