Little did Carol Hoffmeyr know what she was getting into when she and her husband, Justus, moved from Johannesburg to the small village of Hamburg on the coast of the Eastern Cape back in 2000. Both physicians, Carol is a generalist while Justus’s specialty is obstetrics and gynecology.
Carol’s reason for moving was to pursue her love of art, setting up a studio in her Hamburg home. Justus would continue practicing his specialty in East London. Fortunately for Hamburg, things didn’t quite turn out as planned.
Carol was shocked to discover the ravages of HIV/AIDS in the population in and around Hamburg. Funerals every week were the order of the day, with virtually no families spared. Determined to do something about it, Carol returned to practice to begin treating and educating people about the disease.
The Keiskamma Trust (KT) is the organization founded by Carol to address the issues facing Hamburg and the surrounding area. The Keiskamma Canada Foundation (KCF) supports the Trust, primarily through fundraising.
So what are the issues facing the people of Hamburg and the surrounding area?
The major raison d’être for the founding of KT remains an issue. However, thanks to funding, education and the use of ARVs, it is largely under control. In particular, a dedicated, trained staff of health care workers/aides make regular visits into the community. Their focus on HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and nutrition has made a huge difference.
Lack of jobs is endemic throughout the Eastern Cape. In the Hamburg area unemployment levels can be around 80%, with most families on state support. KT has helped by:
- Hiring staff, including health care workers
- Developing the Art Project
- Providing funding for Community gardens
- Initiating the Music Academy program
- Developing Vulindlela, a centre for computer learning and other technical issues, including driver training
Education has to be the foundation for moving this part of South Africa – in fact much of the country – out of poverty and into a future of opportunities. Most of the students in the Hamburg area make it to high school Grade 10. Enrolment in Grades 11 and 12 then drops off dramatically. 20% maybe 30% arrive at Grade 12. But then many of them don’t make it from there to university. The problems include:
- Issues with the schools themselves, substandard classroom space and desks, availability of equipment and supplies (including required texts) as well as minimal maintenance.
- Lack of qualified teachers, transportation – many teachers must come huge distances – and costs of accommodation if teachers decide to spend the week in Hamburg.
- Access to today’s digital technology.
The Keiskamma Trust has decided to focus on education in digital technology. Nearly every student, especially in the upper grades, owns a cell phone. What they don’t have is access to is technical education and the computers and other hardware/software that goes with it.
To function in today’s digital world, KT believes that students have a right to be fully fluent technically. That takes resources, too little of which is available through the Department of Education.
Keiskamma Canada (KCF) supports this direction the Trust is taking. Through our fundraising, grant programs and volunteers on the ground in Hamburg, we have shown the importance we place on education.
Our Benefit Dinner and Auction on October 29th has one objective: give a major boost to this goal of building a technical education initiative for Hamburg students.