Interactive tours connect travelers with heartening community projects and true South African culture
Cape Town isn’t shy about flaunting its prettiest attributes. With plenty of fine beaches, rolling vineyards, gourmet restaurants, ocean vistas, and breathtaking Table Mountain towering above it all, the city is a picture-perfect panorama everywhere you look. You can tick off all the usual must-sees over a long weekend and fill your camera and belly with exquisite memories akin to Europe’s grandest capitals.
What you would have missed though is getting a living and breathing sense of Cape Town’s local history, vibrant culture, and hopeful future which you’ll find at the heart of the townships. The settlements where the black population was confined until the end of apartheid 20 years ago are just a 15-minute drive away and will truly enlighten your visit in many ways.
While there are many township tours advertised, the unique philanthropic tours organized by non-profit organization Uthando offer the most well-rounded and uplifting experience by far. Instead of driving by on a tour bus, eyes glued to the windows gawping at the passing makeshift shafts, you’ll visit some of the community projects they support and meet the most inspiring locals.
Witness the rousing transformations happening in the poorest townships and contribute directly to their growth. Uthando invests the funds earned with their tours into the community projects in an award-winning model of travel philanthropy – a win-win for everyone! You’ll find there’s no better way to feel the pulse of Khayelitsha, considered the largest township in the country and believed to have a million residents, than through its myriads of innovative neighborhood projects and their passionate leaders.
Abalimi Bezekhaya (Farmers of Home)
Like an oasis in the middle of an arid desert, Abalimi’s Garden Centre nursery brings much greenery and life to an otherwise inhospitable terrain. As a leading micro-urban agriculture model, they teach locals how to subsist by setting up their own sustainable garden so they can grow organic crops for sale and for eating at home.
You might stumble on one of their hands-on training courses, which on top of helping them get nutritious food for the rest of their lives also increasingly paves the way to job opportunities.
Wander the lush alleys between rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, basil and colorful peppers, learning about their sustainability model and how they’re also helping conserve indigenous flora through their greening initiative.
eKhaya eKasi (Home in the Hood) Art and Education Centre
You can’t miss the pop of color and joy in the vibrant eKhaya eKasi set in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The artsy centre is a haven of hope for families impacted by extreme poverty, hosting after-school activities for children and skills training for unemployed adults. Young ones get familiar with books and arts while their mother learn creativity and entrepreneurship with beadwork and silk screening workshops.
Visit the art boutique to peruse and purchase their creations, admiring how a skillfully bend telephone wire can suddenly turn into such an adorable animal.
Sales from the shop and proceeds from tourism help support the programs which also include many events and educational sessions on health and AIDS for the 400+ residents of the community
You might even get treated to a dazzling performance by Major Voices, local boys who have made singing and dancing their life’s calling. It will leave you tapping and clapping as you continue your journey…
Iminathi “Stand with Us” Educare Centre
You’re likely to hear the screams and laughter before you reach the entrance to Iminathi. Over 90 children from 6 months to 6 years old get dropped off by their parents every day at this day care centre. It offers a safe space, nutritious meals, and stimulating pre-school programs for these kids who would otherwise often be left alone at home.
Throughout the day, families stop by to use the onsite laundry services and children’s library, finally able to spend some quality time all together. Later, the centre turns into an afternoon homework club led by volunteers from the community, and as evening sets in, a rehearsal space for the local youth choir.
All of these wonderful activities take place in a shelter of corrugated iron, boiling hot in summer, cold and wet in winter. Now thanks to Uthando and many generous donors, the centre was able to amass enough funds to build a new and secure brick building where children will be able to continue to learn and play in comfort and safety.
In just a half day you will have felt the invigorating energy of neighborhoods on the rise and gotten to know the other side of Cape Town, so often forgotten and so essential in understanding the city. You’ll come away with a more well-rounded view, many captured smiles, perhaps a few beaded creatures, and knowing you were able to make a difference in the lives of those impacted by extreme poverty.
Elevate Destinations, a philanthropic travel company, partners with Uthando through their innovative Buy a Trip, Give a Trip program. Proceeds from trips booked with Elevate allow local children from Uthando’s community projects to experience tourist sites in their own country.