Achievements & Some Success Stories

We have been through the grind of very tough lessons in development here in Africa. Uthango continues to achieve measurable success in spite of - or because of (!!) - difficult times. Development apathy, donor fatigue, the global economic crisis and above all, lack of political leadership impact directly on our vision. A shared passion for innovation and development motivates the team and we developed some key assets to overcome barriers. Our Directors venture beyond traditional approaches to implement new models of social investment and social enterprises. Consider reading our company profile under ABOUT US for more on our track-record.

Most of our success stories break new ground in development practices to ensure benefits in communities. We treasure our relationships with individual beneficiaries. People matter most in our company and in our projects. The stories of their lives, and their successes, we acknowledge and celebrate, as these have inspired us...

Volunteer Torin Perez's enjoys our 'Snack Sneakers Programme' in South Africa

The WorldTeach programme of Harvard University brought students from USA to our organisation. Afterwards, they gave 'Honorable Mention' to the journal entry of Torin Perez and we post it here for all those volunteers thinking to team up with Uthango:

South Africa 2006

This summer I am working for the WorldTeach program, which is a non-profit, non-governmental organization. WorldTeach provides opportunities for individuals to make a meaningful contribution to international education by living and working as volunteer teachers in developing countries. When an individual makes a commitment to a program such as this one, the beauty of non-profit service can truly be seen.

My experience in Cape Town, South Africa is surely one that I will always remember. Being here is a dream come true. All of my family members have desired to make a trip to a country in Africa but have not been fortunate enough to get the chance. Granted my wish at such an early age, I feel very blessed, and am humbled by every moment of the days that I spend here.

To be truthful, I am so overwhelmed by how much I am learning and by how enriched I feel that it is very difficult to pick only one valuable experience. I have been brought here with WorldTeach, but it feels more like WorldLearn. But if I have to pick one, it would have to be my experience here as an American. Since the first day I have been here, I have been referred to as an American: “The American,” “this is a university student from America ,” “his name is Torin and he is a volunteer teacher from America who has come here to help us.” Everywhere that we go, we are looked at as a doorway of hope, a gateway to a better future, which has forced me to think about what being an American really means. I have gathered a sense of pride in my country and I have personally delegated myself the responsibility of upholding what I represent to the South Africans that I meet.

The first phase of the South Africa summer program took place from mid-June to mid-July while the students were on a recess from school. The program I was involved in, Snack Sneakers, was designed (by Uthango project leaders) for Grade 7 students from Masiphumelele, one of the black townships. Ten volunteers total, we taught basic entrepreneurship skills and business concepts to 35 students. In an environment like Masiphumelele where unemployment is very common, starting a business on your own is the best alternative for an individual seeking success. Many terms such as “loan” and “wholesaler” were foreign words and working with ESL students made our assignment even more challenging.

During the program we acted as actual bankers and wholesalers and allowed the students to buy and sell sweets and chips while teaching them about other facets such as public relations and marketing. We also stressed principles like respect, commitment, punctuality, honesty, self-confidence, persistence, responsibility, and teamwork. The children were initially attracted to the program because money and sweets were involved, but in the end they realized that there was a lot more to entrepreneurship than that. Through team-building exercises and small classroom lessons, they learned more about entrepreneurship than they ever thought they could. I never thought I would be teaching a business course, but I never doubted myself, I never doubted my colleagues, and I never forgot our goals.

The name Masiphumelele means “we will succeed.” Having formed during the Apartheid era, Masiphumelele still exhibits much poverty and a general lack of resources. I hope that what we have done here can at least on a micro-scale contribute to the Masiphumelele community, helping it live up to the meaning of its name.

The morning of the last day of the Snack Sneakers program I was touched by the tribal song recitals of the children. Previously, whenever a teacher walked into the room, the noise dropped to silence. But on this day, the song continued, and as I listened, my eyes couldn’t help but well up with tears. Something about their voices and the song raised my spirits and made me feel appreciated. But more importantly, it represented their own pride in themselves, their culture, and their country. What is most satisfying to me is that I am confident that the 25 children who were dedicated throughout and completed the entire two-week duration are on the road to a brighter future, and I know that their hunger for better lives will lead them on to bigger and better things.

Picture: Courtesy of WorldTeach

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