Iziko Labahlali

Iziko Labahlali 2 - An Overview

Iziko Labahlali 2 – an Overview

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. This picture evokes emotion, acceptance, understanding and an approach to the future that comes from 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, creating 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 group’s journey through a series of stories, pictures and video clips.

Iziko Labahlali 2– Day 1

On 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. The
re 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 together. We 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

Iziko Labahlali 2 – Day 2

The group arrived excited from their first day’s experience. The energy was almost electric as we formed out Community Circle and shared our experience from the night before and what we learned in our first day.
In our second day, we continued to build trust. We started the process of building belief in self and the ability to create what we wanted through focus, tenacity and disciplined thinking. As we continued our journey, we learned how to
create energy through goal setting, individually and as a group.
We started to learn about skills and the difference between skills and qualifications. Individuals surprised themselves as they explored their skills and competencies as a group.
Later in the day, we moved into support for our goals. We do this through intentions and affirmations. We stress the importance of living in the now and being able to hear, see and feel ourselves as being where we want to be. This
allows us to create growth, awareness and a new way of looking at the world around us to see who and what is really there.
As the day progressed, real bonds of support started to appear among the group. They helped each other communicate and articulate difficult and life experiences to create learning, acceptance and ownership of what had shaped them into the person they had become up to this moment in time. A sense of relief and pure emotion developed as people started to understand that ALL of their experiences in fact had enabled and equipped them to take control of their lives and to start driving the bus instead of taking a ride in a runaway vehicle. The feedback came in the form of questions, rather than statements of fact, allowing the individuals to find and own their own answers.
We closed the day taking a sneak peak into what the future could be and shared more of the stories crafted and embedded into our Rivers of Life as we prepared for “Homework”. We went our separate ways with the challenge of
communicating only with our eyes, hearts and smiles – and no words.
Watch for our next posting Iziko Labahlali 2 – Day 3

Iziko Labahlali 2 – Day 3

Coming back to the group after their first evening of homework was both inspiring and highly challenging. Some experienced remarkable results and others felt they wanted more time to create the experiences they wanted through homework.
As we stood arm in arm in our Community Circle with our family there were tears, there was laughter and even amazement at the experiences members of the group shared about their “Homework” experiences. We all agreed we would do homework again tonight to support each person in our family. By doing so, they could create the experience they wanted simply by doing “ Homework”.
In the morning of the third day of our expedition into our lives, we learned about balance. We learned more about drilling down into our goals to understand ‘baby steps’. We learned about the importance and significance of understanding the smaller goals and steps beneath our greater goals so that we would be able to fully support and accomplish those goals .
At lunch that day, we were visited by all of the members of the founding Iziko Labahlali group. This first group talked
about what they had accomplished in the past 7 months, how they had grown as individuals and as a family and how they had embraced more and more members of the community with their experiences and actions to create the results they had. They talked about next steps and their vision of their families and the community as a whole. Out current group watched and listened and then shared lunch with each other to talk and share one on one.
That afternoon we drilled down into the needs in the community. We started mapping existing skills and matching competencies to the real needs within the community. The focus shifted from instant gratification and merely jobs, to
community needs, the future and the creativity around taking control of those needs and how they are provided and met.
We closed our day with a few more people sharing the Rivers of Life and the experiences around them. There was an exciting and silly, happy anticipation of getting to do “Homework”, as well as starting to explore their affirmations with
a new and renewed sense of themselves.
Watch for our next posting Iziko Labahlali 2 – Day 4

Iziko Labahlali 2 – Day 4

As we started the final day of Iziko Labahlali 2, Nini, Lionel and I looked at each other as we prepared for the day with a sense of emotion and tears in our eyes knowing that today we would say goodbye to the group for a bit while they took
their next steps.
As we do everyday in the program, we began with our Community Circle. The sharing about “Homework” was wonderful and so powerful as each person shared their experiences. They got it! As we started the morning session, we
created hand maps talking about the five people who currently act or have acted as a support or mentor for us in our lives so far. We then turned our focus on the five people each of us would like to mentor and support going forward. It was so amazing to listen to the passion and commitment to really embracing the people around us. We focused on looking at what we would like the future to become and how we could mold our circumstances.
To support our look into the future, we took the next step in completing our Rivers of Life and creating our body Images depicting who we had become and what we would like to become.
As our time together drew to a close, we created a plan for the group to continue communicating and interacting on a regular basis, with Lionel facilitating a weekly meeting. An exciting and emotional day!
Watch for our next posting Iziko Labahlali 2 One Week Later

Iziko Labahlali 2 – One Week Later

When we convened at our gathering point just one week later, there was lots of excitement and even nervousness. Ideas had already started percolating and taking shape around four opportunities. As we formed our Community Circle, we
started sharing how we felt and what each person had experienced during the first week apart from each other.
There had been some challenges throughout the week for some of the group members. What helped see them through their challenges was the new support system in place from their new family members. As Lundi mentioned it was
different now, it was okay to talk and to ask for help. They had not anticipated that the daily messages and texts they had been receiving would be so helpful.
As we talked about next steps, the group relaxed more and the ideas started to flow. Catherine wanted to create a sewing business; a number of other women thought about a handbag business. Another group had created a detailed plan around a silkscreen business. They had even approached so me of the local schools to see if they would support a local business rather than their current practice of buying products from outside the community. One of the group had
put together a model for buying and selling fruits and vegetables and wanted help to produce their own vegetables and fruits locally.
Other members of the group listened in surprise as the ideas were shared. A buzz started in the room as they started adding ideas to what was being shared.
We closed our meeting setting up a time each Wednesday for the group to come together. Lionel will facilitate the gatherings as well us setting up our daily messages and a monthly video conference meeting with me.
Watch for our next posting Iziko Labahlali 2 One Month Later

Iziko Labahlali 2 – One Month later 

On March 30, almost one month after we had begun our original meeting in Cradock, the members of Iziko Labahlali 2 met on a videoconference call. When we run our videoconferences, we have a slightly different format. We spend a short amount of time together as a group and then we have individual conversations.
Each person takes turns talking about the most important item they would like to discuss. They get feedback and support for about 15-20 minutes each. The meeting takes some time as you can imagine. However, the benefits of being able to not only hear but to see each other as we talk are tremendous.
A number of the members of the group had secured jobs in the community. The ideas we had earlier discussed around opportunities were taking shape in more detail and were now starting to become real. Cecelia had taken steps in her
sewing business and had secured a first order. The profit would not only feed her children but would pay their school fees for the next year.
When we asked each person how Iziko Labahlali was helping them to move ahead, we received so me powerful feedback. Here are some of the responses:
Cycelia D. – “by doing my homework, people feel free around me”
Nomzamo P. – “Now I know where I come from and where I’m going to, thanks to the Iziko Labahlali Program”
Nobuzwe G. - “The Iziko Labahlali Program taught me to love” 
Pholisa J. – “My father believes that the Iziko Labahlali program helped me a lot because now I’m more a caring person”
Ntombesizwe M. – “the program gives me a broader perspective of my surroundings”
Mbulelo Y. – “being part of a group that understands me makes things so much better”
Vuyokazi S. – “I learned that we must fight for what we believe in!”
Our next steps are to evaluate each opportunity and to assist each person and group take the steps necessary
to establish their business. In the next few weeks, we will publish details on those opportunities. We will also
be asking for support to fund the seed capital in order to get each business up and running, working with partners on the ground in Cradock. Watch for our next posting Iziko Labahlali The Opportunities! 

Bergnek, Limpopo

On my return to South Africa, my first trip was to Northern Limpopo, back to the community of Bergnek. I arrived in Johannesburg at 6:30 am and after getting a rental car, I headed to find Keith whom I have been working with. We met at the hotel Keith works at and started our journey north.
We arrived in Polokwane on Friday and set about making sure we had everything prepared for our work for the next few days. The well was in place but we had to get the pump installed and secured. We also had to make sure we had working lines to the storage tanks we had in place. I was excited and couldn’t wait to get to Bergnek. After getting everything arranged, we headed out to Bergnek at around 10 pm that evening.
Early Saturday morning we headed down to the new pump house. The pump had arrived and getting the pump installed seemed to happen so quickly. We were all very focused on seeing WATER! At around 11:00 am, we had all the connections set up and fired the motor for the very first time. Turning that crack was so exciting! We had the main line disconnected so we could see the water start to flow. As the pump started to run, we watched the pipes shake and
shudder and then the water appeared just bursting out of the open end of the connectors. Lots of cheering and clapping! Wow! It was really there. The village headman was just beaming and clapping his hands together. It had taken so long he wasn’t totally sure it would really happen.
After connecting the main lines again, we headed to the village meeting space where a huge number of people had gathered for a meeting with a local councilor. When we announced the water had started to flow, people just looked
at us and me as if I had lost my mind. A few ladies were talking about buying water from a local farmer who was coming around that day with his water truck. I asked them not to as they now had water. They shook their heads.
I asked them to follow me as I took them to the water tanks. As they watched, I climbed the towers and started banging the sides. As they heard a ‘thud’ instead of the ‘echo’ they had become used to from empty tanks, all I heard was a shout
of “There’s Water!”
People went off to get buckets and containers and started lining up at all the water points in the village. In just over 40 minutes, the tanks were completely filled and we opened the main valves to the feeder lines. A group of children
gathered and started dancing around and playing. We then walked the community and visited each water point to ensure we had no problems. People were laughing and smiling as they filled their containers and carried them home. I
splashed a few children with the water. At first they were shocked and then they started to laugh and dance around. This was a REALLY GOOD day. We met the townspeople the following day and discussed how they
would maintain and get diesel for the pump. We took up a collection and got enough money to run it for the next six weeks at least. The Councilor who was there on an election campaign asked me if I was there to get votes. I smiled and said no; I was just there to help completing a promise I had made six months earlier. She asked me how she could get the townspeople to vote for her. I responded by saying that the best way was to stop talking and to actually do something. She asked if I would help her if she did something for the town. I agreed that I would as long as what she did actually happened and was not just words. 
She left, undertaking to get the region to supply the diesel for the pump going forward. A week later, she called me to say that she had a firm commitment in writing that the region would provide the diesel and would I tell the headman she had done it.
I agreed and went to talk to the headman. He smiled and laughed saying, “You have taught our Councilor something new. This is the first time she has delivered something to us in 13 years!” Our next steps in Bergnek take place in September and October. This is when we will run the first Iziko Labahlali program to start work on opportunities in the
community and to build a healthcare center.
Please support our Cause by opening your heart to the people of the little community of Bergnek with your donations.

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