James & the Journey of Uthando

James Fernie started his career as a paralegal in London. After completing a traineeship with the European Commission Humanitarian Office in Brussels, he returned to Cape Town. He continued his legal profession, but decided to venture into hospitality. It is here that he realized “the potential of tourism to contribute in a meaningful and substantial way to community and charitable causes.”

Thus, Uthando was born. As a grassroots activist he saw the gap, so to speak: People in dire need of help, be it in education, guidance, financial aid, or all of the above. This can be addressed via responsible tourism, not merely a guided tour, as South Africans have a rich and cultured history to tell and amends to be made in future generations.

As a developing country the funds to do just that are lacking, making Uthando even more ingenious. You are taken to various projects that Uthando supports and works with. It is funded by an add-on service charge from the operator; this way they not only earn money for the projects, but get to keep up with them.

The interaction (for all involved) and subsequent growth is one of the most rewarding and empowering experiences. Uthando has grown from a one-man team (James) to two-man team (James and Xolani Maseko) with various projects, ranging from gardening to dancing for the children to working with the aged.

A traditional African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The Hout Bay Community takes this to heart; it’s evident in the various projects on hand for children as well as for a previously disadvantaged group. The Hout Bay Music Project (HMP) provides music development opportunities to disadvantaged children in the Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu community.

Indigenous music is innovatively combined with classical music and traditional dance. Proof of their success can be seen among some of their achievements such as performing for the G20 Summit and the “The Philanthropist” American Television Series.

The Jikeleza “Turn Around” dance project works as a community partner in Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu. They address a wide range of social issues, such as poverty, neglect, drugs, violence and HIV Aids. They offer creative dance, the African Drumming and Jika Marimba, being their pride and joy. This helps to keep the children off the streets, making them less likely to join a gang or be involved in crime and substance abuse.

Original T-Bag Design Company is also situated in Hout Bay. They make “Functional Art” out of recycled tea bags. Used tea bags are dried, emptied, ironed and painted. The result of miniature works of art are applied to variety of items like décor, wooden boxes or fabric. They are now not only employed, but have a sense of community, excitement and most of all love.

Uthando also works with The Betterchoice Youth Project based in Khayelitsha (Xhosa for new born) its focus to teach children Gumboot and Traditional style dance as well as being a homework club. This is to combat the influence of drugs, gang violence and alcohol abuse. They are giving children a BETTER CHOICE- productive creative outlet.

Hlanganani Ngothando “Meet with Love” is a care centre in Bulwer for children and young adults with physical and mental disabilities. Here they receive therapy and activities to encourage development to reach his/her best potential. 

Mahatma Ghandi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. Mdzananda “Distemper” Animal Clinic’s vision of companionship and community care for every animal surely does Ghandi’s statement proud. They are situated in Khayelitsha and provide education for looking after animals, low cost veterinary services and perform abuse and neglect interventions. In this way the community learns responsibility, respect for life, compassion and non-violence. These valuable attributes will reflect in everyday life.

The aged are surely to be included in this. When you are in your teens, anyone in their twenties seems old, but before you know it, that someone is you. The Sinovuyo “We are Happy” Old Age Group in Khayelitsha meet every day Monday to Friday. Members are between 60 and 85 years old. The organization helps seniors with exercise, feeding scheme, social discussions and hand-works. It provides joy, happiness, but most importantly overall support.

Another group in dire need of support is black Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender women. In African Culture they are not always accepted. In reality lesbian is seen as not African. The Luleki Sizwe “Discipline the Nation” LBT Women’s Project seeks to change this existing negative perception and simultaneously address the needs of black LBT women in urban and rural townships. A lot of them are experiencing rape. These so-called “corrective rapes” result in them becoming HIV positive. Programmes offered include medical care for recent victims, advocacy programmes and Human Rights lobbying.  

In similar vein, Rock Girls partners with design, travel and media industries to create safe spaces for girls and women. Rock Girls seek to reduce violence against women through creation of safe spaces. Girls should stay in school and women are encouraged to become economically independent, healthy risk-free lives. This Grassroots movement inspires, encourages and invest in girl-initiated and girl- focused projects in private and public sectors. Their first project Safe Spaces has resulted in 56 Safe Space Public benches. The new project BRAVE launched in June 17 amplifies the voices of BRAVE girls around the world who are speaking out against the discrimination and violence they face every day. They have not only found an innovative way of raising awareness against gender based violence, but are also seeking to find common solutions to challenges whilst providing practical training.

Another inventive entrepreneur is Xolisa Bangani . This Gardener /Artist/Poet/ Rapper/ is showcasing gardening as a landscaping art. His Ikhaya-Kulture: “Home” Ikhaya Garden is making gardening cool and fun for the youth by combining it with recycling and art. The idea is to promote a healthy lifestyle, while creating environmental awareness programs. He serves his community with passion.  

The Amy Foundation signifies how far we have come. Amy Biehl, an American student, worked at the Community Law Centre on the new Constitution, Women’s Rights and to help register voters for the first free election in 1994. Political mob violence resulted in her untimely death. The men convicted of her murder were granted amnesty through her parents and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This non-profit organization, founded by her parents, offers educational and cultural programmes, music and sport to empower the youth. Two of the men granted amnesty joined Amy’s mom, Linda Biehl, in working for the Foundation. They still work together today-remarkable.

Uthando represents the progress that has been made; it represents the possibility of a better future for all. Let’s strive to live like Uthando. In parting please watch this video and remember the great Nelson Mandela’s words: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  For more information, go to www.uthandosa.org


Our guest writer from South Africa, Bernadette Erasmus writes a blog Kaleidoscope.





Hello I'm Bernadette Erasmus from Cape Town South Africa. I work in hospitality and write part time. I have a blog called Kaleidoscope, please do have a look.

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