Educated, Inspired and Challenged in South Africa

I was educated, inspired and challenged at the Consultation for African partners of Covenant World Relief (CWR) that I attended in May.  Representatives came from 2 partners Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), eastern DRC and me from NW DRC, 2 partnerships in Kenya, South Sudan/Ethiopia plus CWR and Serve Globally in Chicago.  The 30 attendees were hosted by Zimele Wethu Foundation in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.








I was educated about how the other partners are working to empower people, particularly women, and address felt needs within each of their contexts.  Each partner’s presentation was exceptional and could merit its own blog entry.  Some highlights:

  • In the NW provinces of Cameroon SIRDEP and Njinikejem have started village savings and loans (VSL) groups and women’s clusters to address what had been seen as a hopeless situation of poverty.  Household incomes are increasing.  Women are saving, starting small businesses and repaying their loans.
  • CEFA in Western CAR addresses food security through increasing both the quantity, quality and diversity of food produced.  After experimentation and trials on the experimental and demonstration farm the best varieties and practices are taught local farmers who come to the farm.  Local partner coops contribute to the distribution of the best practices and seeds.








  • Jitokeze in NW Kenya is using the Results Based Management (RBM) strategy to evaluate and improve the projects which address food, water and income security in one of the dryer areas of Kenya.
  • HOLD-DRC works in and around Goma, DRC where they provide counseling and pair education to women and girls suffering from the many traumas inflicted on them by the years of war and unrest in the area.
  • Zimele Wethu has started numerous self-help groups (SHGs) in the Zulu communities living in the area around Piertermaritzburg.  These groups, mostly composed of women, are bringing change to the lives of their members as well as working together to improve their communities.

Transparent accounting by counting the money before everyone.









  • As Zimele Wethu was our host I learned a LOT about the sad history of apartheid and the long-term negative impact of forced migration of the Zulu people.  Zimele Wethu’s approach with the SHGs is truly restoring community and a positive spirit.

self-help group meeting in a rondavel, a traditional Zulu home






A cluster of self-help groups celebrating


I always find it inspiring to be with other collaborators in community development.  I learn from what they are doing and reflect on ways I can apply what I’ve learned in our Congo context.  The impact of the VSLs in Cameroon and the SHGs in South Africa is huge.  We visited numerous SHGs, heard testimonies, visited gardens and local initiatives.  Testimonies from participants revealed the mentality changes taking place as they have begun to recognize their local resources, take ownership of their development and not wait for someone else.






The gardens above were one self-help group’s project to improve their own food security and make some money.  The members rotated working.


The extensive research and reflection by Dr. Audrey Matimelo and Xolani Zondi on the culture and history have provided a solid foundation for the SHG approach.  Even though this was the subject of Audrey’s dissertation, I am challenged and inspired by the extensive work on the local context and the long term vision for a different and better future.  I ponder, who has done or is doing such research and reflection on the issues facing the population in the NW Congo?  As Audrey and Xolani shared I could see a clear vision for a future in which the local population impacts local policy making and no longer subject to the whims of the politicians.  We also encountered women who are now standing up for themselves and not afraid to speak out.  The whole Gospel is being lived out in these communities.

The pictures below are of basic computer classes that Thanda (on Right in group picture) and her self-help group arranged in her home. The girls were taking their final test when we visited and those in the picture outside were waiting their turn.

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2 Responses to “Educated, Inspired and Challenged in South Africa”

  1. Jerry Penick says:

    Glad the trip was valuable. Is there a SHG for Karawa and Gemena – how do I earmark giving to support their coop fund?

    Blessings, Jerry

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  2. As I started to say—the next problem is getting these kinds of things out into the villages. How is Kanana doing these days?

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