Guest blog: Hlokomela – Creating awareness through community excursion
The Timbavati with its Foundation, has a proud history of supporting numerous conservation, community and education projects. One of our longest relationships has been with Hlokomela, an Non-profit organisation (NGO) that focuses on primary healthcare for farm worker communities. Since the many staff who reside within the Timbavati have a long way to travel for regular medical attention, the Phelwana Clinic was set up as a joint effort between landowners in the Timbavati and Hlokomela.
This clinic has served as a facility for regular healthcare checks, family planning, malaria testing and control, HIV and AIDS testing, counselling and management, as well as other primary healthcare offerings. The Timbavati, is proud to support partners such as Hlokomela, who are doing such important work in our communities.
Our guest blog this month comes from Fia Lööf van Zyl talking about Hlokomela's creative fund-raising efforts.
Hlokomela – Creating awareness through community excursion
Written by Fia Lööf van Zyl
It was with a great feeling of honor and excitement that I started working for Hlokomela last year, as their Tours and Volunteer Programme Coordinator.
Hlokomela is an award-winning HIV and AIDS educational and treatment programme that targets workers, including foreign migrants, in the agriculture, nature conservation and tourism sectors in Hoedspruit. The programme aims to reduce HIV vulnerability through peer education, raising of awareness, prevention and treatment. An estimated 30 000 people are reached annually through the activities of the programme.
As Hlokomela means “caring” or “be careful”, this caring organization has created a very important footprint in the hearts and minds of people in Hoedspruit. As our vision says: “A culture of caring that empowers all”, and I have myself seen that way of thinking and acting being spread a lot.
Especially inside Hlokomela’s targeted areas – farms, safari lodges and other workplaces. Since our Director, Christine du Preez, started the organization 14 years ago, Hlokomela has grown enormously to approximately 70 staff members working with various health projects providing a broad range of different services. To mention a few of those – HIV Testing Services, Women’s Clinic, Nompilo Project, Primary Health Care, Victim Empowerment Project, etc.
But not all Hlokomela staff work in the clinic, we also have a strong administration section and our Hlokomela Community Investments – which is where you will find me!
As with most NGOs today, funding and other possibilities of financial growth comes and goes. Hlokomela has through the years experienced a lot of challenges when it comes to funding and sustainability of the various programs. Even though great work is being done to and for the community, and lives have been changed or saved through the hard work of Hlokomela – funds will never fall down from the sky. As an NGO, there must always be a mindset of always needing to make a plan, be creative, move forward.
By noticing a growing interest and curiosity from the public and visitors to Hoedspruit, Hlokomela created their own Community Excursion where guests are given the opportunity to visit some of our projects, pay for the experience and by doing so help sustain the projects that they have visited.
I’ve been operating the Hlokomela Tours for approximately one year now and I must honestly say it’s the most encouraging, uplifting job I’ve ever had. I’ve met so many inspired individuals from all over the world plus my love and pride in working for Hlokomela has grown. I’ve gotten to know the compassionate Hlokomela staff on another level.
Being originally from Sweden I can put on my tourist goggles but still keep one foot over the “being a local” line. I can relate to both sides, understand the differences as well as the similarities between a so called “First” versus “Third” world country.
So how does it work, this Hlokomela Tour? You book with me, Fia Lööf van Zyl, and together we decide on a date, time and place of pick up. I will pick you (or your guests) up on the decided date and start the tour.
First stop - Hlokomela Main Clinic
On the first stop we visit one of our 10 clinics -Hlokomela main clinic including our very unique Hlokomela Women’s clinic, where the main focus is women’s health; breast cancer and cervical cancer. During the tour we will share information about Hlokomela; success stories, challenges, how to support etc. Visitors will meet passionate and dedicated staff that will share their personal stories and connection to the organization.
Second stop - Richmond créche
The second stop is the Richmond Crèche, one of many farm crèches in the area located at a farm compound, catering to farm workers’ children. Here our guests get the opportunity to see and understand the life and challenges of farm workers on the 72 farms that we work with. The children always welcome with the most amazing hugs and their teacher will take the guests for a short walk around the farm village.
Third stop - Hlokomela Herb Garden
Third stop is the Hlokomela Herb Garden. It’s a beautiful place, a hidden gem with the most amazing view over the Drakensberg Mountains and fruit orchards. Visitors will be taken around the garden; to taste, feel and smell the different produce. There will also be a sit-down break under the wild mango tree with refreshing herb drinks made at the Herb Garden.
Fourth & final stop - Hlokomela Market
The fourth and final stop - Hlokomela Market. Here you will find four different projects being run under the same roof - a sewing project, secondhand shop and Spaza shop where we also sell a variety of mango products from a local mango farm. Since Hlokomela Market is located close to one of the biggest bus stops for our farm workers, we can offer a variety of services. At the secondhand shop we sell any donated clothes or items for low prices, mainly to farm workers. Our sewing project will soon be manufacturing re-usable/washable sanitary pads for local women.
After the last stop, and approximately 3 hours later, it’s time for the drive back to where I picked you up.
Awareness for Everyone
While the rest of the Hlokomela team works daily to inform, care, educate and share health awareness to the key populations of the Hoedspruit area, I have taken it upon myself to do the same – but with the visitors of Hoedspruit. For me, Hoedspruit is a lot and has a lot to offer. We live in an amazing, vibrant community with people coming from all over, with different cultures and life stories.
I’ve realized that a lot of the activities and excursions offered in our area has a lot to do with Nature, Wildlife and Conservation which is a big as well as a beautiful part of Hoedspruit. Working and seeing the life on the Agricultural part of our little town – a lot can be told, and a lot can be experienced. With the number of Hlokomela tours that I have been hosting for the past year I’ve been fortunate to see the change in tour guests - change of perceptions, assumptions and preconceptions.
I’ve given my tour guests the opportunity to experience a different side, an eye opener on what is happening on the real deep ground of the people living on the other side of the orange and mango trees. They are also Hoedspruit, part of a very special community in Limpopo.
Coming from a much colder part of the world, not only weather wise but mentality wise, it took me some time to understand the expression “Ubuntu”. It is with a lot of gratitude that I now get to plant my own little “Spirit of Ubuntu seeds” to people travelling to this part of the world. These seeds leave this country with a broader picture and understanding of the Caring Hoedspruit – Wildlife and Community connected.
For more information or to book your Hlokomela Tour, please contact Fia Lööf van Zyl at firstname.lastname@example.org or 071 326 5759.
There is also the option to support the Hlokomela Youth Tour initiative where local high school children get to be taken out on an inspirational Hlokomela Tour – with an extra health talk added, presented by staff from Hlokomela Clinic.
Visit the Hlokomela website www.hlokomela.org.za or follow them on their social media channels.
About the Author
Fia Lööf van Zyl moved from Gothenburg, Sweden to Hoedspruit in 2008 where she worked as a volunteer for a number of years at Bavaria Fruit Estate conducting community upliftment work with the farm workers children. Her connections and working relations begun when she offered more support to Hlokomela and their various projects. In 2018, Fia applied for the opportunity to join the team and accepted without hesitation. She is very thankful to be a part of such an amazing caring organization.