Africa Unearthed

Season’s Report 2018

A massive THANK YOU for joining us in South Africa this summer. We know it’s not always easy to find the time and raise the funds.

Please enjoy reading about your 2018 groups’ achievements as this will give a more complete picture of the vast amount of assistance that you have given to the local community through your generosity.

And a special thank you to Zine, Damaris, Armand, Sean and Becky who have been a fantastic team to lead our volunteer projects in 2018.

Group 1

Construction – Khula Village

We are building a house for a seventy-year-old woman with nine grandchildren. She and her grandchildren between the ages of 6 and 28 were living in a shack the size of your typical small bedroom. Most of these kids have been raised by their grandmother Mantombi due to the death of their parents. Both the grandmother and the oldest son are confirmed to wheelchairs. She needs one due to her diabetes, blood pressure problems and old age. This group successfully dug out the entire foundation of the house in just 1 day, as well as digging the hole for the septic tank. Throughout the week we managed to finish laying the foundation of the house, finished building the septic tank and even started to build the wall of the house. Armand and I had a lot of fun with the volunteers, having cement fights and making work more fun for everyone. Sean and Armand

  • Dug the foundation of the house
  • Laid the foundation of the house
  • Dug a septic tank hole
  • Finished building the septic tank
  • Started building the walls 2 bricks high

Education

We donated desks to the primary school so that each kid could finally have a desk of their own, and not have to share with 5 other kids. We were able to give school lessons over the weekend at Mama Doris’ so that the kids could have more time to learn. We did a lot of teaching at the school as well. Zine.

  • Desk donation
  • Reading activities
  • Grammar and punctuation practice
  • Pronunciation practice

Emdoneni Cheetah Project

This group was very hard worker and very quiet sometimes too much! We dug a huge hole for the centre to us as an incinerator and cleaned all the water of the cats, and while we were cleaning the enclosure one serval urinate in the face of one volunteer! She though was something funny do. Her name is Ana and she really worked very hard and was so helpfully all the time.

The same serval marked another few volunteers to, but to those one just on the legs. Damaris.

  • The incinerator hole is finish
  • All the water of all the enclosures have been cleaned
  • We cut the meat of 2 full zebras to feed the cats

Crocodile Centre

We started the week off with some bush clearing on a walking trail that a lot of tourists use to see our beautiful wild life. The trail had been damaged by a previous storm, so we were able to make the trail walkable again. We also cleared an area where the Croc Centre had their GEO-map. This is something people do all over the world, they find the geo-map and leave something special of their own in the box where it is and take something out of it. We made this area more accessible for people to find. We worked inside the croc enclosures doing some bush clearing. This is super important because it is Winter in South Africa, and it is hard for the crocs to find warmth. We go in a chop down trees and bushes so more sunlight can penetrate inside of the enclosure for the crocs to get warm. We also did some bush clearing in our ‘Big 6’ enclosure project. This created more space for the croc to move around. We even had to do the sad job of removing some eggs that didn’t make it and didn’t hatch out. Becky

  • Bush clearing on the walking trail caused by a storm
  • Bush cleared around the GEO-map site so it was more accessible
  • Bush cleared inside the enclosures so croc could get more sunlight and also more space to move around
  • Removed eggs that didn’t hatch out

Group 2

Construction

We had a really hard working group and got lots of work done considering the rain and had loads of fun at the same time. Continuing our construction of the home for Mantombi Ncube and her nine grandchildren the volunteers managed to finish the outside walls of the entire house. We moved 800 bricks to a new location, so we could finish up the house, and on top of that we all dug another big hole so we could utilize extra sand to make more cement. We used this hole afterwards for rubbish as well to burn. Sean and Armand

  • Moved 800 bricks to a new location so we could finish the walls of the house
  • Finished the walls of the entire house
  • Dug a massive hole so we could utilize more sand to make more cement
  • Used the hole we dug for rubbish to be burnt

Education

The volunteers have a lot of fun playing with all the kids at the school and at the crèche. At the school the volunteers break off into groups giving the teachers a break and with a lot of kids it is hard for them to catch up on behind work and learning. The volunteers sit down with them and teach them math and especially English which is vital to where they live and one day get good jobs with being bilingual. We were able to give school lessons over the weekend at Mama Doris’ so that the kids could have more time to learn. We had a lot of dance parties with the kids at Mama Doris. We were able to all get together and the volunteers cooked food for all the kids. Zine

