‘I like an insurance on accidental death.’ Sometimes you drop into the middle of a conversation and it will make very little sense to you. This sentence was said in a meeting that I walked into again after answering a phone call.
Changing into a life for a couple of months in South Africa feels quite similar. I feel I’ve literally dropped into something new which is not totally making sense to me yet. The first few days have been an intense introduction into the work of the Olive Leaf Foundation and its affairs like any organisation has. Next to it being an intense introduction, it also seems a very promising start. Starting with the physical surroundings, whoever has had the pleasure of visiting the Winelands on the Western Cape will know the landscape makes a stunning impression. The office where I’ll be based is situated in the middle of these Winelands and when I look out the window I can literally see the grapes grow. In addition the office turns out to be part of a village that specializes in creating a sustainable living environment with a study institute on sustainability issues and a wonderful coffee shop with the added bonus of organic foods and lovely tea and fresh juices. I’m seriously considering as well to follow a course at the institute.
It is quite a contrast with the site offices based in the various urban township areas, however my visit to the Kayelitsha office in Cape Town offered an inspiring start (and the area actually has wonderful views if you look beyond the rows and rows of shacks and housing projects). The work of the foundation focuses mainly on orphans and vulnerable children (with HIV/AIDS) and their care givers and simply said trying to improve their lives in a sustainable way through a number of social services. The methodology that I will be working on in part is called the Most Significant Change and should give stories of how the lives of people have changed through the work of the organisation. This methodology was introduced to the staff through a workshop that I could immediately jump into. A practice round with the staff delivered some chilling and inspiring stories already. For example a powerful story of young man getting into gang activities, but then attended one of the meetings of the Olive Leaf Foundation. Slowly he got involved and in regular contact with the staff of the organisation. They encouraged him to stop his involvement with the gang and as a result over time he actually decided to go into the other end of the spectrum, sign up for the South African Police Force. I’m sure I will share many more stories later on, but the most invigorating of it all was the passion of the staff for their work. I will certainly join them to see more of their work.
Next to this I’ve explored a little bit of Stellenbosch and have already found a lot of good food (including a great Lebanese restaurant – quite surprising) and as off next week even have a room in a home with which apparently is a well-known rock star here in South Africa. Seems like I’m ‘dropping’ into this new life quite well.
Oh, and the conversation on ‘accidental death’ was actually on the introduction of an insurance scheme that the Olive Leaf Foundation will offer to its communities in cooperation with an insurance company. Not the most uplifting topic, but actually a good initiative as it makes an insurance available to people in communities that have never had this opportunity before, but deal with a reality where it can be very necessary to have the costs covered for funeral arrangements in case of accidental death.