Uthando, meaning love in Xhosa, was founded with the aim to raise funds for community development projects in South Africa. It supports a mindboggling array of projects: urban agriculture; animal welfare; youth development through the medium of art, dance, choir singing, classical music, drumming or sport; special needs education; assistance to refugees; the environment; economic empowerment through skills development; arts and crafts; township theatre; prisoner rehabilitation; care and protection for children, women and the elderly. Uthando offers township tours that provide visitors and locals alike with an opportunity to see the townships with new clarity, understand what has shaped them, and what their people need from those of us more fortunate to create a brighter future. So simply by going on an interesting and heartwarming tour, you are contributing to a better South Africa!
One of the projects supported by Uthando is the Amy Biehl Foundation; founded by the parents of Amy Biehl, a talented and dedicated young America woman who, in 1993, tragically was killed in an act of political mob violence in the Guguletu township just outside of Cape Town. ABF is a non-profit organisation whose programmes are designed to develop and empower youth in the townships, reduce the levels of crime and violence and give them opportunities to become future leaders and entrepreneurs in society. The programmes place a focus on the creative side of the child’s brain, supplement the shortcomings of the educational system in the townships of South Africa. ABF programmes reach over 1,500 children every day, and include:
- Sport including soccer, hockey, swimming, diving, surfing, cricket and kickboxing
- Music including violin, guitar, marimba, choral singing, and brass band
- HIV / AIDS peer education
- Greening and environment
- Creative arts including drama and dance (kwaito, modern, traditional and ballet), pottery, art & beading
- Computer literacy
One of the many young people that have been supported by ABF is Akhona Mngqibisa, and this is his story:
As a young boy, Akhona would spend his days gambling, begging on the streets and associate himself with gangsters. Without any direction, the route his life would take was clear. However, in 2007, at the age of fourteen, he was introduced to the Amy Biehl Foundation and has never looked back.
Now, at the age of eighteen, Akhona attends ABF’s greening & environment programme on a daily basis, and the Muay Thai outreach programme twice weekly. He is a champion fighter and gold medal winner in huge events including ‘South Africa Champs’, winning all fights that he has participated in. With big ambitions for his future, Akhona now identifies these ambitions as one day becoming a reality.
How has being with the Amy Biehl Foundation changed your life?
It has changed lots of people’s lives and given an alternative to begging and gangsterism. I had no direction before the Foundation; I would gamble the whole day and was involved with gangsters.
What do you think you would be doing now without the Foundation?
I would be lost and have no direction. The Amy Biehl Foundation always leaves me with something to think about. It has given me ambition for the future.
What has been your highlight with the Foundation?
The camps and outings are my highlight. I love meeting other people from different schools, making friends and socialising. I like to go out of my community to different places.
What are your goals for the future?
I would like to be a hotel manager and be my own boss one day. I want to feel important. I would also love to be an airport manager so I can meet lots of different people from different cultures.
What motivates you?
My teacher (Mzwandile Fulani) motivates me to keep studying and hand in my projects on time.
A big thank you to Michelle Bagley (ABF) and Akhona for sharing this inspirational story! We wish Akhona all the very best with his future endeavours. Perhaps he will be the manager of an EcoAtlas-listed hotel one day?
About the author:
Katarina Mancama is passionate about sustainable tourism. She holds a Master’s degree in Responsible Tourism and has dedicated her career to ensuring that tourism benefits the people, places and communities that make it happen. She is the founder of Simply South Africa, a web-based platform for people that want to Explore hidden gems, Experience up-close and personal encounters with people and places & Embrace South Africa by making sustainable choices: