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Friday, 22 April 2011 04:09

Iziko Labahlali 2 Day 1

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IMG_3362On the first day of the program, 22 people arrived. The group was a diverse group ranging in age from a 16-year-old young lady to mothers and grandmothers in their 60’s eager to get started and find out what we are all about. There was an air of anticipation in the room. Members of the original Iziko Labahlali group from August in 2010 had referred a number of the group in. They were aware of what the first group and individuals had already accomplished and were currently doing.

We started our day with the Community Circle, all facing each other in a circle as each person introduced themselves a little nervously. Two or three people in the group knew each other but for the most part they were all new to each other. Facilitating this session with me were Lionel and Nini, both graduates of the original session. Their confidence and sense of calm helped settled the new members as we described the journey we would embark on over the course of the next four days.

We began our journey getting to know each other, learning little facts about each other. The activities are designed to establish a mindset from which we can all communicate and grow from as we journey through Iziko Labahlali


IMG_3396We start the day in small groups and then progress, combining the groups into larger and larger groups ultimately having all of the participants back in the Community Circle sharing and learning about each person. The laughter and excitement that comes from within spurs the groups on and they quickly create new relationships.  They lower their guards and begin trusting each of the other people a little more as the sharing continues.

We then moved into the initial stages of the River of Life, drawing a picture of our lives based on whom we had grown and become through our life’s journey and experiences. What is always so remarkable to me is how quickly the individuals bond and support each other. It surprises each of them too, that they can collaborate and support each after such a short time together. The key understanding and realization being that this is a personal, real and focused time with each other.

We ended our first day with a sense of achievement, unity and hope. The walls are adorned with passionate artwork of real journeys and our hearts are full from the stories and experiences shared. There is a real inquisitiveness as we say good evening and bid each other well until the morning. What if…?



The group left for home with new friends and a sense of belonging. Belonging to their new My Arms Wide Open family.



Watch for our next posting Iziko Labahlali 2 – Day 2

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Tuesday, 05 April 2011 17:20

Iziko Labahlali 2

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In March 2011 we ran the second Iziko Labahlali program in the Cradock community in the Eastern Cape. Iziko Labahlali means “Hearth of the Community”. The program takes structure and lessons from the history of African and aboriginal tradition and the transfer from one generation to the next of knowledge and culture by the elders of the community through story telling. In many instances this took place in a gathering around a fire. The story telling involves the spoken word and the expression of events and emotion through pictures and art to create a picture of the whole that is evokes emotion, acceptance and understanding and approach to the future that comes form the heart.

The Iziko Labahlali program consists of a 4-day intensive and a 6-month collaboration and growth strategy. It is a mindset program designed around our primary sponsor Manzimvula Ventures’ Integrative Strategy Approach.

The experience is made up of the three parts:

  • Past experiences and events – My Journey
  • Current State – I am a Whole Person
  • The Future – Growing my Community and myself

In the transition from the past, to present, to the future we move the individuals who are typically part of a highly disadvantaged community, from their bellies (a thinking process around food) to their heads (igniting thought and understanding) and into their hearts, crating a thought process centered in understanding, compassion, acceptance and a love for themselves and their community.

In the posts over the following weeks that will follow this post, we will take you through the groups’ journey through a series of stories, pictures and video clips.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 23:41

Leaving on a jet plane...

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It is February 16th and today I kissed and hugged my three girls goodbye as I left for the next adventure in South Africa. I am grateful for their support and love as I travel to fulfill my personal vision and mission. Amazing how it is always so exciting!

On this trip we will be visiting and working with three communities. First stop after touching down in Johannesburg will be a drive up to the Limpopo region to spend 4 days in Bergnek getting a new pump up and running. Making this well active will provide all the water to meet the communities needs. They will not longer have to wonder and wait for the weekly water supply to arrive if it  does at all. I am working with a trusted friend and partner Keith Mosumane. I first met Keith in February of 2010. We talked about what we could do in his birth community to help and support them back a year ago and we have since grown to trust and support each other. Our first step in Bergnek is to get the well running and functional. Second we are exploring the opportunity to establish a community business to produce food grade escargot. Yes snails! Our objective is to create enough revenue to sustainably fund a healthcare centre in the Bergnek community to support the community and surrounding communities. The healthcare centre will have a large focus on children and mothers.

Next stop on the trip will be to fly to Port Elizabeth and then drive up to Mthatha and out to Malungeni to meet with an enthusiastic group of you people to talk about their ideas and how we can collaborate to facilitate as many Iziko Labahlali sessions as we can in the rural communities of the Eastern Cape Province.

After the meetings and sessions in Malungeni I will be off to Cradock to work alongside our community members in the factory, explore some new opportunities and to facilitate the next Iziko Labahlali session with 25 new participants. The course will be co-facilitated by Nini and Lionel, graduates of our first session in August 2010.

Towards the end of this adventure I will be in Cape Town for 3 days for some exciting meetings! More about those later.

Take a look at our latest video on the right and help to support our work and the communities of South Africa. You can support us by clicking here.

Watch for updates as the adventure unfolds!

Monday, 07 February 2011 20:43

The State of Aid to African Countries

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The state of aid in South Africa is in shambles. Well-intentioned humanitarian aid dollars are actually increasing poverty levels and forcing countries such as South Africa to become increasingly more dependent on foreign handouts. My Arms Wide Open is a registered Canadian charity with a business model that is changing the lives of those living in the most impoverished communities in South Africa, particularly the lives of mothers and children. Warren Te Brugge is the founder and chief architect of My Arms Wide Open. In this video, Warren discusses why aid is broken and how a shift in mindset and an innovative approach to supporting individuals and communities is resulting in the creation of sustainable businesses, stronger family units and community regrowth.





Poverty continues to soar and it is clear that simply giving people ‘stuff’ does not work. Warren Te Brugge, the founder of My Arms Wide Open, explains why this albeit well-meaning approach to aid is clearly wrong. He explains that there is a better way to create opportunities, develop businesses, sustain growth and rebuild communities. He explains a business model that changes mindset - one that creates opportunities identified from within communities and through skills transfer and understanding – one that supports self-determination and growth, enabling families and community members to become the source and provider of their own needs. Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. My Arms Wide Open is doing just that.

Support the communities in rural South Africa and make a one time donation or set up a monthly donation today, by visiting our site at and completing the donation form. Every bit helps!

The My Arms Wide Open® Charitable Foundation, was established to provide support and collaboration with mothers, children, and youth in South Africa, enabling them to build sustainable communities and responsible businesses. With stronger families, communities emerge as a solid foundation for society. In the process they re-engage fathers to repair the family unit. In our definition, mothers include women who are caring for children and include child-led households, working within the pre-teen and teen groups. Fathers include the fathers, young males and adult males within the community.

Manzimvula® is a values-based consulting firm whose purpose is to support organizations who choose to build socially responsible and profitable enterprises that profoundly impact their organizational communities and the individuals they affect in a compassionate and sustainable manner.