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Inspiring aid for children in need

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

KIDS STUFF: Robyn Brown shares a story with children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre. Photo: Provided

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on July 14, 2013

NELSON Mandela’s love for children has inspired a Vodacom change the world volunteer to spend Mandela Day this week reading and playing with a group from a poor community.

Robyn Brown has already been doing her bit for charity as one of 20 volunteers in the initiative, in association with Times Media Group, that allows professionals to work with a charity of their choice for a year and be paid for it.

Brown, an outreach programme facilitator at Bright Start, will be reading storybooks and enjoying games with the children at the Wavecrest Educare Centre, which caters for 105 children from an informal settlement near Hout Bay.

Her chosen charity, Bright Start, offers educational support to children from disadvantaged homes. it will help her with a campaign  to encourage Cape Town people to donate books and toys for Wavecrest.

Another volunteer, Norma Young, communication officer for LEAP Science and Maths Schools, said a quiz show called “Are you smarter than a LEAP grader” would put five of their pupils against adult members of various corporations. Other volunteers who are going all out to do their bit for Mandela Day include:

  • Caitlin Longamn has orgainsed massages for elderly residents of Park Care Centre in Johannesburg;
  • Michael Stevens, from Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund, in association with Avis, will donate chalkboards to rural schools around the country;
  • Kilptown Youth Programme’s Stephanie Venter will organise eye tests for 300 pupils, because poor eyesight might affect their ability to do their homework and study;
  • A five-ton food collection container has been placed at Benmore Gardens shopping centre in northern Johannesburg by the Afrika Tikkun organisation, whose volunteer, Naazneen Tarmohamed, will distribute food to needy people; and,
  • Alta Brown Steenkamp, who works for the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, is organising bikers from Gauteng to Limpopo to build a wendy house, playground, vegetable garden and fence for a Limpopo orphanage.

“Mandela once said education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,” Brown said. “So I’m happy to be fulfilling the spirit and purpose of Mandela Day.

Related articles: 

Disease transmitted by tick bite. 24 July 2013

South African freestyle dancers claim four world titles in Blackpool. 18 July 2013

Disease transmitted by tick bite

This article first appeared in the Sunday Times on July 14, 2013

THE mere mention of Congo fever sends shivers down one’s spine – and with good reason: the disease claims the lives of 10% to 40% of infected people.Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic fever cause its carrier to bleed out through every orifice. People become sick within one to nine days after exposure to the virus.

The symptoms include severe fevers, muscle ache, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Patients often develop a rash and may bruise easily, vomit blood or have gum and nose bleeds, or pass blood through their stool or urine.

There can be internal bleeding including in the brain or the lungs. Patients can slip into a coma from organ failure and death occurs within five to 14 days.

Congo fever has been widely reported in Africa and in South Africa. It is transmitted by the Hyalomma tick, known in South Africa as the “bontpoot” tick which thrives in the arid north-western parts such as the Karoo and the Western Free State.

people can be infected through a bite from an infected tick, or if fluid from a tick enters into a cut or graze on the skin or splashes into the eye, nose or mouth.

Infections can also occur by coming into contact with infected animals. this places farmers, herders, abattoir workers, veterinaries and hunters at high rsik.

Cases of Congo Fever have been reported in South Africa since 1981, when it was first identified. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, about 20 cases are diagnosed in South Africa each year.

The World Health Organisation rates the fatality rate at 10% to 40%.

Patients who recover usually show sudden improvement on the 10th day, but they should refrain from intimate contact with others for six weeks.

South African freestyle Dancers claim four world titles in Blackpool

Parts of this article first appeared in the Sunday Times newspaper on July 14, 2013

The South African team of freestyle dancers who competed at the 2013 Freestyle Dance World Championships held in Blackpool, England. Photo: Provided

The South African team of freestyle dancers who competed at the 2013 Freestyle Dance World Championships held in Blackpool, England. Photo: Provided

Fifteen year old South African dancer Kalon Badenhorst pocketed four world titles in the 2013 Freestyle Dance World Championships in England this year.

Badenhorst 15, from Curro Aurora dominated wins in the under-16 Championship Boys Street Style, Freestyle and Slow dance solo categories in Blackpool, England.

