Weekend break away for Fairhills Youth

29 Sep

It was a weekend to remember. Kogelberg farm hostel is the place to be when you want to have rest for body, heart and soul.

Every year the Fairhills Youth Club go on a camping weekend, offering the youngsters a rare opportunity to get out in nature. This is one of the highlights on the Youth Club’s calendar. This year the youth camp was held at the Kogelberg Nature Reserve in Grabouw on a wine farm surrounded by mountain, trees and vineyards.

An excited bunch of young people left on 10 September 2010 for the weekend. We arrived at the nature reserve at 7.30pm. Mrs. Elsa Du Toit, manager of the reserve, was there to give us a warm welcome. The kids were so excited that, as soon as the bus stopped, they jumped out and ran to the hostel to choose their rooms. At 8pm everyone had a bed to sleep in and was settled.

While Marthinus de Bruyn, chairman of the Fairhills youth club, and some of the girls prepared supper, I took the kids to the conference hall to keep them busy with games and karaoke and that was great sports. After supper it was bedtime at 9.20pm.

On Saturday morning after breakfast we took off to town for some shopping. Back at the farm hostel the fun continued with games on the rugby field. From far off you could hear shrieks of laughter. It was good to see everyone being so carefree. That evening the girls organized a dance and a special menu for supper. To see everyone working together to make so many fantastic things happen was really amazing.

Sunday morning, the last day of camp, the kids started to pack their bags to go home, but nobody was very keen to do that. The weekend was a huge success. After lunch they played their last games. When we hit the road again at 1.30pm, everyone was singing the song “We don’t want to go home” at full volume.

We arrived home, all safe and sound – no one was missing – with lots of wonderful memories of another great weekend. There were so many special things, but one thing no one will forget is the drinking water, real mountain water which was to die for. It was as refreshing as the whole experience.
Written by Gavin Fourie

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Glamour night at Fairhills

28 Sep

The Youth Club of Fairhills held a Modeling Show for the second year in a row on 20 August. Like last year preparations started months before. A lot was expected of this evening as initiatives such as these are important to the Fairhills community. It provides young people in the project with socially uplifting activities.

Two dress rehearsals were held in the week before the final show to make sure everything would go smoothly on the big night. For some of them it was fun, but some participants had a mixture of excitement and a lot of nerves. “Yes, I am excited. I can’t wait for everything to get started,” said Rozanne Willemse, one of the contestants, just managing to keep her nerves under control.

Eighteen girls and thirteen boys took part in the competition. Gavin Fourie was the master of ceremonies of the night and by all accounts did a good job. Gavin was also the entertainer for the night because the booked performer cancelled on the day of the show. Apart from his performance a group of young kids from the community had the audience on their toes with their funky dance move’s.

Meagan Smith, Charlet Moses, and Charme Mandy were the jugdes for the night. “For us as judges it was not an easy task to perform, because all the contestants gave their best and all of them looked so beautiful. We could not make a decision, but finally we came to an agreement,” said Charme Mandy.

The winners of 2010 Mr and Ms Fairhills were Ingrid McPherson and her brother Jonathan McPherson. “I could not believe it when I heard that I won this year’s competition,” said Ingrid. “I can only agree,” said her brother Jonathan McPherson, beaming. Their mother, Lena McPherson, was jumping around for joy. “I am very happy that both my kids won,” she said.

People from all over the project come to attend this modeling competition. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the atmosphere was happy and cheerful. Organizer Gavin Fourie said the youth club is very thankful towards everyone who made this show a reality and helped to organize this event: Fairhills Association, Du Toits Kloof Cellar, Origin Wines, Deetlefts, Alpha and Omega, Fairhills Craft Shop and Edwin Lloyd who was responsible for the video-recording.

Winners

Miss Fairhills : Ingrid McPherson (Lorraine Farm)
1st princess : Rozanne Willemse (Wangenheim Farm)
2nd princess : Karen Vermeulen (Wangenheim Farm)
Miss Personality : Jo-Hanna Conradie (Tierstel Farm)

Mr Fairhills : Jonathan McPherson (Lorraine Farm)
1st prince : Denzel Hendricks (Wangenheim Farm)
2nd prince : Eldrige Swarts (Florence Farm)
Mr personality : Steven Van Heerden (Onderplaas Farm)

New Library and Computer Center for Fairhills

27 Sep

Library assistant Marlen Hendricks with some eager readers in the back.

