News in South Africa

News in South Africa

The Umzi Wethu Project

Umzi Hike


Southern Africa is experiencing an increasing number of HIV/AIDS related deaths, and an associated growth in the number of orphans and child headed households. At the same time, countries in the region have experienced a boom in eco-tourism, resulting in the establishment and expansion of game reserves and a need for skilled workers in the customer service industry. Amidst these contrasting trends lies an insidious poverty, fuelling the AIDS epidemic and threatening to undermine the region's economic gains from eco-tourism.

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The Wilderness Foundation has found one solution to this problem in South Africa. It has developed a dynamic intervention model called the “Umzi Wethu Training Academy for Vulnerable Youth”. Relying on the economic promise of the ecotourism and hospitality sectors to tackle the cycle of poverty and HIV/AIDS head-on with skills development and job placement for some of the most vulnerable members of society – youth on the verge of adulthood. Umzi Wethu targets youth that show resilience and ambition – but despair of opportunities to support their households – and transforms them into highly employable young adults.

Conservation students enjoy the beauty of nature having climbed to the top of the Glen Avon waterfalls near Somerset East.

The Umzi Wethu model builds on the success of the Wilderness Foundation’s other social programmes, Pride and Imbewu, which both aim to introduce previously disadvantaged learners to the power and beauty of their natural environments. The Umzi Wethu programme was piloted with the opening of the first Umzi Wethu Academy in Port Elizabeth in April 2006 following an extensive planning and feasibility process. A second, rural academy was opened in Somerset East in March 2008 to provide nature focused, conservation based training programs.

OLIVE LEAF Foundation has been a close partner in the development, testing evaluation and support of the Umiz Wethu programme.

News in South Africa

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