Badenhorst has become the only dancer to achieve four world titles in the history of the competition. Badenhorst dances at the Daniel Swanepoel Dance Studio in Randburg.

Kalon Badenhorst & Courtney Minnaar with International Dance Teachers Association member and competition judge, Stephen Reece-Buck. Photo: Provided

Kalon Badenhorst & Courtney Minnaar with International Dance Teachers Association member and competition judge, Stephen Reece-Buck. Photo: Provided

After finding out he had won Badenhorst said, “I felt a mixture of relief after all the pressure that came with the buildup, pride and excitement.”

He has been dancing for about five years and has trained in Hip Hop, contemporary, Latin American, African Fusion, Modern, Disco, Jazz and Ballet as well as Freestyle and Slowdance.

Badenhorst told the Sunday Times that he” felt really excited because it is the ultimate testing ground for Freestyle dancing.” He has been focused on training for the championships for the last six months.

Training for long hours and maintaining high energy levels could be a tough challenge for a 15 year old, we asked Badenhorst how he stays healthy: “I have a balanced, healthy, whole food diet but because of my long hours of training, up to five hours some days, I also use a protein supplement to help with my recoveries.” He explained that he also takes a daily mutli-vitimans to keep up a healthy lifestyle.

Badenhorst’s mother Joanne said, “He is a born performer and a talented dancer, but winning all four titles was more than we could have ever dreamt of.”

Kalon Badenhorst is the only dancer in the history of the genre to achieve four world titles in a single world championship competition. Photo: Provided

Kalon Badenhorst won four titles at the 2013 Freestyle Dance World Championships in Blackpool, England. He is the only dancer in the history of the genre to achieve four world titles in a single world championship competition. Photo: Provided

Courtney Minnaar 13, Tatijana Ignaitov 7, and Nicole Haddon 17 were also part of the team of dancers from South Africa.

These youngsters recently returned from the international stage as the most victorious team to ever have competed in the Freestyle Dance World Championships since the 1980’s, when the competition first started. Dancers’ compete solo, with partners and in groups.

Badenhorst and Minnaar, partnered up in the under-16 Freestyle Couples and secured a win. They also coupled up last year at the World Showdance Championships in Germany where they came second in the 12-15 showdance categories.
Minnaar said, “I was very excited to be able to take part in such a prestige competition. The most exciting part for me was to make all my finals and to dance against the best in the world.”

Young Minnaar participated in the under-14 Girls Premier Champ Division where she danced solo. She reached the finals of the freestyle and slow dance sections placing sixth and forth respectively. Minnaar is a learner at Marigon School and a member of Dance Zone International in Bryanston.

Minnaar’s mother Cecillia said, “I am so proud of her. Courtney is the only South African girl to dance premiere and make it to the finals.”

The third member of the South African team to receive a winning title is Tatijana Ignaijtov who placed second in the under-8 Girls Premier Champ Division. Ignaijtov attends Bishop Bavin in Bedfordview and is a student at Diana Moore Dance World.

The style of freestyle is similar to that of aerobics. Dancers move kick, leap, spin and run during their dance performance. This style of dancing came from the good old disco dance of the 80’s.

The Freestyle World Championships is organised by Anna Jones, who is the president of the International Dance Teachers’ Association (IDTA).

A Superb photographer and photo journalist

Photo journalist, chief pMe with James Oatwey from the Sunday Timeshotographer at the Sunday Times, James Oakwey visited Wits Vuvuzela today and dawned on us his experiences and lessons he has learnt in the 3 years that he has been in the industry.

He gave us a preview of some of the work he has done between last year and this year.

Firstly, he showed us a photo essay/documentary he did called “The Lost Crows”. This was his idea and his project which he independently researched and executed apart from his job at the Sunday Times.

The documentary featured a group of San people who were forced to join the South African Defence Force (SADF) during apartheid. They were made to join the army because of their special skills. These people knew how to read signs of the bush, they possessed good hearing and they were accustomed to the specifications of the natural world which normal soldiers did not have.

The “Kwek” and the “!XN” were two tribes where these people were pulled from. They fought for the opposition (which was South Africa) and as a result when the war ended they were scared to return home, leaving them homeless.

