Tag Archives: NGO

The Amy Foundation


Today was definitely a day to remember. We visited the Amy Foundation, named for Amy Biehl.

In 1994, Amy, a Stanford graduate, was in South Africa working on her Fulbright and as an anti-Apartheid activist. One evening, the 26-year old insisted on driving some of her friends home who lived in a township (areas outside the city designated as districts for black South Africans; typically very poor). She was to return to the United States in two days. After dropping off her friends that night, she was forced from her car and stoned to death on the side of the street by a group of political activists from the township.

Amy would not survive, but her mother and father came to South Africa to meet with the families of the perpetrators and figure out how they could carry on Amy’s work and passion for social justice. They decided to start the Amy Foundation, which began as an after-school program for school-aged children in the townships. After they had served 5-year sentences in prison, the four young mean who killed Amy made a plea in front of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for amnesty. Amy’s parents supported that plea and went on to hire two of the four young men at the foundation.

Today, the Amy Foundation provides an after-school enrichment program that includes programming on Saturdays and school holidays at 5 locations. The “learners” are able to go on field trips and camps through the program. They also added a program for young adults facing unemployment. Students learn how to compile a CV (resume), receive extensive training in one of three tracks (hospitality, arts & crafts, or beauty and wellness).

In addition to providing them with a certification, the hospitality program matches trainees with a prestigious hotel for a 1 month internship. The hotel benefits by receiving quality candidates from which to hire and the young adult likely will receive a job at the internship, but at least graduates the program with marketable skills, a respected certification, a CV, and a prestigious internship. The foundation has a beautiful model commercial kitchen and bistro! The chefs and servers in training made us a delicious lunch.

The arts & crafts program teaches beading and sewing. Students sell their handiwork and save up to buy a sewing machine of their own with help from the foundation. Students are able to gain work as tailors in the local department stores and often are able to start their own businesses after a few years of experience. Our group was impressed with their wares and purchased several items from these women and man directly from their sewing room. They have more students, but due to space limitations and funding, they can only offer sewing instruction two days per week and often have to use other spaces throughout the foundation offices to have enough work space.

The last track, beauty and wellness, partners with a local beauty services salon. Students take modules on nails, massage, waxing, and facials. As each module is complete, students are able to begin working in that field in an actual salon. They have a salon set up at the foundation, where students offer reduced-rate services as they learn their craft. With each module, they can go to work for the partner beauty salon that charges full prices (comparable to the U.S.!).

All of these courses are offered for free and the foundation provides transportation to and from students’ homes to the foundation. The beauty students weren’t present today, but the crafts and hospitality students all included alumni of the program who come back to help new students on their days off and consider the Amy Foundation home.

After touring the impressive facilities, we visited one of the after-school programs. They are housed in classrooms of local public schools. Students of all ages can take courses in health and environment, music, dance, reading skills, sports, and HIV/AIDS peer education. Upon arriving at the public primary school for this particular program, we were met by cute kids waving at us. One little girl ran up and gave me a huge hug! Another mouthed to me, “What is your name?” and I asked her hers in return. They were gracious hosts and performed their dances and songs for us in those respective classes.


Beautiful Moments


These last two days have been soul-resounding experiences. We spent the first several days engaging with spaces, information, and stories of the past that are still echoing today. Yesterday and today, however, we spent engaging with people.

Monday, we went to the University of Johannesburg to dialogue with UJ students and NYU students on the topic of kindness. We heard a keynote address from Dr. Adekeye Adebajo on Pan-African thought and the role of South Africa on the African continent. He drew parallels between South Africa and the United States histories and our self-conception of national exceptionalism.

NYU students put on a Stone Soup-inspired skit on the role of kindness in helping us realize and meet the need of others that we may see only as different than us, blind to the similarities. Two UJ students gave very articulate presentations, posing questions about what kindness means. Finally, our Rutgers group facilitated small group discussions on kindness. Each group was assigned to talk about what kindness means and how we can increase kindness in our relationships at specific levels–international, national, community, and interpersonal.

