The heART of a Woman Project Finding Ubuntu in South Africa by Andrea Rees
The heART of a Woman Project Finding Ubuntu in South Africa
By Andrea Rees
On December 10, 2012, I had the opportunity with James Fernie of Uthando SA, to visit Khayelitsha. Khayelitsha is about 30 minutes from Cape Town and is one of South Africa’s largest and most impoverished townships. It was important to me as a visitor to South Africa and a traveller who is passionate about getting to know the world and its people, to not just check things off my “life list”, but to visit a township as authentically as possible.
Our first stop was at eKhaya eKasi, an art and education center. Lulama, the coordinator of eKhaya eKasi, welcomed us warmly and spoke of the issues women are faced with. HIV/AIDS is an epidemic, domestic abuse is rampant, and unemployment is high as is alcoholism. For many, education does not advance beyond grade 9 and there is very little social assistance.
Most live on a few dollars a day and do not know where their next meal is coming from.
Women are raising their children alone.
Grandmothers are raising their children’s children.
Lulama led us on tour of the facilities that included a small bed and breakfast, an industrial kitchen, a café, an art boutique and the rooftop. The view from the rooftop showed what seemed like endless rows of homes packed closely together, some of brick, others were made of metal, tin or wood and whatever material could be found. The makeshift homes are without electricity and water.
View of Khayelitsha from the eKhaya eKasi rooftop – December 10, 2012
She told us what programs were offered at eKhaya eKasi such as literacy for adults and children, education about HIV/AIDS and skills development and small business to fight unemployment and poverty. We also learned that the women are taught arts and crafts so they may have a small business and sell their work in the on-site art boutique.
The visit spoke to me as woman and a mother. I thought of their children and I thought of my own children. They are mothers just like I am. Their dreams for our children are much the same. We just want our children to be happy and healthy and for them to have a better life than the life we have.
I thought of my Gran (grandmother) as she came from Myanmar, a developing country, as a single mother. It is only by chance we are born where we are born. If there weren’t people to help her in her journey to Canada, life could have been very different for her and for my father.
The model of education and empowerment through the arts inspired me and as a professional photographer, it spoke to me. After I returned home to Canada, I wondered how I could help.
After some research I discovered that Art Aids Art, a non-profit 501c3 organization in California founded eKhaya eKasi and currently funds them in their efforts of becoming their own non profit and fully sustainable. I noticed that the Art Aids Art website has a Loving Africa store where they sell art products from eKhaya ekasi and that the photography section was empty. So I came up with an idea to offer a workshop to educate the women of eKhaya eKasi in photography with donated used iPhone 4/4s/5 to empower and to create sustainabile income and small business and contacted Art Aids Art. Tom Harding, one of the co-founders liked the idea and they and The heART of a Woman Project (THOAW) have since partnered in efforts to bring this workshop and program to eKhaya eKasi November 18 – December 2, 2013.
What the Participants Will Learn during the Workshop
Mobile technology and mobile photography
Photography fundamentals with a focus on lighting and composition
How to select, edit and prepare images for print as photographic art products
Social media and small business for photography to aid in the success of the project
The goal is for each participant to have 200 limited edition art cards produced from 1 image. They will be available for sale in the on-site boutique at eKhaya eKasi and through our partners in the local Tourism and Fair Trade industry by the end of the workshop.
Additionally, the images will be brought back to Canada where I and volunteers will edit the images to produce more photographic art products such as greeting cards and a coffee table book of the images the women created, behind the scenes and photos and bios of the participants.
With Internet access, the device is all-in-one. You can create, edit and share images from the device. If images are shared on Instagram, products can be created as various companies have apps that access the images from Instagram to produce anything from magnets, to greeting cards to canvas prints.
We hope to get enough used iPhone 4/4s/5 donations especially with the recent release of the iPhone 5c and 5s, but are also crowd funding (fundraising) through IndieGoGo right now.
