From Alloa to Africa
AN Alloa mum has returned from South Africa humbled by the happiness and resilience throughout the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Gillian Cramb (43), who grew up in Auchterarder but has lived in Clackmannanshire for the past 14 years, spent two weeks in July as a community volunteer.
She worked in a crèche in the morning, took part in teaching an HIV/Aids course in the afternoon and also made plans for future sessions, adult literacy classes and the after-school reading club.
Gillian, who is currently the depute headteacher at the Pupil Support Service in Falkirk, told the Advertiser, "I'd always wanted to visit Africa and had done HIV/Aids education in the past. As both my children were holidaying abroad without me this year - Antonia in Magaluf and Lewis in Italy - I decided now was as good a time as any to do my own thing."
After doing some research on the internet Gillian booked her trip with African Impact.
The non-governmental organisation arranges for volunteers from all over the world to work on a wide range of projects that benefit communities and conserve natural environments and endangered species across Southern and East Africa. It aims to provide assistance while giving volunteers a rewarding experience of African life.
Gillian said, "Most of all I loved the Zulu people. They are truly beautiful from the inside out and so generous, caring and full of love and joy - despite the poverty and omnipresent threat of illness that overshadows their community."
Gillian hated the knowledge that in KwaZulu-Natal the HIV infection rate is 70 per cent.
She added, "I worked in the baby and toddler room at one crèche and looked after 10 beautiful children. The thought that potentially seven of them were already HIV positive was very difficult to deal with."
On Mandela Day Gillian was lucky to witness the grand opening of the Inkanyezi Crèche. Prior to African Impact's involvement the children learned under a tree as the previous building was little more than a rickety shed.
There were speeches, singing and traditional Zulu dancing by youngsters from the area.
Gillian said, "The look of love and joy on Mama Gumede's face when she opened the doors for the first time moved me to tears."
Gillian has returned to the Wee County determined to buy less. She said, "We accumulate so many unnecessary possessions and could live much more simply, and I think, more happily with much less."
Gillian wished to thank her family and friends for donating money and goods to take over to SA and also the staff and other volunteers who helped her through the tougher times and made the trip enjoyable.
She added, "Everything goes to making the communities self-sustainable and the charity has a policy of employing local staff so that any project undertaken is relevant and meaningful. These communities will continue to need our help so please get in touch with African Impact if you feel there's anything you can give."
For more information on African Impact and its projects, go to www.africanimpact.com.
This article appeared in Alloa & Hillfoots Advertiser 15 Aug 12
Have your say. Post a comment on this article.
Aug 15, 21:42
What about raising the money and using it for one of the many (thousands) of good causes that need addressing in the UK? The air fare for this trip would have gone a long way in helping the British needy.
I don't doubt that Zulus are very nice people but South Africans can raise money for them can't they? People in South Africa do work. It is not a Third World country.
In the UK many people are living below the poverty line and many children are HIV positive.
Why are people so quick to spend all this money abroad instead of at home?
Can someone answer this?
Recommend? Yes 0 No 8
Aug 17, 10:06
Surely it is individual choice where people travel and who they choose to help. I give to UK charities each month from my wages and have done for years and I volunteer regularly for a local charity. I have volunteered and worked with UK charities many times over the years and continue to work with some of the most vulnerable young people in our country. If I choose to use my own money to travel abroad for a couple of weeks, in my own time, and my friends choose to give me a few pounds and some gifts to take to people who have nothing then those are our choices.
Travelling to Africa and sharing my knowledge and expertise as a teacher will not take anything away from young people in this country but it might just make a difference to some lives in a community which is completely impoverished and devastated by Aids.
In answer to your question regarding South Africans raising money: apartheid is still rife in SA and unfortunately racism, corruption and inequality - issues that I tackle daily in school - mean that very little money is raised or distributed locally. There is no NHS nor welfare state there either. African Impact aims to help communities to help themselves - it is not about throwing money at a problem - that isn't sustainable and wouldn't help.
Feel free to check out the charity online - as I did for the UK charities I support.
I wish you well in the future as I do all those at home, and abroad, who are in need of any help that we - as fellow human beings - can find it in our hearts to give.
Recommend? Yes 8 No 0
Aug 17, 15:46
This is fantastic Gillian. And in response to AlloaYankee, I totally understand your point about UK based charities. However, our government do enough to blow money on unnecessary things in this country and it is up to the individual who they choose to help. Many communities of South Africa still suffer greatly from apartheid and unless you have been there it is difficult to understand. What is wrong with an educated person, whom has done so much for local people in this country, going that extra mile to use that education in a country in need. Without these people, these kinds of third and middle world countries where racism is still rife would not receive the kind of education they need for a sustainable lifestyle. It's not about dependency on the company but providing these people with the education they need to continue themselves. The world is one big community. Whether using her own money or even fundraising for a trip like this, she should be proud to have been a part of it. Well done Gillian :)
Recommend? Yes 10 No 0
Aug 21, 16:04
As I said in my original posting the money from the air fare , alone, could have gone to help many families in the UK. Not to mention all the other costs related to this trip.
