The Mashudu Project

Wendy's account of her visit to South Africa in July/August 2007

"What would you say if I said I would like to go to South Africa to help with the Mashudu Project?"

Silence……and then came the reply,

"Go for it!"

This was the start of a conversation between Ken, my husband and I last Christmas. We had recently heard about the Mashudu Project, which was set up by Linda Mannas to resource the people of Tshakhuma and the surrounding area in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The people here are Venda and speak Tshvenda, although many speak 3 or 4 languages including English. The project was set up in 2000 and so far has sent 29 volunteers out to share their skills and time.

After helping me raise the flight fare by completing the Hastings Half Marathon together Ken eventually took us to Heathrow Airport on July 24th. We were a party of four, Linda, myself and Helen and Jo, sisters from London. Helen and I are teachers and Jo is a trainee physiotherapist, so the plan was that Helen and I would work in local primary schools with the staff and Jo would work in a boarding school for children with physical disabilities. While Linda co-ordinated all work undertaken.

We arrived in Tshakhuma the following evening after an eleven hour flight and 5 hour drive. I was dropped off at Rosemary’s home, where I was warmly welcomed by Rosemary, her daughter, two sons and grandson. Expecting to rough it I was pleased to find a comfortable brick-built home with flushing toilet and running hot water! I was soon to learn that this is not the norm for everybody. Many of Rosemary’s neighbours live in wooden shacks, (very like our garden shed!) or round mud huts with thatched roofs called rondavels. The drop toilet is in the garden and water comes from a stand pipe on the street corner. Some have electricity! They cook on an open fire outside or in the middle of the rondavel.


Our day started early but not bright as it was still dark at 6am. School started at 7-30am and finished at 1-30pm. There were two breaks, the longest one for lunch at 10am, when the children were fed a basic meal of beans or pap.

Our afternoons were spent visiting orphan families and other projects in the area. This was usually after a visit to Thohayandou for a bite to eat at the Wimpey! Thohayandou was the closest town about half an hour away by car, where we could find a fairly good range of shops and an interesting market.

The day ended back with our families. I often went to bed between 8 and 9 pm as by 6pm it was dark. My internal clock was completely messed up for most of the three weeks I was away.

Helen and I spent most of our time in three primary schools, Ganyane school, where our host families worked and two others. It was soon apparent that most lessons involved chalk and talk with children repeating everything they heard. There was very little of interest on the walls and no P.E, art, drama or creativity of any kind. All the staff, however, were so open and willing to try new ideas and methods.

At Ganyane we introduced water and sand play for the Reception and Year 1 children. We led classes in Circle Time and Numeracy, but always with the teachers present so that they could translate and also so that they were learning how to run the classes themselves. I also helped Linda and Helen run workshops for the staff on creative writing and assessment. When looking around the schools we found it almost impossible to find any story books. Comparing that with the library and shelves of books in our schools was very sad. I was amazed that the children learnt to read at all and discovered that the skill was only thought useful for gaining knowledge and communicating – not really for enjoyment at all. We encouraged them to try and spend some of their school budget on story books, but I know that I will be sending a few out with the next volunteers that go to help encourage the staff.


I was very pleased to be able to take a guitar out to S. Africa with me. I spent several evenings teaching the two youngest boys in Rosemary’s home and Donald and Priscilla, Helen and Jo’s hosts. I was able to teach them the basic skills needed to continue learning themselves as the guitar stayed with them and hopefully will be used in school. The children loved it! I think I will have to send some music along with the story books.

I spent some time along with Helen making interesting displays for several classrooms. It was amazing how our efforts seemed to motivate them into having a go themselves. I even saw some of the children’s work go up!

The attitude towards children was interesting. There was a definite hierarchy in the respect due to individuals and the children came fairly well down. It was not unusual to find a child as young as five or six carrying a very heavy container of water home from the stand pipe, but saying this, the children seemed very happy, lively and cheerful, always keen to say, ‘Hello’.

I only saw one problem with discipline in the schools we visited over the three weeks. As there were about sixty children in many of these classes, that was a good thing.

The end of the school day saw groups of children sweeping the floor with branches, another group washing away the red dust and others picking up litter. All rubbish was then put on a bonfire – by the children.

I was glad that we visited a Lutheran church one week. We could not have been made more welcome. We were invited to introduce ourselves and say what we would be doing in the area, to which they clapped and cheered. Folk took it in turn to stand and share a song including a song and dance from the teenage boys. The pastor then got somebody to translate every bit of his sermon for us.

There is so much more I could tell you but I think I will end by inviting you to look at the project on the internet. The address is and there will soon be up-to-date photos to see. The aim of the Mashudu Project is to resource and encourage the local people in ways that will help them improve their lives and their facilities, not as we see fit but in ways that they want to move.

Donations for the project were spent on mealie flour, bars of soap and loaves of bread, (for 52 orphan families in the village), training for Youth workers, school materials, some clothing and the Mashudu Project Guitar. Many thanks to all, who donated to the project or sponsored me. Ndo Livhuwa! (Thank you)

Wendy/Thama Hatch.

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