On the outskirts of Kruger National Park and the surrounding Private Game Reserves is a rural area called Lillydale B. In 1998 staff and clients of Reservations Africa started donating and hand delivering school supplies to the area. At the time volunteer teachers were running a preschool from a one room church called the Church of the Nazarene. In the course of a day, up to 120 children passed through the school/church in shifts. As this room had no storage facilities, each night the volunteer teachers had to take home all the school supplies that we had brought them over the years.
In November 2000, Reservations Africa made a commitment to the community to build a school. Our fundraiser was launched in January 2001 and by October 2001, we reached our target of CAD46,000.00
Reservations Africa hired Enviroserve, a local environmental consulting company to oversee the project. All construction workers were hired from Lillydale B and construction began mid Feb and our lovely new 3-classroom school was ready for our grand opening, May 16, 2002.
The principal, Luzile Xhosa had organized the most amazing day. In addition to speeches from the local dignitaries, entertainment included gumboot dancing, traditional dance, choir singing and a traditional meal. Brett Horner and Richard Shorey of the South African Sunday Times were on hand and the story ran May 19.
In May 2003, we surprised the volunteer staff by telling them we could now pay them each a small monthly salary. Needless to say, they were thrilled and to see everyone in the bank for the first time is something we will always remember. The staff of 8 consists of 1 principle, 3 teachers, 2 cooks and 2 security guards.
With the salaries now in place, the biggest issue was water. The village borehole (well) was unreliable as quite often the diesel pump was broken or the well was dry. It was not unusual for the villagers to have to walk 3-5 km just to fetch water.
In many ways the water project was more challenging than building the school. In order to receive a permit from the province we had to provide them with an impact assessment study. August 2003, we received our permit and the digging began. After 2 unsuccessful attempts, they struck water at 63 meters. As luck would have it, it's only 10 meters from the existing water tower and 16 meters from the school. Soon, the school had running water; it didn't take long for the villagers to get wind of the good news and come running with their water jugs in hand.
Our next hurdle was to get electricity to the school. Our water system was dependent on electricity as we were using a state of the art electric pump to fill the water tank. After many months of delays and red tape, the school was finally electrified in Jun 2004. The water/electrical phase cost CAD 25,600.00.Now that the school has water, we brought in top soil and had grass planted and in addition the school got a fresh coat of paint. Enviroserve was in charge of the project and all labourers were hired from Lillydale B.
May 2004, at the annual travel trade show held in Durban, to my surprise, South Africa Tourism had arranged for our principle, Luzille Khosa, the village Chief, plus 2 members of the Rural Development Committee to be flown in for a 3 night stay. They were toured through the trade show, explained the value of tourism, shown the city sights as well as a Zulu Cultural village. What a wonderful experience this was for them and something they will be talking about years to come. The biggest surprise was that at the awards night, I was given the first ever "Tourism Friend" award.
Being on stage with Luzille, the Chief, David and Joseph was very emotional for me. The best part of the award was that South Africa tourism has committed to training 2 tour guides from the village. It is still my desire to offer village tours to the neighbouring game reserves and with the help of South Africa Tourism, this is now possible.To celebrate our electrical/water phase, John and I went to Game, a local department store in Nelspruit, to buy the school an electric stove. Well, you can imagine the excitement when this was delivered to the school. Outdoor cooking will soon be a thing of the past. The MD of Sabi Sabi, Patrick Shorten has kindly donated a refrigerator.
On our annual
visit, John taped the Lillydale B choir
with the intention of making CD's for them to sell locally. Reservations
Africa encourages our clients when traveling in the area to go and visit
and experience a bit of what rural South Africa has to offer.
With advance warning, Luzile Khosa, our principal always has the choir
perform in the school courtyard for our guests. Having the opportunity
to sell their CD's to the visitors will provide a wonderful memory to
come home with as well as financially benefit the choirs.
On our most recent visit (May 2006) we purchased pine cafeteria furniture as the children have breakfast and lunch at the school. Finally, the children don't have to sit on the floor for their meals. The vegetable garden is flourishing which is providing a nutritious lunch for the children and staff.