A SOUTH AFRICAN MADventure
Dear Adventurous Woman,
This is your invitation to take part in a life-changing experience.
For several years now I have been building relationships with a diverse range of people, organisations in South Africa, most recently focusing on connecting with women, to my absloute joy and delight. I intend to return to this glorious country in November, to further these connections of empathy and celebration, and am inviting a small group of women to join me on my MADventure. This will involve an immersion into the culture and lifestyles of women living in the townships of Soweto, as well as training with mixed groups at Nelson Mandela University in two transformational programmes for personal and community development.
MADventures are life-enriching experiences in which those taking part set out to Make A Difference, not only in their own lives but in the lives of others in need. This is the most ambitious MADventure so far, and I hope it will be the first of many in this new league. Some of you have already expressed an interest in taking part, and I have spent the past few weeks (in addition to becoming a first-time grandmother) exploring possibilities for the most amazing experience possible in a relatively short time.
Some aims of the MADventure are to:
- Create empathic connections between women from vastly diverse backgrounds
- Transcend barriers and divisions such as race, culture, background, age, experience, religion etc.
- Make A Difference to our own lives and the lives of those with whom we connect
- Share stories, experiences and insights in a learning environment in order to better understand our place in the world and how to live more authentically, joyfully and effectively.
- Recognise the power of compassionate communication to heal ourselves, our communities and our world
- Learn skills to sustainably transform our own lives and support others in doing the same
- Practice and share those skills with women in need
- Have a wonderful, life-changing experience that will continue to bring joy long after our return home
The dates for the MADventure, excluding travel, are (morning of) 3rd to (evening of) 19th November 2018 inclusive.
As some of you know, I was initially thinking of visiting three different parts of SA where I have connections (Soweto, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town) but I think that would be too much to organise. So I have settled for Soweto and Port Elizabeth; two vastly different areas with loads to offer, the former an urban icon of social justice, the latter beautifully coastal with easy access to amazing wildlife.
As an ambassador for Charter for Compassion International, I try to connect with other partners and potential partners wherever possible. Most of the organisations we will be working with on this trip are Charter Partners and there will be a focus on unity through compassionate action throughout.
I have been invited, for the third year running, to deliver training to a diverse group of people at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. This will probably be a mixed group of students, staff and local NGO leaders. I anticipate that a large majority will be women and the training will follow a broadly feminist theme. I am working with (female) academics from NMU and Plymouth Marjon University on a research project involving my AccepTTransend model, and I hope they will all be present.
In previous years at NMU I have delivered one two-day workshop each time, focusing on The Virtues Project, The AccepTTranscend Model for Transformation (both programmes for personal and community development) and Charter for Compassion (international “network of networks”).
This year the university has found funding for me to deliver two three-day workshops, the first an introduction to the excellent Virtues Project, the second to AccepTTranscend – a model I designed myself. Participants who attend the full training will qualify as mentors in these models.
Therefore, this MADventure is particularly relevant for women who would like to gain new insights and skills for their own personal growth, and for use with others, whether family, community, specific groups or all of these.
Soweto is a very special place that has become my second home in the past few years. It is well-known for the student uprising in 1976 that turned the tide on the brutal apartheid system and led eventually to Nelson Mandela being released from prison, and becoming president when black South Africans were given the vote in 1994. (Mandela lived in Soweto, and there will be an opportunity to visit his house.) Soweto’s story is a vibrant, passionate and inspiring example of courage in the face of oppression, and social action resulting in positive change.
This will be my seventh visit to Soweto. I have stayed for several weeks on most of the previous ones and got to know the community very well, developing wonderful relationships with many local people, particularly women. (Soweto has some very impressive women!)
My friend Lindiwe Tshabalala works for an organisation called Phaphama Initiatives (Phaphama means Awaken Yourself in Zulu). Phaphama specialises in Immersion Tours in which people from other countries (mostly America) experience authenic “township living”. Our time in Soweto will be spent staying with African women and their families; hosts allocated by Lindi. We will learn about the history and culture of the townships, and meet many other women who will share their stories as we share ours – creating an empathic bond that transcends race, culture, age, history and many other boundaries.
We will travel to Soweto at the beginning of the trip to meet our hosts, familiarise ourselves with the local area, and visit the places of historical significance in the Struggle for Freedom. We will visit the Gogos (Zulu for Grannies) – a wonderful group of senior citizens (almost all women) who meet most days to sing, create, play, eat and pray together. I hope those of you with an interest in crafts might bring an activity to share with them and other women and children. The welcome and inspiration you receive are likely to stay with you for a very long time!
