Graham says “Goodbye”

It has been such a pleasure having Graham Palmer from London work with us at Good Work Foundation. He is on to the next leg of his trip now, somewhere in the jungles of Madagascar, but on his last day he took the time to share some highlights from his stay in “digital” Mpumalanga. Another “wayfinder” (wayfinder: people who feel an internal call to heal an authentic part of the world) has joined the tribe – and we’re thankful that our paths crossed!

Here’s Graham’s piece:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela)

Good Work Foundation (GWF) is revolutionising education in rural Africa. It is teaching children and adults the key skills necessary in today’s world – English and Computer Literacy. Its aim is to give the same opportunities and access to information as those at Harvard or Oxford. I have been based at the Hazyview Digital Learning Centre although have been on location in rural Mpumalanga. The centre here is fantastic with two computer rooms (20 computers in each room) as well as 30 tablets. Spearheading GWF is Kate Groch who has global ambitions for the organisation…having seen her in action expect to see a GWF centre near you soon! I would actively encourage you to “LIKE” their Facebook page or see their website for the amazing stories some of which I have been fortunate to be a part of.

Day 1 and morning 1 I was thrown a hospital pass into the deep-end of the swimming pool … Crispen the school education leader asked for help with some school children who had walked in that needed help with their exams … turns out it was Physics and Mathematics which I have not seen a text book for over 15 years! Having said that with the high quality education I had at Tiffin Boys I managed to blag my way through circuits and geometry…although I’m getting out of Hazyview before the results come out! During the week I also worked on Geography and Accounting which is much my forte.

In the barn, everyday school children and orphans come to learn/play on tablets… learning literacy by playing boggle and scrabble and maths playing multiplication and addition games. The knowledge and skills around a tablet is fantastic and don’t worry they still practice their handwriting. They are using Google Earth to understand geography rather than a poster thus having the access to information as others around the world. The coolest thing was a game where all the tablets linked wirelessly to the computer so that the children could compete…amazing how competition turns the kids minds on! The future is that these games and competitions could link to other GWF centres all around world.

The Mabarula Youth In Action choir was a big highlight for me. A choir of 50 from a local village that has a newly formed committee but no direction. Gogo Mo (Kate’s mother) and some of the team did a team building workshop to get them going…give them ideas and focus how to grow their choir. More importantly for them they want to build a community centre to practice singing in, feed the young and elderly and have an internet café.  Fantastic ambitions but they didn’t know what to do about getting it all…particularly a roof!! (see photo below). For me I am now their remote business consultant having got them on their feet and thinking like an effective team. The bonus for me was 2 performances of their choir – The gratitude and appreciation from the committee has been outstanding and something many teams in business could learn from.

At the centre here I have been helping some of pupils with some life skills. Getting a qualification is one thing but giving you skills around CV writing, interviewing, presenting, team-working and facilitation means you have a competitive advantage in this market where employment is tough. Great to some light-bulbs going off as they appreciate what is required and can see what it takes to enter the big wide world … something I will need reminding about in 10 months time!

A local school had issues with their pupils not taking up technical mathematics for their senior years…Graham from the UK steps in to discuss with 100 students what it takes to become an accountant…I have never seen 100 eyes close so quickly as soon as I said “hello my name is Graham and I am an accountant from the UK”!! Although they were appreciative you come to realise that it takes more than me speaking for 20 minutes to change a mind-set but at least it helps…but it gave me an insight into the big challenges of rural Africa. Also visited other schools that have been created and funded by local residents as they realised there is a need for primary education in their village including education for those with learning difficulties…amazing to see someone give so much when they themselves have so little.

Saving a remarkable story for last. A remarkable young boy called Silence who for the last 3 years has been living with kidney failure and requiring dialysis 3-4 times per week in a hospital 150km and 2 buses away. In August after numerous searches he finally got a kidney transplant. He was whisked by helicopter to Pretoria and ever since then has been a changed man. I was privileged to be at a lunch with his parents and Gogo Mo as a celebratory lunch of the remarkable story of a boy in rural Africa against the clock getting another chance. Gogo Mo’s good connections along with others made this remarkable story happen…to share the story and see the appreciation on his parents face over lunch was a special moment.

As you can see for 4 weeks I have dipped my little toe into rural Africa to understand the issues and realities for a lot of the residents. Although not leaving a footprint here I am hoping that in the future I am able to help others make their footprint on their community. Big thanks to Kate and her team for being so welcoming into the GWF family.