A highlight on the White River cultural calendar at the moment is the fabulous, infectiously joyous celebration of African music by students of the Casterbridge Music Development Academy. I defy anyone not to get up and dance.
Blessed with ample grounds and a strong borehole, Lucy Ngobeni and her team of helpers are planting up the vegetable garden. In between the mango and pawpaw trees, neat rows of spinach, beetroot, onions, lettuce, cabbages, peppers, chillis and butternut promise an abundant return in the months to come.
The team’s eyes were opened to the challenges that many people face here in Mpumalanga. The satisfaction and fulfillment of being able to provide the solution to a problem and thus make a difference in many lives, was enhanced tenfold by the realization that their own mindsets and attitudes had also changed irrevocably. The givers had gained more than the receivers.
The programme’s success depends on committed principals, welcoming staff and caring host families, dedication from the likes of Netto Maluka of Mbombela Tours who always goes the extra mile, and the belief by their university (especially Michael Wirrer) in the importance of exposure to different education systems to broaden the mind and change perceptions and perspectives. It’s a win-win situation all round!
What is their motivation, I ask? Apart from an innate compassion for their fellow man, they are constantly moved by the humility of the people they meet here and their resilience even under challenging circumstances.
Liz is continually amazed by how loving and caring these host families are. Long term friendships and family bonds are forged, overseas trips are organised and fundraising efforts are initiated. Minds and horizons, on both sides of the equator, are broadened. “It makes me proud to be part of this White River community of ours and gives me such hope for the future,” she remarks.