  • Reading activities
  • Punctuation and Grammar Correction
  • Cooked food for all the kids at mama Doris
  • Pronouncing words correctly practice
  • Spending special time with the kids

Emdoneni Cheetah Project

This week, sadly, we just worked two days at the cat centre due the hard rains but the group was really active, hard worker and curious. We were always laughing about everything. They were always ready to help and participate in any activity. I loved when Jacob win the talent show rapping, the race to arrive to the swimming pool and the trophy during the scavenger hunt (I attach the video) or when me, Marcus, Bella and Alex were dancing Latin music while we were cooking at Swaziland. Also do the horse riding in Szondela with April and ride around wildebeest and zebras was AMAZING! But the best part of the trip, without doubt, was to see two lionesses at the distance and a full grow lion just in front of us at the safari. Damaris

  • Clean the water of the Caracals.
  • Burn branches inside the hole we made last week.

Crocodile Centre

It is winter here in Africa, so it is hard for the crocodiles to get warmth. We were able to enter our big project called the “big 6 enclosure project” where we are building 6 new homes to rehabilitate more crocs, so that we could cut down some bushes and trees so that the sunlight could reach them more.

We also got a phone call from conservation authorities that there was a wild croc in a trap, ready to be captured and released into a better area as he was in a river he wasn’t supposed to be. We had an amazing adventure through the Umfolozi Game Reserve on the way to capture it, seeing some of Africa’s most beautiful wildlife. We even saw a massive Male Bull Elephant, although he didn’t let us pass him for 45 minutes. Unfortunately the croc had escaped the trap once we got there, but were able to take the broken trap back with us to fix so we can try to recapture that same croc and release soon. For the rest of the week we got to all help and finish an amazing project at the Croc Centre. We were able to build from the bottom, 5 brand new benches for visitors to come and be able to now relax and take in the sites of these magnificent creatures and learn more about them in the feeding shows. Especially for the elderly that can’t stand long. Long days of sawing poles and planks, mixing cement by hand, digging holes, raking, lifting and sanding. Was a great hard-working group! Becky

  • Dug holes into the ground to place poles in for benches
  • Measured and cut the poles and planks for the benches
  • Mixed Cement and laid it for the foundation of the benches
  • Sanded the benches and nailed them all together
  • Croc adventure through the safari game park to catch a croc in a trap that was in an area it wasn’t supposed to be
  • Cut down bushes in the big 6 enclosure project for more warmth for the crocs

Group 3

Construction

This group worked hard and fast. We are still building the wheelchair friendly house Mantombe and her family. We were able to start off the week by completing the inside walls of the entire house so there is rooms in the house now. Afterwards we started on the roof and were able to complete it. At the end of the week we started to build a pathway from to road all the way to the house, a wheelchair friendly pathway for both the grandmother and the grandson. Armand and Sean

  • finished the inside walls of the house
  • we treated the roof planks
  • we finished the entire roof
  • we started with the pathway

Education

The volunteers have a lot of fun playing with all the kids at the school and at the crèche. At the school the volunteers break off into groups giving the teachers a break and with a lot of kids it is hard for them to catch up on behind work and learning. The volunteers sit down with them and teach them math and especially English which is vital to where they live and one day get good jobs with being bilingual. We were able to give school lessons over the weekend at Mama Doris’ so that the kids could have more time to learn. We had a lot of dance parties with the kids at Mama Doris. We were able to all get together and the volunteers cooked food for all the kids (trying to keep the monkeys away). Some of the volunteers were also very generous and donated a scarf to mama Doris so she can also keep warm in the winter! Zine

  • Reading activities
  • Punctuation and grammar correction
  • Cooked food for all the kids at mama Doris
  • Pronouncing words correctly practice
  • Spending special time with the kids

Emdoneni Cheetah Project

We worked a lot cutting the grasses around the cheetah enclosures and cleaning the waters. We had the best experience ever seeing how the lionesses try to hunt an impala.

