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“To know and not yet to do is not yet to know.”
The Founder and CEO of the Good Work Foundation, Kate Groch knows that “it shouldn’t matter where you’re born.” She said it in June 2013 when she delivered her Tedtalk but she was living the ideal long before then. As she puts it, “I’m an educator… it’s who I am when I wake up in the morning.” The Good Work Foundation is an NGO associated with Londolozi Game Reserve which is bringing world-class, online education to Hazyview – a small town bordering the Kruger National Park. As the Good Work Foundation’s NGO partner, we at Rhino Africa hold up the ambitions of the Good Work Foundation as our own. Leading this charge is our intrepid leader and proud trustee of the foundation, David Ryan.
Kate builds bridges. Figuratively: between the great divide of poverty and quality education. She is also a literal builder. I know because I saw it with my own eyes. To explain I have to take you a few years back to when I was walking the dusty streets of the birth town of the Good Work Foundation: Philippolis.
I can’t put my finger on it but – as my white takkies take on the shade of the sand – I feel a subdued atmosphere in the township. Somber faces show rather than tell the children to muffle their laughter. Later I learn that there has been a tragedy in the community. The funeral is scheduled for Saturday morning. During the preparations on Thursday someone notices that the road leading to the cemetery has crumpled, narrowing to a thinner version of itself. The erosion will make it impossible for a hearse to negotiate the narrow path. Naysayers stand around, pointing, shaking their heads, considering the dire consequences for the imminent burial. Kate is not among them.
In the deep ditch flanking the road are two people having a discussion. One is Kate – a teacher who has downed her chalk to help. The other is Lulani Vermeulen – a minister, self-taught builder, farmer and – above all – a doer. The terms of their agreement are very brief:
“We’re going to build a bridge.”
End of meeting.
Sometimes intention has to drag knowledge to its feet and force it to act. Sometimes intention is too impatient to wait, running ahead in the hope that knowledge will catch up. And that’s what happens: we learn how to build a bridge as we build it. Materials arrive and the foundations – consisting of thick steel rods, mesh wire and tie-downs – soon follow. Lulani guides us as we construct the skeleton and then the real physical labour begins.
“We need rocks,” they explained and then echoed their statement to the gathering onlookers, “we need a lot of rocks.”
Word spreads and the end of school brings children who strip the barren ground of anything bigger than a pebble and bring it to the site.
Kate playing with kids in Philippolis
Some of the rocks arrive by air, light enough to fling into the pit like a small ball aimed at a large net. Boulders approach with more difficulty, powered by bent knees and coarse hands, rolling lethargically towards their new home. It is slow going but the blisters on our palms begin to prove their worth, the metal barrier performing its function – bulging as it takes the load. It’s not long before we can envisage the makeshift road that is our end point. Freshly inspired, we increase the flurry of our search, leaving craters where large rocks once stood. Despite our efforts, when the sun bids farewell to Thursday we are still short of the half way mark.
We wake early to a bitter Karoo morning, vapour appearing whenever we feel it necessary to mutter the obvious, “It’s so cold.” Gloves shield our hands from the bite of the sub-zero day and – rubbing our arms for warmth – an ache reminds us of yesterday’s work. We continue, stopping only to welcome the sun, removing layers to stretch our naked fingers in the warm light. The level of rocks mimic the sun, rising as the day draws to midday.
It’s only at the close of the second day that our efforts pay dividends. We sit together – exhausted but smiling – admiring how the height of our stone wall meets the rust-coloured road. I tell you this story because – to my mind – it speaks to Kate’s leadership. It speaks to action when the majority are too busy focusing on the precipice to consider a solution. Anyone paying attention recognises the gap between the average South African and the education they deserves. But the Good Work Foundation is doing more than that; it’s blowing warm air into its cold hands, preparing for the heavy lifting, working to solve what most are only pointing at: an education system that continues to fail its people.
For more information on the Good Work Foundation or to get involved in their efforts to bring world-class online education to rural South Africa visit their website.
Students graduating from the Hazyview Digital Learning Centre
To experience the Good Work Foundation firsthand, why not plan a trip to Londolozi which will allow you to give back and experience the Big 5 in a single trip? Contact one of our expert consultants to get the ball rolling.
Matt discovered a passion for writing in the six years he spent travelling abroad. He worked for a turtle sanctuary in Nicaragua, in an ice cream factory in Norway and on a camel safari in India. He was a door-to-door lightbulb-exchanger in Australia, a pub crawl guide in Amsterdam and a journalist in Colombia. Now, he writes and travels with us.
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