We are in South Africa, feeling lucky to be in a country we have grown to love since our trip in 2000 on our first sabbatical when Abby and David were 9 and 10. They were so moved by our experiences at St. Brendan’s, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and on safari with my parents that they encouaged us to take Nobles students here in 2005, Abby spent a junior semester at the University of Cape Town, and David spent a month working in Plettenberg Bay with home health care workers of HIV patients, and helped with chaperoning our 2010 trip with more Nobles students.
We are starting our month long adventure here at the African Leadership Academy, ALA. What an impressive place on all fronts: campus, program, and people. ALA is also rife with acronyms 🙂 One person told us that at a recent meeting, the first of the assembled group, they were already referring to themselves with an acronym. To a person, all of the people we have met are positive and engaged. In every conversation with the ‘staffulty’ (love this mashup of theirs), we’ve asked about their paths to ALA. It seems like there’s been some magnetic pull for each. Chris Bradford and Fred Swaniker, the founders, had a powerful vision, created a compelling mission, and have attracted such bright, empathic, and innovative people to join them in actualizing their dream. They have a deep bench indeed. The students, the 200 brightest on the continent of Africa, are similarly engaged and committed. We feel lucky to be here and know we’ll continue to be involved.
Ben and I have some areas to focus on before heading four hours north to St. Brendan’s School next Thursday. I’ll be working closely with Jake, an English teacher, as he’s going to become the point person to disseminate study skills. Ben will lend his expertise in many places, specifically on marketing some new programs ALA is launching to open up the experience to students around the world as semester and gap year programs with a particular focus on entrepreneurship and leadership.
We’re pretty packed with meetings at ALA during the week days, but this Saturday we arranged to head into Kliptown, a part of the township of Soweto where Nobles students, faculty, and families have created a meaningful partnership with a celebrated program (CNN Heroes), Kliptown Youth Program. Thulani Modando is a hero; his program serves 461 kids a day. He and his team feed these kids each morning before they head to school, pack a sandwich for them for lunch, and provide an extensive after school array of activities. All of this engagement serves as a way “to provide opportunities that will enable our young people to rise out of poverty,” the mission of KYP. As part of Thulani’s achieving the CNN Hero honor, KYP received a $50,000 gift for the computer center, a buzzing operation on the Saturday afternoon we visited. His program has blossomed since our visit ten years ago, but sadly the township doesn’t look much different. Unfortunately, the government’s promises for improvement are slow in materializing.
ALA and KYP are changing lives, and the kids in these communities are the ones who are going to accelerate positive growth and transformation in South Africa and all of the countries on this continent. We are lucky to witness the magic that is happening here.
African Leadership Academy images:
The core values they aspire to instill in their students are integrity, humility, compassion, diversity, curiosity, and excellence. These are front and center as you enter the community. Underneath each value is a dramatic photograph of influential Soth Africans. (Yes, that’s Ben in the background…on purpose 🙂
The lovely grounds:
A West African celebration in the ALA auditorium Saturday night:
The computer center at KYP:
KYP dancers and drummers:
Our hero – Thulani Modando: