Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community ~Anthony J. D'Angelo
Carolyn Burns is a South African, born, raised and educated in Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town. She lived in Canada for 25 years and returned to her homeland with the idea of starting an entry level counselling program to educate lay counsellors to work within their communities.
She got sidetracked into starting a grassroots community outreach project to provide food, education resources, home improvements & psychosocial support to families with no parents; children raising children, largely as a result of parents dying of AIDS related illness.
Her background is in paediatric nursing and counselling psychology.
As she made friends with being in her 50’s a deep pull and yearning to return to her native land, give back and account for her privileged life, motivated her. As a child of Apartheid, Carolyn is acutely aware of having automatically received privilege.
She responded to the urge to fulfil a deeper purpose in her life, a way to ‘measure’ her life…so that, one day, when she sinks into her favourite rocking chair, she is able to reflect…’old bean, that was a life well lived!’
Carolyn is the founder & manager of Ukulapha.
ABOUT CAROLYN BURNS
The poorly developed Townships on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg suffer very high levels of poverty, unemployment and HIV infection. These factors, together with the large numbers of orphans and vulnerable children, particularly child-headed households, led the project founder to initiate the Ukulapha Outreach Project.
Ukulapha is a grassroots organization whose mission it is to engage and support disadvantaged Pietermaritzburg Township communities through education and community development. Ukulapha works in solidarity with the community to achieve this goal.
Ukulapha’s main objectives are:
To enhance and foster educational opportunities.
To improve teaching and learning conditions in township schools.
To educate by teaching life and employment skills and sharing health information.
To focus on the empowerment and development of youth and women.
Ukulapha’s secondary objectives are:
To provide psychosocial support to community members in need.
To alleviate poverty, both through education and skills training, as well as by providing basic food and supplies to those in immediate need.
To protect vulnerable community members: children, orphans, and caregivers especially women
ABOUT UKULAPHA COMMUNITY OUTREACH
In 2007 as Carolyn was to return to South Africa for an annual visit to research the establishment of Ukulapha, a friend in Victoria, Canada, Joel Goldsmith, offered to fund college education for an impoverished youngster.
Hearing the story, Carolyn’s friend Mags Johnston was touched by Joel’s generosity and thoughtfulness; immediately she and her husband offered funds for groceries for a granny tending her orphaned grand-children.
Nelly Mbeje identified 5 families totaling 28 orphaned and vulnerable youngsters. This was the tip of the iceberg in terms of need.
Ukulapha Community Outreach Project was born as many Victoria friends and their friends responded generously and kindly to the call for funds. The direst need at the time was food; and so Carolyn shopped monthly for staple groceries, fruits and vegetables. She and Nelly would fill hampers in a shed on Nelly’s property in Slangspruit, and the children would come and collect their hampers. This gave us a chance to connect and chat and keep abreast, in a small way, with the families.
During this time it became obvious that post high school education would offer the best benefit; skilling and empowering, nurturing hope and dreams towards a brighter future.
The first occasion we delivered food house to house; Carolyn noticed an engaging and helpful young 11 year old Mantombi Mngadi in the back seat. They clicked instantly and a relationship blossomed, also to include her brother Ntuthuko, one year her senior. Education was discussed at some point and both youngsters requested alternate schools offering them enhanced opportunities.
During the years of the Apartheid government, white schools were privileged; and although integrated since democracy, remain way ahead of the impoverished township schools. After 16 months assisting the families with food hampers, we discussed investing in higher education instead. This was greeted with much enthusiasm and the Education program evolved and grew amidst much excitement and enthusiasm.
Through Mantombi Carolyn was introduced to the Slangspruit Public Primary School (SPS) where, at that time, 840 vulnerable children from kindergarten to grade 7 attended. Her curiosity was peeked since she’d been pondering how Ukulapha could reach more children given the extreme need. Once Carolyn met Mr Msomi, the school principal, and his staff, witnessed their kindness and caring and desire to offer the children the best possible learning environment under the impoverished circumstances; it made perfect sense for Ukulapha and SPS to work together towards a common goal.
Home improvements evolved as the 5 families, particularly those living in mud homes, struggled to maintain basic levels of comfort and shelter. In the spirit of Ubuntu, Ukulapha encourages families to assist each other; building community and giving back to the project. As homes are repaired and re-built young men and women help each other. Grassroots personal support goes hand in glove with all the services offered; providing coaching and advocacy, mentoring and counselling.
The evolution from food hampers to education has been mostly successful with one remaining family, the Mngadi’s, and the education of their smaller children.
And so Ukulapha evolved to focus its work at Slangspruit Public Primary School (SPS), where the student body totaled 1017 learners in 2015. These learners and thereby their families benefit from the opportunities provided and the partnership between Ukulapha and SPS.
GRASSROOTS ORGANIC BEGINNINGS OF UKULAPHA