The army gave them a plot to live on near Kimberly called the Kraaines – which means lost crows in their language and thus the title of the documentary. However, they were consequently evicted from this land and were given RDP houses from the government in Platfontein.

James said because apartheid has long past and these people live in very poor rural areas, they have been forgotten and he wanted to document their lives as a reminder that “modern” san people do exist which do not fit the stereotypical view of san people.

James took a photo of a man’s silhouette who hung himself from a tree in the bush. The newspaper chose not to run this story as it might show to promote suicide. Another, ethical decision in journalism. Another photo was of a woman named Sonia who suffered from malnutrition and also had HIV/AIDS. She was not receiving any ARV’s neither was she receiving any grant money. Sonia passed away last year May at the age of 33.

Somehow the portrait of Sonia has not yet left my mind, it was a photo which makes a print in your consciousness because of its shock and horror of her boney structure.

Other photo’s included portraits of people, daily life and photo’s of “tombo” their local potent alcohol. James explained that the unemployment is very high in Platfontein and at first it was hard for him to get access into the community, he had to explain his quest and then he was allowed to take photos.

James recently returned from the Central African Republic, he shared with us the photo’s he took and his experience while there. More fascinating to me was the tactics he and his reporter used in order to get around and survive in CAR. Getting a photo in such situations does not come down to focusing and shooting, but the effort and preparations to get the permission to take the photos.

We were able to put faces to these ‘rebels’ we always here about on the news. We saw the SADF vehicles which were taken over by the rebels. The dilapidated palace and President’s office after the take-over, the young soldiers who were called the “new recruits” holding deadly weapons, men tied up in the most uncomfortable positions and left to die in prison…these were all the photographs we saw and again photographs I will not forget easily.

James told us that what he learnt was that when you are in war zones you never show fear, even if someone is pointing a gun to your face, you as a person and a journalist need to stay calm. If you show emotion you might not live to tell the story because they will take advantage of your fear.

I realised that to be a great photographer you need to be a special type of person. It is not about getting the frame, it is about getting that frame, that one frame which will make the difference, that one frame which captures everything, that one frame no one will forget. It is a required passion, it is an inherent bravery and it is your life. Photography has no limits and sometimes in war situations coming out alive is a privilege even having your limbs become a privilege.

I have come to understand photography…and photography is no child’s play. It is an admirable occupation and a calling which not many of us have.

An Expert View on Journalism

Mondi Makhanya

An achieved journalist, author and outspoken critic, Mondi Makhanya visits the Daily Mail newsroom to give a nostalgic talk to aspiring student journalists.

Manto Tshabalala Msimang, exposing her as a liar and thief with a bold headline in the Sunday Times resulted in Makhanya facing a criminal investigation and immense amount of harassment – this being his most controversial and darkest moment in his career thus far.

Makhanya’s career started off at the Weekly Mail where he worked for five years. Other milestones in his career include working for the Mail and Guardian, being the editor-in-chief for Sunday Times and Avusa Media newspapers. Makhanya has since resigned from this position to write a book.

Makhanya addressed the students by saying, “you are entering into a profession where you are paid to enjoy yourself. Every single second is fun.”

Idealism; commitment and objectivity are a few qualities Makhanya pointed out as key to a journalists’ career.
The Zuma rape case is where Makhanya described his loneliest time of decision making in his life as a journalist. Being editor-in-chief of the Sunday Times held much responsibility which shadowed his choice in running the story.

“Every newspaper is the first rough draft of history”, said Makhanya. Creating change in the world and causing an impact which is there forever is important for a journalist and therefore “your commitment to accuracy is vital for your reputation” Makhanya said.

Makhanya showed great love and energy when he spoke of the South African media. “Do not be passive in defending that space of freedom, do your greatest journalism.”

Makhanya expressed that his goal has always been to merge politics and writing to tell stories. His goal for the future is to edit a small town daily newspaper before “he goes off to meet his maker” he said.

Makhanya admires Mandy Wiener for her achievements as an author and journalist, simultaneously.

Makhanya confessed that he has a fascination with bank robberies, “it’s a glamorous crime,” he said. He aims to write a book on South Africa’s ten greatest heists.