Writing about the Ufafa Valley in his South African novel of 1948, Cry, the Beloved Country, Alan Paton said: "There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.”
In July, 19 Oundle pupils from the Third to the Sixth Forms travelled to that valley in Kwazulu-Natal to spend a week at Woza Moya, a community based NGO that supports women and families that have been affected by AIDS and poverty.
The first week was spent meeting the community and learning about Woza Moya's work. Established in 2000 as a community health care project, the centre has developed a holistic and integrated programme with staff and community care givers working with child care and protection, water sanitation and hygiene, early childhood and youth development, as well as sustainable development and family income generation. Over the course of the previous year, pupils had raised £8000 to donate to support the centre’s work.
During the week, pupils met members of the community and learned how the centre has built programmes that provide support structures for residents of the valley to sustain themselves and their families. Pupils joined staff for the daily morning circles that begin each morning with a song and a prayer; they accompanied Community Care Workers on home visits;
assisted in the digging and planting of a kitchen garden with “tippy taps” at a government community centre;
they met children from the centre’s pre-school who taught the pupils Zulu songs and dances;
pupils joined the monthly meeting of a women’s self-help group that generates savings to assist members with financial hardship;
sat in on a craft-workers finance meeting where women across the valley exchange their completed goods for new materials;
and pupils were taught by the local craft workers how to make the centre’s famous sock monkeys, which are sold in shops across South Africa, alongside their other craft initiatives, such as knitting and fabric design.
The second week in South Africa was spent in the Drakensberg Mountains at the annual Creighton Aloe Festival, and included hiking in the foothills, and a scenic tour of the valley by steam train,
followed by stays at Imfolozi National Park and Isimangaliso National Park, which feature some of South Africa's most spectacular wildlife and scenery.
A video about their visit to Woza Moya can be viewed here.