Through Vangi-tinted glasses

Perspectives from an African

I know people who touch lives with joyful hands November 28, 2013

On Saturday, I had the honour of performing at the Educhange and Research Foundation end of the year Awards Ceremony and I found myself moved to tears by the sense of family and camaraderie.  I wished so much that I could be a part of it.


“The Educhange And Research Foundation (ERF), is a professional non-profit organisation that provides a comprehensive intervention programme towards the transformation of education in South Africa.  It seeks to create more avenues for generating solutions to improve the quality of education.  ERF also aims to conduct research to influence policy, to enhance good practice for excellence in education.”

Their mission:

  • To promote effective teaching and learning
  • To facilitate holistic development of learners
  • To support effective and efficient management and governance of schools
  • To generate knowledge that contributes towards the culture of excellence in education


Over the past few years, I have watched my friends Jeri-Lee Mowers and Linda Mbuqe dedicate two Saturdaysa month to ERF.  For free.  For mentoring, workshops, competitions etc.  Along with a very dedicated group of young mentors, they put together lesson plans, set papers, mark papers and create student-specific mentorship programmes.


Last year, Linda invited me to speak to the mentees and share some poetry with them.  I then watched the mentees receive certificates and accolades for their work over what was said to have been a very difficult year.  I also watched the mentors jump up and down, rooting for their mentees.  Scolding the ones who just made it, praising those who excelled and just being completely vested in each of the learners’ success.  They know each child by name.  They know each child’s story.  And they genuinely love each child.


This year, everything was bigger.  The learners and their parents were treated to a three-course meal at Gold Reef City, complete with trophies, performances, panel discussions and enthusiastic cheering, laughing and clapping all through the day.  They also said goodbye to their first group of successful matriculants, who will now put everything they have learned into practice as they embark on their own tertiary academic journeys… hopefully to return as mentors one day.


In the Annual Magazine, published November 2013, Linda Mbuqe wrote a beautiful article entitled:  Personal Growth of ERF Mentors.  I really didn’t want to sum it up because Linda’s voice and passion is so beautifully articulated, I might just ruin it, so please use the contact details below and try get hold of the article for yourself.  I will quote a little bit though:

“The time will soon come when we will have to split our loyalties between this beautiful thing and the families we will one day start.  It’s daunting really, because we were in our early twenties when we joined ERF and had never considered growing older and the responsibilities we would have.  We start to seriously discuss our growing older and our rapid approach to midlife and the need to start recruiting younger mentors, as we acknowledge that we may start losing touch with our young mentees.”


From left to right:  Kgaugelo Shebe; Jeri-Lee Mowers; Linda Mbuqe; Duduzile Langa and Nkhumeleni Matakanya

From left to right: Kgaugelo Shebe; Jeri-Lee Mowers; Linda Mbuqe; Duduzile Langa and Nkhumeleni Matakanya

On her most rewarding moment, Jeri-Lee Mowers told me: “Seeing a student overcome their fears.  That moment when they finally reject their negative beliefs and decide to embrace all that could be.  A certain light appears in their eyes; a doggedness that says, ‘I am here.  And I refuse to give up.  I dare anyone to try and stop me.’  Igniting tenacity invigorates me.”


I am so proud of my friends.  SO PROUD!  Because we think it takes everything to change lives (and sometimes it does), but the return is tenfold.  We make excuses, are self-consumed and sometimes, just don’t care.  But I know people who touch lives with joyful hands, and in the words of Khalil Gibran:

“when you work you fulfill a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born.

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,

And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.”


Love, Light and many blessings to the ERF team!


For more info on ERF (or to find out how you can contribute time and/or resources)

Tel:         +27 (0) 11 944 9600




4 Responses to “I know people who touch lives with joyful hands”

  1. MaVangs, I went through the ERF site like a great book one can barely put away.

    I am in total awe. Woow!!! what great hearts.

    These are truly the builders of our new Africa.

    A billion salutes to them and thank you for writing about them.

    I wish, I could have been a fly on the wall when you performed.

  2. Reblogged this on Ebo Quagraine and commented:
    I have come to realize that our intellectual comments and critiques, although good and enlightening, more often than not, will not build the new Africa in a quicker, effective manner as desired, than our actual physical interaction with the communities we desire to help.

    The mentors, my dear friend Vangi speaks off in her article reblogged, are truly, THE BUILDERS OF THE NEW AFRICA WE PRAY TO SEE IN OUR LIFE TIME.

    Let every youth leader go out there and do their bid.

    As for me and Grand Holdings ( Pty) Ltd., we will definitely adopt a school before the new academic year.

    Thanks Vangi, for fanning our passion with your great narration.

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