The Fairhills Library and Computer Center will be moved from the Fairhills Community Center to Fairhills Lorraine Primary School on Lorraine farm, one of the farms in the project. The building of the new space started on 12 January 2010.

This project is sponsored by Virgin Wines in the United Kingdom. Contributions made by Virgin Wines from the sale of Fairtrade wines made this long-standing dream of a library and computer center a reality. The computer center will be available to the community of Fairhills as well as the rest of Rawsonville. Children from the farming communities will be able to do their homework and their school projects in peace as many don’t have the kind of home environment which allows them to concentrate on their work.

The main reason for moving the center from the community hall is to have it within reach of more farms in the project. At the moment the center lies far out from where most of the farms are. Only one farm, Onderplaas, is close to the center. The team from Maans Builders are working on the project. “I am very proud to work with the people of Fairhills,” said company owner, Maans Pietersen. Maans builders, a local building company, was also responsible for building a kitchen for Fairhills Lorraine Primary school and a chemical store on High Bury one of the Fairhills farms. Spreading the benefit to the local community is something the governing body of the Fairhills project feels very strongly about. “I feel as if I am part of the Fairhills community,” Pietersen said.

At the existing library, excitement is also rising about the new library. “I can’t wait for it to open,” said Fairhills library assistant Marlen Hendricks. “I am looking forward to have my own space to work. I would like to plan some competitions for the kids,” he said. At the moment the library is in one corner of the community hall. A bigger space would mean more room for fun activities.

Once everything is settled it will be business as usual. For example the computer classes currently running will continue on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Written by Gavin Fourie

Rawsonville’s Boeremeisies

18 Aug

It has been called the hidden jewel of Rawsonville. Most people, when they see it for the first time, are amazed at how beautiful it is. Die Kaggel, meaning fireplace, as the coffee shop is called, has a reputation of getting people hooked, not just because of the delicious food and peaceful surroundings, but also because of the friendly service you get there.

Managing the coffee shop is the jovial sister- in-law team of Anmareth and Cecile Smith, the wives of two producers in the Fairhills project. So far, the shop is doing very well and they are receiving a lot of support from the Rawsonville residents. “It feels very good to have the support of the towns people ” Anmareth and Cecile said about the Rawsonville residents.

Cecile (Left) and Anmareth

The decision to renovate an old warehouse into a place where you can eat and snuggle up seemed strange. What could you do with a space like that? But the two had a plan. A big fireplace was build for a cozy atmosphere in winter. It was filled-up with everything that is old and has a story to tell. From an old cash-up register to a gramophone. The cash-up register comes from “Sully se hoek” (Sully’s corner), where the farmers used to shop. Later it was used on the farm Klipdrift in the farm shop until Anmareth’s nephew Niel “Tippel” Du Toit give it to her.

Two of the coffee shop’s specialties are the baked cheese cake and super large milkshakes. They are a must to try for anyone visiting for the first time. “After you have a taste of it you will come back for more,” two Worcester residents, Elna and Ella, said.

Fairhills coffee shop is also child-friendly. There is a very nice outside play area for kids and a room where they can play and watch DVD’s while mom and dad eat in peace. “It’s a nice place to come together and socialise and its safe for you’re kids. It’s very beautiful and the place has a very calming atmosphere, ” Antoinette Van der Merwe and Jacoline Brink, two regulars from Rawsonville said.

Amareth and Cecile are two typical “boeremeisies” (farm girls), and by that I mean they are beautiful, eye-catching and very humble with that something special about them. And now they have given Rawsonville their own “boeremeisie” – a coffee shop that catches the eye – using décor elements inspired by the past to create something new.

*Written by Charlet Moses

Environmental and Planning Update

18 Aug

Fairhills on the march for the environment

Reclamation projects

Rawsonville is a gorgeous region; we however have an ongoing battle with plant invaders in the region. Working for Water (an project driven by die Departement of Water Affairs and Forestry in South Africa since 1995) has done much to clear these invaders from our river courses, permitting additional run-off. Without these water-hungry invasive trees, particularly Black Wattle, our rivers no longer run dry during the long, hot summer months. However, new tree growth is rife and without follow-up action, these weeds return to rob us of a precious natural resource.