You both fail to mention the many charities that exist in South Africa. The Papillon Foundation, Heifer S.A. and CHOC, to name a few.
I thought charity money was raised to help as many of the needy as possible, not for expensive flights and costs. It would seem from your postings that a good amount of self gratification is related to these charitable trips.
I also question the benefit a 2 week trip can provide. I could understand spending all that money for, perhaps, a six month or a year trip, but not for two weeks.
Recommend? Yes 0 No 5
Aug 22, 13:38
In response to AlloaYankee:
I do a fair amount of charity work within the UK but nothing has ever compared to the poverty I saw in KwaZulu-Natal (I worked on the same project as Gillian). Unfortunately, although there is a lot of money in Africa in general, none of it goes to the right place. As far as abroad projects go, some really do seem like time and money wasters, however, African Impact is not one of these projects. It has the right values and aims and is sustainable for the people.
As far as paying for flights go, I had already been travelling throughout Africa for 2mnths before I reached the project so my flights were part of travelling. Volunteering abroad is a great way to explore another culture and give something back at the same time, so yes there is a degree of selfishness in it too but I don't think this is wrong. Many people spend money on sunny beach holidays and that helps no one.
As a psychology graduate I may question whether any volunteering where ever it is is truely altuistic but hey that's the human race for you. However coming away from the above project I left feeling like I had not done enough and left with a heavy heart after seeing the circumstances that the people lived in.
I don't mean this as an attack, I just don't think there is anything wrong in people wanting to volunteer abroad especially for the project above.
Also well done to Gillian, glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Recommend? Yes 4 No 0
Aug 22, 13:42
Amazing Gilly :)
AlloaYankee, yes there are many other NGO's and charities in S.A., just as there are many in different countries all over the world. The use of the word charity here is incorrect. African Impact is an NGO that is working to aid communities, like the St. Lucia area, in sustainable development. The goal is to help provide the tools and resources to ensure programs could be maintained by the local community without the presence of African Impact. The Happy Africa Foundation, in conjunction with African Impact, is the charity function, taking donations in all forms.
Monetary aid, is, of course, necessary for some projects to run, but there is so much more than money behind these volunteers experiences. Working with the children in creches, and simply showing some love and attention goes a long way. You do not need to donate all the money in the world to make a difference.
I strongly believe that there is not a single volunteer, regardless of the type of volunteering, that could honestly say it is 100% unselfish. Yes, you personally gain
alot from these experiences. So what?
Once again, regardless of your time of stay, or the amount of money you can provide, any length of stay is beneficial to the volunteer and the organization. Sure, you could say that two weeks is not enough time to see a huge difference, but one child, or mother, or gogo, could have gained something else immeasurable from a single volunteer. African Impact in it's entirety, from the volunteers, the staff, the donators, and all others involved, work as one to make the difference in communities like St. Lucia.
Recommend? Yes 6 No 0
Aug 23, 08:55
I am unrelated to any of the previous contributors, but felt compelled to make a contribution on the altruism aspect.
Even if it is accepted that there may be a "selfish" element to volunteering (almost all volunteers do so in a sphere that interests them), my experience of working with those who do this kind of work (in the UK or abroad) is that they return as more compassionate, driven and positive individuals. They are, on the whole, more rounded characters and the experience that they gain is of benefit in the community, the workplace and in their wider, everyday lives.
Of course, most volunteers do so because they already are compassionate and driven to a degree: the personal and collective benefits of developing these traits can only be good for society as a whole.
Recommend? Yes 1 No 0
Aug 25, 00:31
I have always found that those who volunteer for non UK NGO or charity projects tend to get a lot more recognition than those who do. I believe that is why so many do it.
I speak from experience as I have direct family members who do this. And I can say they all do it for purely selfish reasons. It elevates them within their social groups, church, womens groups etc.
Gillian Cramb is a case in point. You would never have heard of her if she had helped a local Aids organisation. Yet she gets newspaper footage for doing so abroad.
Surely this is wrong.
I see many are voting against my comments. Are these votes from my fellow posters or from people who refuse to tell me why I am wrong.
How can I be wrong in wanting to help my fellow human beings.
Recommend? Yes 0 No 0
Aug 28, 21:42
I appreciate what you are saying but I think you are missing the point. Yes I know that there are families in the UK living below the poverty line and that HIV is present but lets be honest, in comparison to these families in South Africa it doesn't even come close. We have free health care, free schooling and hundreds of registered charities helping every day. Our biggest issues are alcoholism and drug abuse not malaria, heart conditions (many caused by obesity) not hepatitis and teenage pregnancies not HIV and AIDS. You are entitled to your own opinion but don't bring people down for trying to be better people and help those who need it most. Look at any of the projects before and after African Impact get involved and you will see a huge difference. As for the people involved, 1 week, 2 weeks, 12 weeks, it doesn't matter. All of their efforts come together as one and make a difference that all the money in the world couldn't even make. Please appreciate this and appreciate that these people aren't claiming government benefits paid by honest tax payers money.
Recommend? Yes 2 No 0
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