Voluntourism in South Africa with TOMS Shoes – Day 2

Day 2 of our volunteer travel adventure with TOMS Shoes and Element Skateboards in South Africa

Today we headed to downtown Durban, to a shelter for streetkids called Umthombo. From Umthombo’s website (www.umthombo.org):

“Umthombo is a voice from the streets. It is a unique South African street children organisation led predominantly by former street children. Umthombo aims to change the way that society perceives and treats street children through educating society as to the realities of the street child experience and through developing and implementing informed, working strategies to address the issue in South African cities. Umthombo believes that Durban is fast becoming the “Rio” of this decade, when it comes to issue of street children. Umthombo is based in Durban and focuses on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. It also has offices in East London in the Eastern Cape.”

It is an amazing place, a bit like yesterday’s Indigo Skate Camp, although here the focus is on surfing more than skateboards, although they LOVED the TOMS/Element Skatebaords that we gave to them!

TOMS Shoe fitting in South Africa

TOMS Shoe fitting in South Africa

After a shoe fitting blitz with these beautiful young men and women, we followed them down to the beach, where they were really in their ‘element’: in the waves.

They carved them up to perfection – it was a joy to behold, and the waves were big!

After saying our goodbyes to these courageous children, we embarked on the long drive to Hluhluhwe Umfolozi Game Park.

We had a ‘cultural’ lunch en route, consisting of samosas, rotis, and the uniquely Durban ‘dish’ called a Bunny, which is a curry inside a half-loaf of bread that has had some of its interior removed to accommodate the curry.

Durban has the world’s largest Indian population outside of India, so it was only appropriate that we sampled their cuisine, and it was so tasty!

We arrived at our lodge in time for the afternoon game drive, which was a lot of fun – three vehicles worth of us piled in, and we got to see zebra, kudu, impala, and all but our vehicle saw rhino, although Godrey, our hilarious guide, promised us rhino tomorrow.

A little more on Umthombo:

Their Programs and Goals

Umthombo’s ultimate goal is to change the way that society perceives and treats street children in South Africa. It has two main programs (and a number of other smaller ones), one focusing on grass roots action, the other on strategy development:

1. The Durban Street Team (DST): This is a street based outreach team operating in Durban that identifies children on the streets, builds relationships of trust with them, assists them and empowers them to be able to be able to leave the streets and become reintegrated with their families and/or communities. It also has an extensive aftercare and monitoring program for those children who have left the streets. Many of the DST staff are also former street children. There are four specific service areas that the DST operates:

  • Street-based Outreach
  • Street-based Drop-in Centre
  • Street-based Health (mobile health clinic)
  • Community-based Aftercare

2. The Street-child Consciousness Team (SCT): SCT is a think tank consisting of and led by former street children which educates society as to the realities of the street child experience and develops city-wide strategies and other strategy and policy proposals around the the issue. It is the advocacy and policy wing of Umthombo and a powerful voice from the streets.

Through these programs and others Umthombo’s goals are:

  • Implementing and supporting strategic and pioneering grass-roots programs relating to street children in Durban and beyond.
  • Developing holistic and informed city-wide strategies to address the changing context of street children in South Africa.
  • Engaging in advanced and informed advocacy on behalf of street children as well as providing strategy advice and consultancy through workshops, presentations and road-shows on the issue of street children for all sectors of society including municipalities, government departments, key policy makers, service providers, national street children related alliances and forums as well as institutions such as school, churches and local community groups.
  • Facilitating research and explaining the issue of street children in light of the HIV/AIDS crisis within South Africa providing an accessible information base.
  • Empowering street children and former street children to think philosophically, politically and theologically about their situation and to develop critical consciousness as to the importance of “street children” as a social justice issue.

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