A Note of Appreciation

I’d like to express my thanks to the countless individuals—both locally hired and volunteers—who provided invaluable help in designing and constructing the Makuya Empowered Voices Resource Center. In particular, appreciation goes out to:

Paul Marias, eco-architect and know-everything man who aided in designing the center; provided construction guidance; transported me on multiple days to pick up 10 computers from customs in Joburg, provided Linux software and essential computer knowledge, and had a general personal investment in the project that pushed me through the rough spots.

Fhatuwani Makuya, the local Tshulu Trust volunteer manager who provided moral support and local knowledge, without which this project would have been impossible to manage.

Start Mudzinani, a local builder who volunteered on his weekend to do a wide variety of construction projects—floor, doors, ceiling, and painting—when money and time got tight.

Thendo, a young volunteer construction worker who often worked harder than many paid workers throughout construction of the center. He also took the initiative to dig the toilet pit.

Margaret Mudau, Thiemulwi Ndou, and Maureen Mudzanani, the women who volunteered to clean.

Mr. Malala, who volunteered time on the weekend to help with electricity installation.

Alfred, a welder on the project, who also provided an extension cord at multiple stages of construction.

Neighbors on all sides of the center who provided storage space, helped with construction, and gave access to electricity.

The three gentlemen who were recruited by Fhatuwani to load water and sand and install window panes.

Neighboring kids, who filled my days with playfulness, weeded the yard, and painted the center.

Colbert, who painted the center and the shelves.

Mutshekwa Matshamis, a local woman who harvested reeds and allowed me to interrupt her party to collect the bundles.

Guilt, who made the ceiling and floor, kept the center secure, and did countless other odd jobs.

Moses, an artist who created and installed two murals.

Opa, a carpenter who made the inverted roof, desks, and tables.

Mpho, the electrician.

Simeon Makuya, a contactor who hired builders to construct the center and who also participated in hands-on construction.

Fhatuwani Makuya, a builder who helped construct the center.

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Erin Wilkus

Erin Lynn Wilkus is a recent graduate of Reed College who has spent the past three years conducting research in rural areas of South Africa. As an undergraduate she studied biology and therefore her initial research focused on ecological issues. As Erin’s exposure to South African cultures and rural communities expanded, her research questions increasingly focused on merging social and ecological questions to promote conservation issues and sustainable development. In 2009, she spent three months in HaMakuya, a rural village at the border of Zimbabwe, researching how human settlement and use affects populations of South Africa’s charismatic baobab tree. During her spare time, Erin taught English and math at a local high school and tutored other individuals. Through that work she came face-to-face with the systemic education problems in the community. In 2010, Erin received a Davis Project for Peace award (http://www.davisprojectsforpeace.org) — a grant to fund creative grassroots projects that promote peace throughout the world. She used the award to develop a resource center called Makuya Empowered Voices Resource Center (MEVRC) in HaMakuya focused on communication and environmental action—qualities central to making long-term change in community-based development and conservation. Since English-speaking skills are essential for local residents to transcend the socioeconomic boundaries established during apartheid, a critical reason for establishing the center was training people to use computers and to study English with Rosetta Stone language-learning software. Erin never had a knack for languages, but she learned to speak Latin American Spanish in two months with the help of Rosetta Stone. She introduced Rosetta Stone at the resource center, in large part because of the positive experience she had using the program years before. Erin is currently initiating a volunteerism program based in HaMakuya that will begin in June 2011. The project will work in collaboration with Tshulu Trust (http://www.tshulutrust.org/), a locally run, anti-poverty initiative. Through this program, volunteers from Ireland and the United States will work together with local residents to improve the standard of living in the region.
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