Uthando Township Tours: Make a Difference!
A lush vegetable garden tended by locals, smiling toddlers singing and having lunch in an educare centre, and mamas sculpting beautiful works of art out of beads and fabrics … hope and colour amidst back-breaking poverty. Uthando South Africa invited us to experience community upliftment in the sprawling townships next to the N2 highway that connects Cape Town to the Winelands.
Uthando South Africa is a non-profit and FTT (Fair Trade in Tourism) accredited company. They have found a way to combine tourism and community development and invited us to experience the difference they are making first-hand. Our rendezvous was at the Sun Square Hotel in Cape Town where we were joined by five tourists from the United States on one of Uthando’s daily township tours.
After James Fernie’s short briefing about the intended route, we hopped onto the highway for the short drive to Langa and a lecture on the development of the townships against the backdrop of South Africa’s urban history. Fernie, the director of Uthando, gave a balanced account of the Apartheid era, and shared some of the reasons that compelled him to get involved with community development. We stopped at the Amy Biehl Memorial on the edge of Langa for a few moments as Fernie described one of the darkest chapters in our history.
At the Isiseko Educare Centre we were treated to a song and a few words by Mtuze, one of the teachers. Parents drop off their children at this well run centre in the knowledge that they are well looked after and get a headstart in life. Educare Centres like Isiseko is the first step on the way to break the poverty cycle.
At eKhaya eKasi we were introduced to one of the few ways women who had less opportunities can empower themselves – through arts and crafts. They use colourful beads and fabrics to create beautiful collectables and jewellery for tourists in search of colourful keepsakes to remind them of their time in South Africa. No middleman is involved and only a small percentage of the income generated covers the running costs of the centre, the rest goes to the women.
The Ikhaya Garden was established in 2013 and is part of Abalimi Bezekhaya, an extensive agricultural project involving 5000 people in the townships of Cape Town. Xolisa Bangani teaches organic micro-farming* to primary school children and 9 volunteers from the community work full-time. Ikhaya supplies organic vegetables to local slow food restaurants.
The Thokozani Youth Centre provides daycare for 110 children and 65 youngsters are enrolled in after school programmes. Mhlangabezi Masizana, the manager, is passionate about education and literacy, and spoke at length about the invaluable contribution of youth centres. The centre also provides a laundry service and a library with books donated by two local companies, Terra Nova Tours and Outliers Project.
Cape Town is a city of shocking contradictions, a fact which is difficult to process for tourists from the First World. The ocean of shacks that separate the postcard mountain from the exuberant wine estates of Stellenbosch, is an accurate reflection of the harsh reality for the majority of South Africans. Uthando South Africa not only showed us that something is being done about this dire situation, but also how to make a lasting personal contribution.
Contact James Fernie at Uthando South Africa to make a difference!
Tel: +27 21 683 8523
Mobile: +27 82 496 4889
Email: [email protected]
Feature image: Uthando South Africa
Other images: Pieter Wolhüter