Aspect Africa - Discover.Learn.Empower.

Aspect Africa

About

Aspect Africa specializes in community-owned volunteer solutions, by developing, designing and implementing programmes with local community-based organisations around the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in Southern Africa. Our focus is on education inside and outside the classroom at primary and secondary level through purposeful play and sport for social impact. Our partners in southern Africa and our aim is to primarily give girls of the region the opportunity they deserve to reach their full potential.

Reviews

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William
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Adventure, sports and fun

I have always loved football, so to combine my love of football and travel/adventure, Aspect Africa and their community sports project seemed ideal for me. The programme is well run with their trained community coaches, the materials they use for the educational games are well made and focus on great topics, HIV/AIDs, conservation, gender equality. Their material is made in conjunction with an organisation called Coaches Across Continents whose focus is on sport for social impact.

The activities were fun, seeing elephants will never bore me, the bush was very dry because of limited rains but there were still plenty of animals to see. Living in with a host family was great if not nervy at the start, to see life being lived on a daily bases was an eye-opener and one I would highly recommend.

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Ladina
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My adventure in South Africa

After finishing high school, I wanted to discover some parts of the world I have never been to. I decided to volunteer with Friends of Mutale in South Africa - and that was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I stayed with a lovely local host family in a remote village, which is the most immersive way to learn about another culture and their way of life. The kids I worked with were wonderful, and I'd say I learnt as much from them as they learnt from me. Being so close to Kruger Park also meant lots of adventures in nature - may that be lazy river rafting on a hot summer day or discovering the big 5. I also had the opportunity to travel around a little, to the Drakensberg and Mozambique, for example. Overall, it was an amazing experience and I would not want to miss it!

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Mopane worms! Though I can count a few things ;)
Such as buffalo, salted ants - healthy snack?, chicken feet, baobab fruit, marula fruit, .... and though it is fun to try new things, I would also like to point out that the food was very delicious.

Programs

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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Vince Mehers

Job Title
Director
He has travelled most of Africa through volunteering, from Sudan to South Africa, climbed Kilimanjaro, worked as a safari guide in South Africa and has been involved in organic community development for the past 10 years.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Working and travelling through Sudan in 1998-99, a magical place where one can enjoy a coffee ceremony, cross the 3 Niles in Khartoum (White, Blue and then the Nile), travel up the Nile by boat and sit on top of old Bedford trucks on the way to sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert amongst forgotten pyramids of the ancient city of Merowe.

Best of all was the friendliness of the people, people who would invite you to eat with them every day either at their homes or on the banks of the river Nile, even though you could see they had little. Travelling and working in Sudan was the most humbling experience; people would literally drag off the streets during Ramadan so you could break fast with them and their family at sunset.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Over time, the importance of having community-owned programs has become a central tenant to our company, which has changed, developed and grown over the years. This change and understanding have come from personal development and growth through working with various communities and community-based organizations in South Africa and especially in Zimbabwe.

Rural communities are complex and one must be aware of the ‘community myth’: there is, in reality, no one community, but a mixture of many communities within a geographical area, some of which can work together and some which are always against each other, be it about conservation, hunting, poaching, schooling, religion, or where a new clinic should be built. Understanding the ‘community myth’, and navigating the many pathways to success, is an ongoing process and something which one never stops learning from, but must be aware of.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

We have had a few returners, all of whom have said that living with host families is one of the best parts of joining our programmes. In terms of stories, though each returner is different, some have enjoyed walks along the Luvuvhu river and seeing a baby hippo suckling, to relaxing in hammocks enjoying a braai (Bbq) on the weekend, or playing with the kids after school.

All returning volunteers have enjoyed the people, the culture and the stories under starlight around a campfire in the bush with hyena calling in the background, some enjoying a cold beer after a hot week's work.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Volunteering in Zimbabwe is a truly rewarding experience as the people have a hunger to learn, to share their lives and to make sure volunteers truly do have a rewarding experience. The area is still quite raw, but that will change in the next 5 to 10 years.

I personally love spending time in Zimbabwe in the Malipati area; the whole region is special with a very rich history, a history of survival, a melting pot of cultures from Shangaan, TshiVenda, European and where Bushman cave painting and stone tools still exist.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Our relationships with the community-based organizations we work with make us quite unique, which have been built up over a long time, with honesty and humility. Our relationships with communities allow us to really asses what the needs are in an area, and when you couple this with the sports for social development program whereby we are working we children who explore and tell us their needs and social issues in an area, helps make a very strong program which, as a team and as part of the wider community, we are very proud of.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

For Aspect Africa, the biggest factor in being a successful company is our relationships with the host community organizations we work with, the host communities who accept volunteers into their areas and cultures and our host families which welcome volunteers into their homes and lives.

Communities must have ownership, feel and see direct benefits of the programs we help them set-up and implement; there has to be a tangible long-lasting impact of volunteers in an area.

Without this, there would not be the opportunity to share this wonderful corner of Africa with the outside world, tourists would just pass on by, on their way to see the Big 5 in the local reserves, without a thought for the communities around them.