Fairhills has embarked on projects to plant indigenous vegetation to stop the repopulation of invaders. Indigenous seed banks have been depleted in most river banks and thus a helping hand is needed to aid nature to get our river courses back to a more natural state. Two farms, Lorraine and Edelsdale, have already started these projects.

Human activity zones are also being improved. This will not only help unlock Agri-tourism potential through beautification, but have a positive psychological impact on all residents. On Lorraine in particular, the feeling of additional pride in their surroundings is evident amongst staff. Additional trees from the reclamation projects are to be given to staff members for planting around staff housing areas.

Deciduous tree projects (planting trees which shed their leaves annually) in human activity areas will reduce energy consumption through summer shading, whilst allowing winter sun through. This project also facilitates carbon footprint reduction and turns Fairhills farms into carbon sinks, reducing global warming.

Fairhills Secure of  Tenure Project

It is important that the need for ownership be addressed. Fairhills has identified land to provide Secure of Tenure, in other words, ownership, to the staff of the members’ farms. This is a lengthy process, but design and approval phases are in progress.

Fairhills also wishes to address housing needs within our community alongside the need for agricultural land. This requires the support of the Department of Land Restitution and Rural Development. This will entail the building of homes for the Fairhills community. No longer will our members be subject to the restrictions and lack of security one has from not owning one’s own home. A retirement facility is being investigated, to provide a safe haven for those Fairhills’ members no longer employed due to old-age.

We are engaging with the Western Cape Department of Agriculture to identify Rawsonville as one of the province’s nine rural development zones, to further the upliftment of our community and our members.

Environmental Policy

Fairhills now has their own environmental policy that is aligned with the guidelines laid out by Fairtrade’s FLO-Cert guidelines. However, the Fairhills Environmental and Planning policy is a much more comprehensive document. This allows producers to plan their developments on their properties, properly implement sound chemical practices and aims to guide aesthetics, to facilitate growth in agri-tourism.

It contains a guide to reducing energy usage, how to stop invasive vegetation, how to intelligently plant both vineyards and tree projects, which areas of a farm should be preserved in a natural state and how to deal with all aspects of chemical use.

Currently, this policy document is being printed and will be handed to producers to act as a regulatory document to improve our environmental credentials and guide our sustainable farming practices.

*Written by Andres de Wet

Angels of Fairhills Daycare

9 Aug

Sweet potatoe, chicken and rice. That’s what’s on the menu today at Onderplaas Daycare Center, one of the three daycare centers in the Fairhills Project. The kitchen is filled with the smells of good food made with love by Anna Pieterse.

“There must always be a piece of meat for them,” she says. The kids receive two meals per day, breakfast, usually porridge or Weetbix, and lunch. The new foodstuffs for the month has just been delivered. Earlier that morning Cynthia Pieterson, head of all the daycare centers, was falling over her feet at the community hall to get the stock out on time. “Usually they see how far they get and let me know if they need something. But we try to work carefully,” she said hurriedly in between loading the bakkie.

As a mother of five Anna has learnt just that – work cost effectively, yet give your family the nutrition they need. On top of this life experience all the kitchen staff at the daycare centers have been trained by a certified nutritionist. Actually Anna has ten kids. Trained as midwife, she “caught” five babies in the Fairhills community. “It is so special, because you are forever part of that child’s life,” she says.  And she cannot think of a better job than working at the center where she is part of the young lives of another 30.

Being totally dedicated to the well-being of the children in their care, is what comes out when you speak to anyone involved at the centers, something worth gold in a community with so many social challenges. “You have to deal with it that not all the kids have the same home environment. When we suspect a child has a problem at home, we will speak to the parents. But you cannot speak attackingly to someone whose life is still affected by alcohol for example. That will chase them away,” says Fiela Jacobs, a teacher at the Tierstel Daycare Center.

The children receive medical check-ups on a weekly bases from a nurse and the services from a clinical psychologist and social worker is on hand if something needs to be addressed. Her colleague Fiela Jacobs agrees: “When there is a problem we don’t want parents to get so upset that they take the children out of school. Look, we cannot control what happens over weekends, but at least here, during the week, we know they eat their fill, they play, they are kids. And we watch them with eagle’s eyes to identify any learning or health difficulties.”