This week a baby caracal died because he entered by accident to the serval enclosure due that these two enclosures are next each other. We are going to propose to build a nursery area for the next season at the cat place. Damaris

  • Cut grasses around cheetah enclosures
  • Clean serval waters

Crocodile Centre

This group got to do and see a lot! At the beginning of the week we had to move some of the bigger crocodiles into bigger enclosures, so they had more space to move freely. We also had to measure them and take their sex and temperatures to help further the research in these magnificent creatures. For the rest of the week we were able to finally finish one of the pools we built in our big 6 enclosure project. Was a tearful moment as I have been working on this project a very long time. The last bit of cement was laid, and the pool is completely finished! Now the last thing to do is add a fence around it and we are able to home new crocodiles! Our very last group of volunteers got to start measuring and dug an entire new hole for a new pool we are going to start to put in, and they finished it! Was a very rewarding week. Although one day it did rain, we made the most of it by singing "Africa by Toto" while dancing in the rain. Most of us paid for it by getting sick haha! Becky

  • Captured and moved crocodiles into bigger enclosures so they had more space to move around.
  • Mixed cement and finished building an entire new crocodile pond
  • Dug out an entire hole for a brand-new crocodile pond to put in

This is a pic of some of the volunteers, for the very first time in VESA history, cleaning the pool of our most dangerous and unpredictable crocs!!!

Group 4

Construction

This group got lots of work done for a small group and only having four days in construction we were kept busy trying to complete the house for the wheelchair bound 72-year-old Mantombi’s family of nine.

The group mixed a lot of cement and were able to finish almost all of the walls of the house. We also completed the pathway from the house to the main road it made me so happy to see how much easier it makes Mantombi’s life as it is not easy to move the wheelchair around in soft sand. Armand and Sean

  • Rendered the outside of the house
  • Finished the path way.
  • Completed the ramp that goes into the front door
  • Started digging a new hole for sand

Education

The volunteers had a lot of fun with the kids when they visited the school and creche. They broke off into groups at the school to teach the kids English and math which give the teacher a break. They also get to do this at the creche and feed the little ones a good lunch as well. Zine

  • Reading activities
  • punctuation and grammar
  • cooked food for all the kids at mama Doris
  • pronouncing words correctly
  • spending special time with the kids

Emdoneni Cheetah Project

This group there were two volunteers that volunteered on our Laos project in 2017. I was so happy to see them again and we had a lot to fun together.

While there wasn’t so much work to do at the Emdoneni centre, we filled the incinerator hole that the first group dug with branches and zebra and giraffe bones and burn it. Damaris

Crocodile Centre

This group got a lot done! We were able to enter one of our alligator enclosures and drain his pond, scrubbing it clean and giving fresh water.

We are also starting a new project where we are building two new snake enclosures to rehabilitate some of South Africa’s most endangered snakes. We then got to work on one of the pools we have just started building for a new croc enclosure. We dug out the hole, levelled the bottom and then mixed cement. We were able to make half of the floor! Becky

  • Scrubbed an alligator pond and gave fresh water
  • Measured a new snake enclosure we are building and started digging for the foundation
  • Dug and levelled out the bottom of a new croc pool we are building
  • Mixed a lot of cement and laid out half of the floor of the pool

Group 5

Construction

The group was great. We continued with the house for Mantombi’s family of nine. We rendered the walls and painted the outside of the house as well as giving mamma Doris's creche a new look by giving the creche fresh coat of paint. Some volunteers decided to paint each other... Armand and Sean.

  • Rendered the inside of the house
  • painted a primer on the outside
  • painted the outside walls
  • painted the inside and outside at Mama Doris’s day care

Education

Though it was the school holidays, it was such a good group who had great communication especially with the kids. We really managed to help kids out who had tons of fun and learning skills also. Zine.

  • Improvement of pronunciation
  • Learning skills (children being able to pay more attention)
  • Improvement of reading ability

Emdoneni Cheetah Project

This group was amazing. Very social, enthusiastic and curious. I enjoyed so much working with them. Damaris

  • Clear branches and grass to avoid fires.
  • Clean the enclosures of the caracals and servals

Midnight and Moonlight (left) are the two cubs of Autumn, the female that VESA sponsor. They will be released into the wild the next year.

Crocodile Centre

At the croc centre we painted the benches that past volunteers had built to finally complete them and make the croc centre look lovely.

