Awelani Lodge and Eco-Tourism Park has the good fortune of having a new management couple, Vince Mehers and Erin Kaiser, who are not only excellent Lodge managers but also started an NGO in the area called Friends of Mutale. This UK-based charity is engaged in rural community development work at Bennde Mutale in northern Limpopo.
Vince Mehers first discovered Bennde Mutale when he visited as a tourist in 2004. Education was extremely poor in the village and this motivated Vince to keep coming back each year to help. This he did by teaching at the primary school and implementing basic adult education course.
The NGO was formally registered in 2009 and has collected donations from all over the world to fund its work in the village. A Learning Centre was built in Bennde Mutale and has linked education to fun as the building is used for a variety of purposes by the community.
Community development needs buy-in from all the people involved to make a real difference in people’s lives. The Friends of Mutale has achieved this by gaining the trust of the community and by addressing needs that the community identified as being important. A real impact has been made on education in the village and it is now time to tackle health issues and sustainable job creation projects.
As Vince and Erin are now both based at Awelani Lodge and Eco-Tourism Park and this will work well with the next initiative planed by Friends of Mutale. In 2010, they were asked to implement a farming co-operative in the area. Increased interest and in tourist and hospitality ventures in the region means that the demand for fresh produce has grown exponentially. The nearest place where fresh produce can be bought currently is 200km away so a project that creates co-operative farms for the villagers will definitely be successful. Both the tourist industry and lodges and the people living in the area will be willing customers for this new venture.
TFPD Foundation are honoured to share in the work already carried out by Friends of Mutale. We are looking forward to working on projects that will benefit both the community-owned lodge at Awelani and the communities in the area.