These events took place in the top level of the 6-story UJ library, a room with an incredible view of Johannesburg out one bank of windows and of the campus out the other. On our tour of the library, we learned that several months ago when they had to evacuated the library, 15,000 students were inside. As many as 80% of the 50,000 students commute and many of them use the library as long as it is open (from sometime very early until 10pm). There is one 24-hour study area and a computerized waiting system students must use to get a 45-minute turn to use one of the many computers. Rarely, apparently, are there any open seats at the library. The volume of students that pass through on a daily basis is overwhelming!

Today, we celebrated the Nelson Mandela Day of Service. Observing this annual national holiday involves committing to 67 minutes of service. We did that and more today at our service learning site, Nkosi’s Haven. Nkosi’s Haven is an NGO that serves as a home and community support system for impoverished mothers with HIV/AIDS and their children, as well as many children who orphaned due to that same disease.

The children we worked with today were about 7th grade-early 20s. We began our morning by administering a brief version of the True Colors Personality test and then breaking up into groups by students’ dominant personality color. I facilitated a discussion for the group of about a dozen students who had a tied score–indicating two dominant personality types (that’s me, too!).

First, we talked about what each color type indicated for personality traits. Then I asked them to brainstorm some careers that might be interesting to people of each personality type. The kids all said what they hoped to do for a career, and we talked about skills or education needed to achieve those goals. We followed with a brief discussion on internet safety, use of social media, and how to present yourself in a limited or professional way online. Ask yourself…would you want a perfect stranger to know this about you? What about a potential boss or someone who was going to interview you?

After identifying their unique gifts, talents, and dispositions as individuals, we played some icebreakers that reinforced our commonalities and our connectedness, as well as supporting one another in our goals. A high school aged girl gave us a tour of the little “village” that made up Nkosi’s Haven. Mothers have rooms with their children, while orphans live in group houses by sex and age. Those without parents each belong to a “college” of 12 children of various ages who are cared for by one caretaker. There are classrooms for learning English and Afrikaans, rooms for therapy, art and music rooms, a playground, and a main building with the kitchen, dining, living, and dance rooms (yes, I said dance room!).

Working with fellow graduate students from other institutions and with the children/young adults of Nkosi’s Haven was an incredible way to learn more about South Africa from those who live here. Tomorrow, we fly to Cape Town. Later this week, we will visit the Cape Town campus of Nkosi’s Haven. I look forward to see how they are similar and how they differ.

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I will probably back date a post detailing the rest of my adventures in Rajasthan, at the Taj Mahal, and in Delhi…but it was a hot and exhausting (though exciting) two weeks, that I am not quite ready to relive yet. But for now…


Yesterday, I landed at the Kathmandu airport and other than the fact that the airport does not accept their own currency for visa fees, we arrived without any major problems. Even flying in to Nepal, you could see the topography change drastically from the Indian jungles and near-middle eastern deserts we’d been in. Landing in Nepal was a dream come true for me.

My freshman year of high school I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, a book about climbing Mt. Everest. I also met Jamling Norgay and Peter Hillary, sons of Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. They have climbed the peak, as did their fathers before them. I declared to my mom at fourteen that I was in fact going to Nepal. And here I am.

My first impression is that this is a city surrounded by mountainous hills, where the earth meets the sky. The way that clouds billow through the trees in the distance is just breathtaking.

From the airport, we drove through the dusty and crowded city of Kathmandu–that was actually calm following our stay in Delhi, but probably not so coming from anywhere else in the world. The paved roads were bumpy. The partially paved roads? Bumpier. The bumpiest roads are a tossup between the gravel and unpaved roads. I wasn’t sure our car would make it up and down the steep hilly roads.

But then we arrived to the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation. We are staying as guests and volunteering for just a few short days. I can only hope to come back and stay longer in the near future. They are building an orphanage, they run a health clinic, they built a library/community center, they run a kindergarten, they conduct organic farming practices, and much more. They even sell beautiful jewelry handmade by women in the village. I have met some other volunteers here from all over, but many from the U.S. It’s been so fun to talk with them.



Learn more: http://krmecofoundation.org/