We are fundraising to provide the workshop and materials, the technology, transportation, translator, interpreter, Internet, marketing, producing perks and printed products etc.
We are fundraising for 10 participants, but already have more than 10 participants that would like to join. With donated iPhones and being full funded on IndieGoGo, we should be able to accept more into the pilot program, but we need your help to make it happen.
Women in the Skills Development program at eKhaya eKasi
Khayelitsha’s unemployment rate is 80%; they need a solution right now so they can feed their families.
I don’t have a solution to end poverty, but I have a skill I can teach and a way they can earn money. Every little step leads to bigger steps. This is about empowering the women to be self-sustainable for the long term. Going to Khayelitsha and just giving money is not a long-term solution. They want to be empowered. They want to learn skills to take care of themselves and their children. eKhaya eKasi has the infrastructure in place and the centre supports over 400 local residents and welcomes tourists from around the world.
We know that it takes a ‘village’. This is a small grassroots initiative, but we have BIG ideas and goals. Many times it can seem that our efforts and hard earned dollars get lost when it goes to a big charity. While we do need those charities too, it’s the smaller initiatives where you will see WHO you are helping and how you’re helping. We will be tweeting, facebooking and instagramming from South Africa so you will meet the participants.
Donations have come in from all over the world – from Canada, the United States, the UK, Ireland and even India, but we need more, a lot more.
Volunteers and bloggers from around the world have been helping spread the word and gain exposure for the project.
The world is smaller because of the Internet and the communities we participate in whether a photography, mobile photography, blogger, mom, travel or social good community.
My hope is for this project to continue to be global in that people from all over the world can get involved whether financially, with time as a volunteer or by helping to spread the word. I also hope to set up a volunteer photography program where photography volunteers from Cape Town, South Africa or travelling photographers and mobile photographers can offer some time to take the women on a photo walk, continue the education, help with technology or whatever is needed.
The heART of a Woman Project is committed to providing education, guidance and support in mobile photography and small business for photography, not just during the 2 weeks, but following the workshop to ensure success of the project.
Heart Ornaments created at eKhaya eKasi
How it could make an Impact:
Gives women a voice and a creative outlet
Allows a real perspective of a woman in a developing community
Offers skills in mobile technology, photography, small business and social media
Creates sustainable income
Supports the community and eKhaya eKasi
Opportunity to teach other women
Makes a difference
The goal is for the women and the program to be completely self-sustainable not only in photography, editing and producing products, but financially as well as they run their own small businesses.
If we bring modern technology to the women, they can learn mobile photography and technology so they can earn money just like I earn money with my mobile photography… except their dollars go a much longer way.
If ONE tourist buys ONE postcard, they can feed a family
We are only talking about a few dollars, a latte at a Starbucks.
With mobile technology and Internet, they can arm themselves with knowledge and knowledge is power. I am passionate about empowering women because in the end, we are helping the children and the children are the future and these gestures could help their future.
We really need the mobile photography community to speak loudly and support this project as this mobile photography initiative will empower the women and help make a difference. I believe this is the first of its kind.
We wholeheartedly believe in the Ubuntu philosophy that is a beautiful word in the Xhosa language that I learned while in South Africa that in summary means, “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
Ubuntu speaks of the interconnectedness of all people. It is caring, respect, love, community, humanity, compassion, openness and sharing to name a few adjectives that describe the essence of the word.
My hope is that your compassion does not have a border.
We invite you to become a part of this initiative by donating, sponsoring, volunteering and spreading the word.
This project relies entirely on the interests and good will of individuals and businesses that recognize how important it is to transfer skills and empower women in developing countries and communities to provide for themselves and their families.
Here’s how YOU can HELP TODAY:
We have partnered with Art Aids Art, a non-profit 501c3 organization. They are acting as a liason between THOAW and eKhaya eKasi. Additionally, they are our fiscal recipients for any persons or corporations in the United States wanting to donate directly and receive a tax receipt.
Founder and Director
The heART of a Woman Project
Empowering women through mobile photography