We will also visit one of the many local creches, run by women in their homes, with few resources, to support others who need to work to support their families. We will teach games and songs to the pre-school children and staff, and take gifts for them to use in their daily activities. The local neighbourhood children will also be keen to meet us. On previous visits I have enjoyed happy hours painting and playing with them in the street. Bubbles and beads have been particular favourite activities!
Then we will fly to Port Elizabeth, where you will attend the workshops at NMU, gaining mentorship certificates alongside the other participants, and enriching their experience and yours with the opportunity to connect with women from very different backgrounds. The workshops will finish by 3.30 pm, giving you the rest of the day to explore and/or relax.
The weekend between the two workshops will be spent as you wish, perhaps exploring the town with its rich history, relaxing on the beach with the Indian Ocean crashing only metres away, dolphin-spotting from the wonderful Something Good Cafe or visiting nearby Addo Elephant Park, a vast wildlife area where you can see The Big Five, and many more, in the wild. More elephants, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, warthogs, antelopes and others than you can imagine! As a group, you can hire a guidewho will drive you around the park, knowing where to find the animals you wish to see and telling you all about them all. (My first visit to Addo was one of the main highlights of my life so far!)
When we return to Soweto, immediately after the AccepTTranscend workshop, you will have the opportunity to practice what you have just learned in a variety of short workshops with women and possibly children in the groups we will visit. These will include Crystal Fountain Spiritual Centre, where we will work with staff and community members. The last workshop I did there was one of my favourite of my entire career. So much joy and empathy – and singing. There is always singing in Soweto!
And we will meet Antoinette Sithole, whose brother, Hector Pieterson, one of the first children to be killed by police in the student uprising, has become a symbol for all those who were killed in the Struggle for Freedom. Antoinette and Hector were featured in the iconic photo, smuggled out of Soweto on the day of the uprising and seen on the front pages of many international newspapers the next day, that finally gained the attention of the outside world regarding the brutality of apartheid. Antoinette has worked tirelessly to keep the memory Hector and the other youth alive, and now works with young people, instilling a message of hope, peace and reconciliation.
Our penultimate day in South Africa – a Sunday – will see a trip to Johannesburg with Lindi to visit the amazing African craft markets, and shop for souvenirs and gifts to take home. We will have lunch in one of the cosmopolitan restaurants nearby.
On our final afternoon in Soweto we will celebrate with the community we have grown to know. There will be traditional singing and dancing, and each participant will be given an African name to reflect her character. Names and their meaning are of vital significance in the South African culture and it is a gift and privilege to receive your own.
Participants will be transported to Johannesburg airport in the evening to catch a night flight back to the UK – or wherever they are traveling to next. (While the experience is being organised from UK, women from other countries are very welcome to take part!)
In the spirit of Making A Difference, each participant in the MADventure will take an extra, large suitcase filled with gifts for the individuals and groups we will be visiting. I will provide suggestions of what is most needed, and experience has shown me that friends, relatives and even strangers are keen to make, buy and find the required contents.
While the exact cost is dependent on accommodation and other prices that cannot be exactly calculated until I know how many women are going to come, I estimate that it will be in the region of £2,000. This will include:
- Soweto – accommodation, most transport, food and activities (including transport to and from Johannesburg airport and a guided day-tour of the townships, featuring places of significance in the Struggle for Freedom, all museum entry fees, etc.)
- Return flights to Port Elizabeth,
- PE – Participation in two 3-day workshops at NMU (with refreshments and lunches) accommodation (probably B&B within walking distance/short cab ride of beach, shops and restaurants).
- Costs will not include return flights from UK (currently approx £600 direct from Heathrow for those dates), lunches and eating out in Soweto/Johannesburg, transport and meals other than at university and breakfast if provided in PE, any activities beyond scheduled workshops in PE, and any other extras. You will need to organise your own insurance.
Please note that, while I will plan and organise the general schedule, deliver the workshops in SA, accompany the group on trips etc. in Soweto, and advise and guide where I can as someone experienced in traveling in these areas, I will not be traveling with the group to and from SA, or be responsible for the group while we are away. Each participant will be responsible for her own wellbeing and participation, and I will not always be available, particularly in Port Elizabeth, although I will be contactable in emergency. I hope the group will get to know each other, through social media and in person before the trip (I will offer a one-day workshop in Plymouth, for this purpose, and to learn more about the communities we will be part of) and stick together while we are away.