A group of seven committed, passionate and hard-working Maltese volunteers are currently in Lesotho, Africa, where they helped set up a training programme for locals.
It’s the peak of winter in the high-altitude mountain kingdom of Lesotho, which is completely encircled by South Africa. Lesotho is the only independent state in the world to lie entirely 1,000 metres above sea levels.
The Maltese are volunteering with NGO Agara, which seeks to invest in relationships within communities and empowers individuals by cultivating a sense of growth, self-reliance and collaboration.
In October 2017, while searching for new projects to partner with, Agara’s team leader Adrian Cassar met Daniela Gusman, a Maltese native and founder of US enterprise RISE (relationships inspiring social enterprise), which was looking for volunteers to travel to Lesotho to help design and build a training programme, which included the setting up of a community computer centre.
RISE’s inaugural programme In Loco is a ‘learning-by-doing’ fellowship programme for local recent graduates from the built environment in planning, design and building. It involves a community participatory process, and promotes peer-to-peer knowledge exchange with international students.
The live design and build project involves the construction of a much-needed additional residential accommodation for an overcrowded orphanage, as well as income-generating activities for adolescent youth.
“We are really grateful to Agara for all the long hours of incredible hard work these young people have put into making this programme possible. We could not have set up the computer centres without their generous donation of 14 laptops and all the training they have offered to the youth leaders here in Lesotho, who will be running the computer facilities. It has also been really fun to have so many fellow Maltese in Lesotho,” Gusman said.
The two new computer centres are located at God’s Love Centre Orphanage in Sekamaneng, a town situated 15 kilometres outside Lesotho’s capital Maseru, and the Paballong HIV/AIDS Care Centre, which offers voluntary counselling and testing, treatment of HIV and other infections, counselling, community outreach and a daycare facility for orphans and vulnerable children
The founder of the Paballong HIV/AIDS Care Centre, Gerard Mathot, has also expressed his appreciation for the commitment of the volunteers. He said: “Now we can really start to develop the computer hub.”
Agara’s sixth project from the PoléPolé (step by step) campaign gave its members in Lesotho the opportunity to reuse second-hand laptops from Malta.
“During our stay in this community we shared the basics of computer skills with a group of local trainees. We also brainstormed about a business plan for an IT facility in two centres. From the very first day, our team managed to build a good relationship with the 11 African trainees,” said Cassar.
“Together we visited the community to get a better understanding of its needs. We were then able to discuss and help them design a vision for the running of the centres. Thanks to RISE here in Lesotho we have found the perfect set-up to run a long-term sustainable project.”
The Maltese volunteers will leave Lesotho on Saturday.
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