November 28

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First Day in Munsieville

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After spending the last 5 months of my Pulse assignment working with the team in the UK to  develop our You Grow-They Grow schools activity (www.yougrowtheygrow.org), I’m spending this week in Munsieville, South Africa and am getting the chance to see the work of Project HOPE UK in the community, firsthand.

First, a bit about Munsieville. Munsieville is a township around 40 km outside of Johannesburg, near a town called Krugersdorp. It’s the oldest undeveloped township in South Africa, having existed on the site since 1905, and was the childhood home of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who acts as a patron of Project HOPE UK. It’s made up of a formal settlement comprised of small permanent housing, and an informal settlement made up of temporary shack accommodation. Around 60,000 people live there, of which 15,000 of which are vulnerable children. Project HOPE UK as The Thoughtful Path Munsieville, work with the community to help improve the lives of these children, giving them the chance to grow up to be healthy, happy people.

From my first impressions of Munsieville, I was struck by how friendly everyone is; so many people have come over to say hello to me today and welcome me to the community. Speaking to my fellow Pulse volunteers who have been working here for the last 5 months, they describe a community which is open and friendly and which helps each other, neighbour helping neighbour; that’s the feeling you get as your drive around. It has been wonderful to meet everyone properly too; being able to put faces to names and people I’ve heard so much about. It has particularly great to meet Mpho and Maipelo, fellow Pulse volunteers from GSK South Africa who have been doing a great job here in Munsieville since June.

To give you a frightening statistic, in country almost self-sufficient in food almost 1/3 of children in Munsieville suffer health effects due to malnutrition.The You Grow-They Grow initiative aims to eradicate malnutrition in Munsieville by 2020.  To do this, Project HOPE UK are building specially designed drought resistant heart gardens so that families can grow their own vegetables and get the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. The initiative is coupled with education for families on how they can eat and cook healthy meal for their families, and clinical intervention where needed; the latter two being provided in the soon to be completed Norton Rose Fulbright Nutrition Centre. The link to my Pulse assignment is the support for You Grow-They Grow from UK schools. Starting in spring 2017, we’re asking our 34 UK pilot schools (almost 8000 children) to grow some vegetables and have a plant sale to raise money for more gardens in Munsieville. To complete the circle of giving, we plan to twin the schools with the gardens they have helped to build, an extension of our garden twinning scheme for UK gardeners (find out more here : www.yougrowtheygrow.org/gardentwinning).

This week I’ll be helping to build more gardens in Munsieville, working with Maipelo, and Eliott and Mama Safira, two of the Thoughtful Path team. Today we built two gardens; one for Betty, a lady who lives with her 7 children in the informal settlement; and one for Mama Safira and her family. It was really great to see how the gardens are built and wonderful to see the children getting involved planting the seedlings. Hard work though, especially in 30 degree heat!

Here are some photos of the finished gardens:

More later this week.