My good friend Sammi Taylor has written for my blog a number of times, the most popular being a glimpse into her story of Singleness and one of my favourites being how she wrote her ‘What I’d like my married friends to know’ piece. But today she is sharing about someone she knows in South Africa, who she has seen doing things that give her hope:
I was a teenager in the 80’s. I was a teenager when apartheid was in effect. I was in Matric when we had our first referendum vote. And I was ignorant of most politics. Life was mostly good and happy. I danced, listened to hair metal and spent many hours practicing for plays and shows with my friends. I was mostly ignorant and oblivious. This was true for most of my friends as we grew up in middle class white families and went to white schools with white teachers and most media did not show what was happening in our country. During this time and while being involved with a high school play that included our brother school Selbourne College, I met and became friends with a group of young guys. One of these friends was a boy named James. James was not ignorant or oblivious even though he came from a white middle class family, went to a white school and had white teachers.
I got to know that James was interested in politics. That James’s family was politically active and that he had a passion for justice and the future of our country.
Being kids, this was just something I was aware of. I didn’t ask questions or have deep conversations. My memories of this time are of parties and laughing backstage at concerts and being very confused about the math homework they were doing which looked like nothing we were being taught at the time.
So many years later after meeting another group of young people through a dance and drama ministry team in 1994 and becoming a lot less ignorant and oblivious to what was happening in our country and of course the invention of the world wide web and Facebook, I reconnected with my young friend James.
There is so much negativity amongst our generation regarding SA at the moment and where we are going that it was refreshing to see that someone I knew as a young boy had not lost his passion for our country. After obtaining a law degree and working and travelling abroad, he had returned to SA and is actively involved in community based projects that benefit from funds raised by conducting responsible tours of these previously disadvantaged areas.
Uthando is the name of the organization he created to explore unique and innovative methods of linking tourism and community development projects. As a result of these initiatives, Uthando has won numerous local and international awards, most notably the 2012 Winner of the Skal International Sustainable Development in Tourism Award – category Cities-Villages, the 2013 Cape Town Tourism Responsible Tourism Award as voted by local and international companies in the tourism industry and The Best Charitable Organisation in Africa by the Good Safari Guide in 2014 and 2015. In addition, The Philanthropic Travel Experiences offered by Uthando have been recognized by Trip Advisor with a Certificate of Excellence in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Uthando South Africa is a unique model for traveller’s philanthropy, providing local and international tourism businesses (e.g. tour operators) with a reliable and trustworthy mechanism to implement their social investment programmes. This newly FFTSA (Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa) certified initiative showcases beneficiary projects to travellers in an authentic and sustainable way, further increasing prospects for fundraising and other forms of assistance for these projects. Uthando South Africa currently supports and/or is developing a programme of support for over 25 community projects in Cape Town (with additional projects identified in the KwaZulu Natal midlands); these are focused on a diverse range of social issues ranging from female prisoner rehabilitation and refugee education to urban agriculture, youth development, care for the elderly, care for children and orphans, HIV/AIDS, care and education for disabled people, arts and culture and rural development, to mention a few.
According to Katie Goldstein who listed Uthando as the no.6 of the top 10 things to do in Cape Town: To experience the Townships created as living areas for non-whites during Apartheid, but are still home to a vast amount of the population today, do a half-day experience with Uthando whose tours are authentic, uplifting, and non-invasive. Uthando’s profits go to help raise funds for community development projects in South Africa. In addition to learning about the country’s tumultuous past, you’ll be inspired by the incredible work being done to move forward.
James has a deep sense of compassion and a firm belief in the urgency of profound and dramatic change in the paradigm of our human society and this hasn’t changed from the young boy I knew.
I love Facebook…when I see James’s updates on his projects and his joy and pride in the communities he serves I am given hope that South Africa has a bright future when people like James are involved.
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Who is someone that you see doing something positive in South Africa that gives you hope? Drop me a line at email@example.com ad let’s talk about how you can get there story on here