Their Own Kind of “Extreme Home Makeover”

A group from Austin, Texas called Austin2Africa will travel this November to Nyanga, South Africa, one of the poorest townships in Cape Town. The group will be restoring, painting, decorating, and celebrating the completion of an orphanage building there.

Called Emasithandane, or Emasi, the orphanage is home to 32 children from ages zero to 17 years old. Amazingly, all of the kids are taken care of by one woman, Mama Zelphina Maposela, who founded the orphanage. A nurse, Mama Zelphina was taking care of patients with AIDS when she decided to open Emasi for the children of the patients. It is a warm, loving place, yet it is very small — two rooms, a small kitchen, and a little bathroom — and in disrepair.

This is what the Austin2Africa project would like to change. The project took seed in 2008, when Vanessa Noel volunteered for two months at the Emasi orphanage in South Africa. She visited the preschool in the village and was shocked at its condition. Vanessa asked how much it would take to repair the preschool and was amazed how little amount it would take — so she decided to raise the money herself and manage the renovation.

So Vanessa got her friends and co-workers involved, and Austin2Africa was born. The group’s goal is both to restore and expand the orphanage and to help it become more established and official. The group believes that the renovations will create opportunities for further funding for the orphanage, including governmental social service support. Institutions must meet certain requirements to receive funding, and the upgrades would make the orphanage more eligible.

More than anything, Mama Zelphina and the children just need more space for their home. According to the website, “This will allow the children to live and grow in a comfortable space, and to potentially welcome new orphans in need of a safe home and happy place to live.”

As of the writing of this article, the group has raised $11,500, and they aim to raise $9,500 more by the time the volunteers leave for South Africa in November. All of the funds raised will go toward the renovation of the orphanage, including construction, installation of electricity and plumbing, furniture and supplies. Once the volunteers return to Austin, they plan to continue their fundraising for additional equipment.

Austin2Africa is affiliated with Aide Abroad, which provides volunteer opportunities at NGOs around the world, providing personnel and other support that strengthens the local organizations. Started in 1992 as the Alliance Abroad Group, the organization was originally sponsored by the US State Department to help internationals to have a cultural experience in the US, and Americans to have a cultural experience abroad. “It’s not just about a volunteer vacation,” says Vanessa Noel of Aide Abroad. It’s about supporting and building capacity of the organizations and the local staff.

Aide Abroad

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