We dug out the foundation of the snake enclosure and mixed a lot of cement and were able to make the walls of the snake enclosure half way and even helped mix concrete for the bottom of one of our croc pools.

  • painted the benches that past volunteers built
  • dug out foundation for snake enclosure
  • built snake enclosure walls after mixing cement and using bricks
  • built the floor of one of our croc pools

Group 6

Construction

This very hard working and fun group rendered the inside of Mantombi’s house and painted outside. We gave two classrooms a second coat of paint as well as a bit of art on the outside walls at mamma Doris. Sean and Armand

  • Rendering walls
  • Painted inside and outside of house
  • Painted inside classrooms of mamma Doris
  • Art on walls of mamma Doris
  • Mixed cement for rendering walls

Education

Group had amazing volunteers and most of them there were education students at university. We also had two teachers with five years’ experience, so it’s was very easy to work with them as they had so much to share. Zine

  • Some of the volunteers went to support the children of Umzabalazo at their cultural school competition who were representing their school.
  • Worked on improving the reading skills of the students

Emdoneni Cheetah Project

This was a very nice group who were hard workers and enthusiastic.

With Missa (left), a baby serval who was rescued from a farm. She will remain at the centre as a breeding female due to the fact that she has already received too much human interaction and would never survive in the wild. Damaris

  • Cleaned caracal enclosures
  • Cleaned serval enclosures
  • Burnt the cleared dry branches
  • Helped to move one serval to another enclosure

Crocodile Centre

At the beginning of the week we had to enter one of our dwarf croc enclosures. One of the dwarfs had made such a massive nest against the gate she could easily get out, so we flattened it for her because it was also her last year’s nest and it is healthy for her to re make one each year.

Throughout the week most of the volunteers mixed a lot of cement and helped us build our new snake enclosure. We even mixed extra cement some days and created the floor for a new croc pool we are building. We got all the walls done and even got the windows in. One morning before the croc feeding the volunteers were asked to move a dead buffalo into the freezer h aha! We were also able to rescue some baby crocs that were found in the wild and put them into baby incubators.

  • built the walls of the snake enclosure
  • finished the floor of a croc pond
  • moved a dead buffalo to the freezer to be ready to be cut up for the crocs
  • moved baby crocs that were found in the wild to one of our baby incubators for maximum potential and growth

Group 7

Construction

The volunteers installed the windows and doors and completed the floors of all three rooms for Mantombi’s house. We touched up painting inside and outside of the house.

Left: some members of the family

who’ll be moving int the new house

Broke out door frames at mamma Doris and replaced them with new frames and doors which were then painted and replaced two classrooms floors. Sean and Armand

Mantombi’s house

  • Fitted all glass to the windows.
  • Installed all doors
  • Mixed cement with oxide
  • Painted doors
  • Floated floors
  • Cleaned all rubble
  • Cleaned the house inside

Mamma Doris:

  • Broke out door frames
  • Redid 2 classroom floors
  • Installed 2 new door frames
  • Installed 2 new doors
  • Redone doorways
  • Touch up paint around door frames
  • Painted doors and frames

Emdoneni Cheetah Project and Crocodile Centre

This group was super friendly and hardworking. They enjoyed so much the volunteers and the activity week.

We did a bush walk safari with Johan which was stunning and very interesting. Johan knows a lot about the ecosystem and the volunteers learned a lot. He does a very good job. Really worth it. Damaris

  • Cleaned the water of servals and wildcat
  • Cut grass around cheetah enclosures
  • Burnt branches at cat centre
  • Cut back grasses of croc enclosure
  • Built a wall of the croc pool
  • Cleaned around the working area and did the end of season inventories

Education

The combined efforts of your group as well as others ensure that these children grow up with good foundations in English and Maths which will be a great help later in life!

You should be proud of the initiative that you showed by helping with lessons for the classes, even helping kids at Mama Doris’ on the weekend have some school lessons. You have brought the children at the crèche much needed love and support; their endless smiles reflect how happy they are to have you guys around!

It is a wonderful thing to be able to give Mama Doris a break, because when VESA isn’t there to help her out, it is just herself taking care of all the wonderful children. I am sure we all know how hard it can be to take care of just 1.

You guys get to give these kids that vital human contact they deserve and need. What an amazing thing to see how we could make a difference in the kids’ education