The children of South Africa’s Mpumalanga Region are a truly resiliant and inspiring bunch. Following a trip to the area in November of 2011 I had the privilage of visiting a Pride ‘n Purpose Virgin Unite Project at a village just outside the luxurious surroundings of Richard Branson’s Ulusaba Game Reserve in Sabi Sands to help them paint a creche for the local children.
Pride ‘n Purpose is a non-profit development fund committed to the upliftment of disadvantaged communities living in and adjacent to the Sands. The charity has been set up by members of the Ulusaba family, you can follow their amazing work on facebook.
Dumphries Village is assisted by a variety of projects funded & managed by Pride ‘n Purpose Virgin Unite, these include a fresh water project, a literacy centre & the provision of creche facilites for the local pre-school children.
The purpose of the visit that day was to take donations of toys and clothes to a local school and then get involved with the decoration of a newly constructed creche. Many of the children in the village were orphans, their parents having been victims of HIV/AIDs that is still rife in the rural areas of the country.
The Akani creche had been funded by American actor and celebrity Christian Slater who is a regular visitor to Ulusaba. The shell of the building was complete & upon arrival we were greeted by the children who were to be it’s new attendees. They ranged in age from 6 months to 5 years and as our mini bus drew closer many eagerly ran towards us waving and laughing. Although a wonderful welcome it was heartbreaking to see the condition they were in; clothes torn, dirty and ill-fitting, many with no shoes.
After lots of “Hellos”, hugs & high fives, the children gathered together & sang us a selection of local songs. At the end of this wonderful chorus one amazing little two year old girl came forward, she was the youngest of the singers yet clearly a star in the making as she posed right at the front of the group before stepping further forward and amazing us with a solo version of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’. Never have I been so touched…
Afterwards we were taken to see the current creche facilties. You will see from the pictures the reason that the new creche was necessary. The doom & gloom of this shell of a building was depressing; no furniture, no decoration, just a mattress on the floor for the babies to sleep on – a truly shocking sight.
In contrast, the new Akani creche would be colourful & safe with toys & games to stimulate and amuse the eager young minds of it’s pupils.
We spent the remainder of our visit busily painting the new creche and digging paths lined with tyres to mark the boundaries of the play areas.
In all my years of travelling I have never had such a heart-renching yet rewarding experience. I feel truly privileged to have been able to help in my own very small way and would definitely love to go back in the future.
The Akani Creche was officially opened on 12th December 2011 by Richard Branson and Christian Slater.
The work the Pride ‘n Purpose Virgin Unite volunteers do is making a real difference and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.