Nemato Change a Life (NCAL) is the premier learning hub for children living in and around the Nemato area offering a variety of sporting activities and clubs as well as affording the children internet access and providing after-school classes.
“Daily life got disrupted and became uncertain for most people all around the globe in 2020,” said NCAL founder Jan Blom.
“Our worry was: will our funders and supporters be able to continue helping us? Well, the support in 2020 has been phenomena. Not only have we helped many families in our impoverished community with emergency food parcels, but we have also been able to continue offering our programme in different forms at different levels of lockdown, and work towards a more sustainable future. Many thanks and have a good 2021.”
Khanyile Mbolekwa won the Junior Double Mini Trampoline at the Veriflite Online Competition, with competitors from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Germany, England and South Africa. “An outstanding achievement,” commented Blom.
But Blom is also worried about the location of the centre and how long operations can continue there.
“Unfortunately, we are based in a virus hotspot area,” wrote Blom. “We hope to stay open, with strict mask and distancing rules in place and are trying to influence our members to change behaviour from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. We compared pictures from China and the USA with statistics of infections and deaths. It made a strong case that protection is not about being scared, it’s about helping to solve this very serious problem.”
The NCAL youth empowerment programme is giving members a broad base of useful skills. Blom said that NCAL’s active members are well ahead of the average youth in the community, but with the local economy in shambles, this doesn’t solve the unemployment crisis. To help address this challenge, NCAL has been looking at fish farming for some time, but the high cost of fish feed is a problem. Fly farming could be the solution.
NCAL project manager Lunga Feni travelled to Nambu in Makhanda to learn how to fly farm. During the Christmas break he took a group of members for a three-day camp to learn the basics of fly and fish farming and aquaponics.
“We are lucky that there is a lot of expertise in our area in both fly and fish farming and people are keen to help us to get started. We are building a small greenhouse for a pilot project in fly and fish farming. When it works well, we’ll try to grow it to commercial scale as a social enterprise, for jobs and to generate sustainable income for Nemato Change a Life in the long term,” said Blom.
At the NCAL busy centre there is always a lot of repair work: whether a table loses a leg, a loose wire trips the power, a key breaks inside a lock or a computer doesn’t want to start. Most of the time NCAL fixes these problems in order to learn skills. This can make progress slow, and some work has to be repeated to get it right.
“But it’s worth it,” said Blom. “Where else can our youth learn all these skills?”
One major problem is dust. Coastal windy weather means clouds of dust fly around and cover everything in minutes or even seconds. “We have upgraded our computers with fans and dust filters to prevent dust damage. We are now building a box around our solar inverters and batteries with filtered air cooling,” said Blom.
A group of business people cycled the Change a Life FNB Unlock & Loaded Cycle Tour 2020, to raise funds for the Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy and for Nemato Change a Life.
“Many thanks to the cyclists and to Ursula and the Mike Thomson Change a Life Trust, for organising this event,” said Blom. “Without them, we would not exist.”
NCAL is trying to help members to make jobs instead of take jobs. Alroy Taai gave an inspiring lecture about the many possibilities for township tourism development. “It would be great if, in future, our members can give visitors to Port Alfred a taste of Africa in Nelson Mandela Township (Nemato) and show the activities and sports of our centre,” Blom mused.
In school mathematics a lot of focus is on learning the tricks to solve equations, but Google can do that, Blom said. In NCAL’s maths class they learn to work on building the equations to solve real live questions, on understanding concepts and on the beauty of mathematics. A highlight was a series of lessons on iteration, showing the power of spreadsheets, for example in exponential growth. That took NCAL to the Mandelbrot set: a very simple equation leading to infinitely detailed art of astonishing beauty. NCAL ended up doing photography, adding more dimensions to the Mandelbrot set.
NCAL took its telescope go the Fairewood Outdoor Education Centre near Makhanda, to watch the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and the Orion Nebula.
NCAL is open every day of the year, even on Christmas, and cooked Christmas lunch the traditional way on a wood fire.
Photographer West le Pix from Johannesburg was in town to work with NCAL’s photographer Lifa Budaza (Picfafa). He also did a photography session at NCAL.
With the help of generous donors the NCAL solar power system has been upgraded. The long term aim is to scale up to get ready for driving on solar, to become financially and ecologically more sustainable.
Through helping out with the lockdown support group, NCAL’s programme manager, Ashley Backward, was accepted for a leadership course, offered in online sessions by Tom Fraser of the TWF Consulting Group in Johannesburg. The course includes coaching, mentoring and teaching life skills. Fraser visited the centre, donated roof sheets for connection between two buildings and promised to keep supporting NCAL.
The Rotary Club of Kenton-on-Sea sponsors a Level 4 Early Childhood Development course by Early Inspiration intended for teachers from disadvantaged township pre-schools. They had a few spaces open in the course and, by supplying transport, NCAL could offer a group of local pre-school teachers this great opportunity. Unfortunately, the course is currently back to online learning only, due to the second wave lockdown.
NCAL’s ergos (rowing machines) needed repair. The club managed to fix four of them, enough to reintroduce ergo sessions in the training programme.
NCAL’s international gymnasts Liyema Nxobo, Onke Mengele, Siyabulela Siwe and Khanyile Mbolekwa attended a training camp in Port Elizabeth. Mbolekwa was the star of the camp and worked harder than anybody else, making most progress. He also won the Junior Double Mini Trampoline at the Veriflite Online Competition, with competitors from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Germany, England and South Africa.
For a short while NCAL was back at the Titi Jonas Community Centre to train on its new double mini trampoline. Unfortunately, the hall is back under lockdown.
“We have applied for the lease of the hall to be able to offer daily sports sessions for more youth and to have an appropriate place of our Olympic trampoline,” said Blom.
“Watch out for our handball players; they are getting super sharp with our new training tool to practice targeting the corners,” advises Blom. “Hopefully we’ll also get new stronger goal nets soon.”