All the teachers have completed courses in pre-school training. Although many of them were involved in childcare informally, the advent of the project meant further learning opportunities in an area close to their hearts. A toddler with braided hair clings to Fiela’s dress. She is shy and looks away when you try to smile at her. She only wants Fiela. Loud music blares from a class room. A peek through the window reveals a bunch of 4 and 5 year old breaking it down to South African kwaito beats. There’s shrieks and shrills as they twist and turn with moves that give you muscle spasms just by looking at it. They seem deliriously happy.

In the kitchen the noise levels are not much less. Underneath much laughter and chatter Cynthia discusses the upcoming trip to the cinema with Tierstel principal, Victoria Seholoba. At the table Elizabeth Goeieman preps for the next day while talking to Karmen and Jeanine Vermeulen, two cousins, who are preparing peanut butter sandwiches in the corner. They help out over the school holidays with whatever needs to be done. Karmen just completed her three year teaching studies at the Cape Peninsuala University of Technology and will start at Lorraine Primary School soon. Jeanine is still studying public relations and hopes to do her practical training at a wine celler. To both of them it is important to give back.

“I just said today if I had lots of money I would open another care center for kids,” says Lettie. “They are our angels.” After a day spent seeing the dedication of everyone, it is very evident that in fact it is angels taking care of angels.


Reading by example

8 Aug

Frans (left) and Nicolaas with Frans' house on Wagenheim in the background

You can see that they have been friends forever. Neither one gets irritated when the other jumps in to finish his sentence. Nicolaas October (46) and Frans Willemses (47) excitedly interrupt each other when talking about the Adult Literacy Program.

We still have all our books. You know a lot of people fell by the wayside. Like real school children some ran away during break time. It was…” says Nicholaas. Ja, we were very disappointed when that particular group disintegrated. But we were very impressed with the people from Worcester (the Worcester Community Learning Center).” says Frans.

The classes took place twice a week over a period of two years. The two were not complete newcomers to the world of letters, but wanted to improve their primary school level reading skills. I could not read the newspaper properly. It was as if the words were stuck. That first day I could read a sentence without stumbling over my words, what a feeling! It was as if a flower of joy opened up inside of me,” Frans says, stroking his tie.

The church service on Wagenheim just ended and both men are still in they Sunday attire: suit and tie. The community is very religious and for Nicolaas the most important reward was “to be able to read his Bible properly.” On the “parking lot”, which is really just an open dusty space between the small community centre used for church services, grass lawns and workers houses, people are still milling around. No one looks in a particular hurry to get home. Two kids dangle on Nicolaas’s leg screaming “Oupa, Oupa”.

With the choices they have made, they have tried to lead, or to read if you like, by example. Going back to school after more than 30 years was not easy, but they hope to have showed the younger generation that everything indeed is possible. During the days they worked the vineyards and studied at night or over the weekends.

When it came to exam time, it got hot in that kitchen. I wanted out! But Nicholaas was the one who always motivated me. It was hard being on the school benches after 30/40 years. Many days I was sitting, hands in my hair. I wasn’t understanding this business. You know in my day all you had to know was multiplication tables. What is 3×4? And then you were fine. Now there were all these funny fractions and decimals,” Frans recalls.

One of the most difficult things was learning to communicate in English, not extensively used in the community where the mother tongue of most people is Afrikaans. We had to write an English letter in class. I wrote one to my wife talking about the time we met and so on. But you should’ve seen it! She drew lines through everything I did wrong! She lived in the city (Cape Town) and her English is better than mine,” Nicholaas tells.

So? Does he still write letters to her in English?
Gmh. Huh? No, you see…hehe.”

Their biggest desire is to see the youth of the community excell. Their biggest desire for themselves is to go back to school.
Says Frans: “I still have hopes of becoming a diesel mechanic”.
Says Nicholaas: “I have gotten the taste for learning.”

****

Some stats on the Adult Literacy Program
Literacy classes were offered from Grade 3 to Grade 12. On average the literacy level of individuals are: 40 – 65 years, Grade 3 – 4; 30 – 40 years Grade 6; below 30 years, Grade 10.

Number of attendees so far across all groups:
2008 – 168 participants
2009 – 102 participants
2010 – 14 participants (Only for the computer training classes. Literacy classes are taking a break)

Pass rates
Gr 8 tot Gr 9:
2008 – 40%
2009 – 52%
Gr 10 tot Gr 11
2008 – 33%
2009 – 70%
Gr 12
2008 – 2009: 75%

Computer literacy N4
2008 – 2009: 20 of the 36 participants passed