Tackling the facts from the valley of 1000 hills…

Tackling the facts from the valley of 1000 hills…

So as I catch my breath sitting in Vancouver Airport after a fantastic month of travelling, I can’t help but begin to further reflect on some of my South Africa experiences. A big theme of the experience and something that I will continue to take in the rest of my life is the difference between fact and assumption. Something I will tackle in a later blog but for now here are some facts about the area we stayed in with some comments on some of them. Over the next couple of weeks I will begin to tackle each one in turn.

The facts:

  • The communities are still affected by the apartheid.
  • Within the valley of 1000 hills there is a HIV issue
  • The unemployment rate within the Valley of 1000 hills is high.
  • Rape and sexual abuse are significant concerns within the areas we visited
  • Waste of all types is a huge problem
  • There are a number of support organisations running within the area.
  • Although there are schools within the communities the teaching within many areas is sub optimal with many young adults still struggling with basic maths and literacy.
  • The South Africans we met were some of the most passionate people I have ever met breaking out in song and dance at seemingly random points!
  • Bribes within police and services
  • The affect of aid & handouts is still having an impact on the communities.


The apartheid although happening a number of years ago is still affecting the country. Many people we spoke to said that there are still areas that are known for particular colours of skin and that in our case certain areas were unsafe for white people to go into. The difference in schooling between communities is still significant with majority white schools or majority black schools but there is a feeling that this is now not based on skin colour but rather on available income. Black people are referred to as coloureds both by the government and within communities.

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The area of the valley of 1000 hills is known as the epicentre for HIV/ AIDs within South Africa. You can clearly see the affect of it throughout the communities with a generation the majority of which between the ages of 20-30 missing leading to families often being led by grandparents. The awareness or acceptance within some of the communities is still not there, with children not being school and some families not educating them. Often even within the schools children are told but still often don’t accept it exists or if they do they don’t see the scale.

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Ben speaking to some of the children in Makaputu. A fantastic orphanage in the valley of 1000 hills.


The area we stayed in had significant levels of unemployment but the truth is that the scale of the problem is still very much an unknown. Within the townships it is often one of two members of a household that are earning as in England but within some of the households we visited there could be in some cases more than 8 children. This problem in my opinion seemed on one hand because of the lack of jobs or industry within the close vicinity, another on the skill levels within the community but finally and most importantly in my opinion the aid culture or mentality. The mentality seemed so rife within so many of the people we visited simply that if they prayed or were willing to wait long enough they would receive more food or whatever else it was they needed. It was heart wrenching to listen to some of the people talking at the food handout we did of how they had no ambition to work or look for work because they knew they could get stuff off other people for without doing anything.

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An interview with a local man who has now got employment in the valley of 1000 hills with another local organisation.

Rape and Sexual Abuse

Within many communities rape and sexual abuse is rife in significant numbers. One of our team Matt Pradhan is in the process of producing a documentary about it from talking to rape survivors (the terminology they use- not victims). From some of the stories I heard, there was the potential that girls as young as two years old had been sexually abused. Many people within the communities consider the problem to be in mindset. It is horrible to think of the circumstances that some of these people have been in and it is further concerning to think that when Matt mentioned about rape of men the response was always almost of surprise at the suggestion.

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Matt interviewing Jenni a previous member of the police force and current supporter of rape survivors.

More to come…

Handout Economy

We all think we are doing fantastic things when people are asking us for money on the high street but during the trip I was able to visualise the legacy of badly managed aid.

During the second week, we were fortunate enough to go to a fantastically managed orphanage called Makaputu, providing a home to 49 young people. We were introduced to the centre last year but this year partnered with an American team that was working with some of the young people to look at their entrepreneurial attitude. Our team went in and delivered a session on creative thinking and basic business model canvasing. Both techniques to assist in them taking their business to the next level.

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After delivering the session, we were kindly asked by the centre if we would like to join them on a food handout into the local townships, an opportunity I jumped on. It was a real insight into the aid culture in the townships, Graham the outreach manager from Makaputu, showed us into the most at risk households.

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We were shocked to find about 10 children sleeping on 2 single beds, in a room no bigger than what would be considered a box room in England. This was a challenging concept further challenged by the fact that in this tiny house they had two TVs, DVD player, video player and some sort of music player. It was a really difficult concept to deal with as they don’t have enough money for food but will spend on luxury items.

This finding was then compounded when we arrived at the community centre. This centre, Graham informed us, might deal with around 40 families, that could be up to 10 people per family (although it is difficult to know for sure). The people that were there when we were talking to them had no ambition to earn money or get a job but were instead complacent to rely on the handouts. It was a highly frustrating concept for me.

The truth is there are many organisations doing fantastic things with the donations that are given but please think before you give to organisations who are simply providing a product to a foreign country. Often their is a deeper problem than the most visible one which relies on organisations like World Changers and Makaputu who change mindsets to see real change within the economy.