“Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of the living” – Miriam Beard
With love at the heart of all they do and the opportunity to uplift communities with developmental projects and initiatives, uThando (love) South Africa, meaning love in Xhosa and Zulu, is a Fair Trade in tourism non-profit based organisation. Based on a philanthropic desire to engage in inspiring, hopeful, and innovative transactions by linking tourism and a diverse assortment of community development projects, they encourage others to travel with purpose and give back by travelling both responsibly and sustainability. An incredible story unfolds when the local community can provide insight into an alternative life, reveal an unfamiliar perspective and form authentic connections in Africa.
Executive Director of Uthando, James Fernie, says the mission of uThando is: “To provide the infrastructure to link tour operators to community development projects in a myriad of ways, so that we are really giving credence to the whole philosophy of responsible tourism and community bridge building, but also connecting people from all over the world with local people who are doing amazing things.” He further adds: “We are merely showcasing these wonderful people who are doing wonderful things – and in so doing we are also helping them, so really everybody benefits.”With so many exceptional projects uplifting the community, James finds it difficult to choose a favourite and states: “Every single project is so different in its own way. I think the greatest success for Uthando is the joy that has been created through bringing so many thousands of people together over so many years. Tour operators, marketing companies, trade show operators, hoteliers, travellers…”.
Nurturing generations to come
Below is a selection of six successful uThando projects and initiatives, however there are many other inspiring, transformational exploits in this place of love.
Keyhole Gardening Project – sustainability from the earth
The Keyhole Gardening Project at Ikhaya “Home” Garden is a low budget, ecologically friendly way of gardening that requires little watering and is a self-composting system. With the hope of it being effective for at least five years, the project, established with 10 vulnerable households, supports five to six individuals. This gives the community a wonderful sense of empowerment, as they can sustainably grow healthy vegetables, herbs, medicinal plants and produce their own seedlings. The project will be supervised and guided by the Ikhaya Garden team.
Brave Rock Girls – freedom and acknowledgment through storytelling
This incredible initiative trains girls how to express themselves and tell their stories using journalism, photography and film. Using these mediums, they are taught practical skills and are able to create networks with their peers. Empowering these young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds, gives them the opportunity to go to school and have access to healthcare and financial security. Creating a safe space, over 800 girls from 10-19 years of age have participated in these after school and holiday workshops and camps, with several of them having travelled extensively throughout South Africa, Kenya and the United States.
Afri-Creative Hub – expression and authenticity through art
Created in 2019 by Nwabisa Nkonyana, a fine arts graduate, this thriving art centre supports emerging artists with skills development and fine tuning their talent. The vision of the hub is to encourage children and the youth to express themselves and participate in contemporary arts, visual arts, and 4th industrial revolutionary programs. With little chance of a university education, this space provides them the opportunity to become agents of change. Art classes are provided where students learn the history of art, design, and drawing. The work of the local artists and students is on display at the space that is used as a gallery with art sold to the public.
Cape Town Opera Outreach – using the voice to instil dignity and self-worth
An incredible musical youth development and education program is conducted in various areas in South Africa where poverty is a major challenge. Giving students the opportunity to see themselves as individuals with self-worth and dignity, the flagship program “Opera is My First Language” travels to rural communities, developing hidden talents and teaching music to high school learners. There are an array of projects including working with and allowing learners but also singers, choreographers, directors, composers, sign-language interpreters, and coordinators to participate.
Dance for All – developing life skills and confidence through dance
Empowering children through dance in deprived communities has an incredibly positive effect on these students. From the age of five to young adults, they are trained in the art of Ballet, Contemporary, Hip Hop, African and Spanish dance. They are also technically trained on skill, versatility, and discipline in preparation for a career in the performing arts. Having started out in 1991 by Philip Boyd, with just 34 students, today more than 50 graduates of Dance for all dance school are working professionally in the performing arts industry in South Africa and abroad. The programs have influenced the lives of more than 1800 students.
Eziko Fireplace Cooking School – learning the finer details of catering
An entry-level skill centre into the delicious art of catering and the hospitality field, Eziko trains students in the excellence of food preparation, cooking courses, baking, and drinks service. With students from Angola, Zimbabwe, and Cameroon pursuing their passion for culinary flair, the school’s six-month training program in basic cooking and catering skills, facilitates in-service training to familiarise its students with first-hand work experience. After the students have completed their course, they are placed at well-known hospitality businesses.