July 20

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A late start

blog 1 photoI’ve been on my Pulse assignment for a month now and you might have noticed that it’s taken me a while to get going on my blog. It’s not that nothing has happened over the last four weeks or so but I’ve never written a blog or even a diary before so it all feels a little bit out of my comfort zone. But, since the Pulse programme is all about doing things that are out of your comfort zone, I really ought to give it a whirl.

I’m going to start off slowly and tell you a bit more about my Pulse partners, Project Hope UK. They’re based at a GSK site at Stockley Park and have a small team in the UK with a bigger team in South Africa, including two more GSK Pulse volunteers Mpho and Maipelo, who I hope to meet soon. The whole team here have been great, have really welcomed me and made me feel at home. I’m the latest in a long line of Project Hope UK GSK Pulse volunteers so I’ve had a lot of help and encouragement. The charity focuses on child health and wellbeing in the oldest undeveloped township in South Africa, in a place called Munsieville outside of Johannesburg. It’s really inspiring to hear about all of things the charity has achieved already, from a purpose-built early years development centre to a dedicated support line for children and adults to report cases of child abuse, as well as the work of the previous GSK Pulse volunteers. They’ve have been in the Munsieville community since 2010 and the ethos is completely on supporting, engaging and enabling the local community to help itself. The solutions for problems come from, are implemented by and are managed by the local community so that, hopefully, any changes made will be sustainable and last a lifetime. You can find out more about Project Hope UK and the Thoughtful Path Munsieville at www.projecthopeuk.com, on facebook (@thethoughtfulpath) or on twitter (@thoughtfulpath).

I’m working on the You Grow They Grow initiative (www.yougrowtheygrow.com ), which aims to eradicate childhood malnutrition in the Munsieville community by 2020. In a country that should be self-sufficient in food, 1 in 4 children go to school hungry; a third of child deaths are as a direct result of malnutrition, and almost a third of under 5’s are stunted. Lack of food and poor diet can have a severe impact on educational attainment which contributes to the continuing cycle of poverty. A good, nutritious diet is vital for these children to give them the chance to grow up and have happy, success lives. While fresh fruits and vegetables are available to buy, the cost of these is often prohibitive to families, meaning they have to rely on cheaper, less nourishing sources of food. The You Grow They Grow idea is a simple one – why not get families in Munsieville growing their own vegetables? Project Hope UK have developed a small specially designed drought-resistant small garden that families can build in the area outside their homes, which will produce fresh vegetables up to 11 months of the year. They’re also about to implement a dedicated clinical nutrition centre so that families can come along to get clinical support to correct nutritional deficiencies and get educational support. It’ll have an adventure playground area too so the kids will love to visit.

Supporting the building of more gardens in Munsieville will be three initiatives in the UK. The You Grow They Grow local chapters will consist of local groups of enthusiastic gardeners who want to meet others, share tips and, hopefully, grow plants for You Grow They Grow plant sales to raise funds to support the building of more Munsieville gardens. There is also a garden twinning scheme where people in the UK can twin their garden at a cost of £42 per year (or £4 per month) to build a new produce garden for a family in Munsieville. The nice thing about this is that there really is a direct link between the UK garden and the family in Munsieville. You get to “meet” the family you’re helping and can follow the progress of the garden (and the family) as it develops so you can really see the impact of your donation. More on the garden twinning another time but you can find out how to twin your garden via the You Grow They Grow website.

The third part of the You Grow They Grow initiative is what I’m focussing on for my 6 month assignment, which is a schools programme. The objective of my assignment is to develop a workshop/activity that can run in UK primary schools to get the children learning about how plants grow and develop, nutrition and what humans need to be healthy, as well as about the children who live in Munsieville and what their lives are like. The activity will also need to be a fundraiser so the idea is that we will provide the children with pots, seeds, compost etc., they will sow the seeds in school as part of their lessons. They will take the plants home to look after them and then will bring them back in after a few weeks to have a plant sale. We’re hoping that each school taking part will raise enough money to sponsor a garden or two so that the children can directly see where their money is going. We’ll also provide some online resources and fun activities for the children.

So that’s the plan. It’s a world away from my normal day job and I’m not really sure what I’m doing but I’m sure it’ll all be fine. For me, it’s really important that the activity has a strong basis in science but also really engages the children, links them to their counterparts in South Africa and lets them see that their money will really make a difference. We’re lucky enough to have a strong STEM network at GSK so I’m hoping they’ll be able to point me in the right direction. The most important thing will be getting feedback from teachers. I know from my sister and my husband how much work teachers have to do already; the aim will be to make this project as simple and as easy for them as possible.

Since you probably don’t want to see photos of Stockley Park, I’ve found a nice one from Project Hope UK to share. I really love this photo. It’s a picture Anette took of one of the children in Munsieville building his garden. He’s clearly enjoying himself and has a lovely cheeky look on his face.