Muddy boots on the ground, hands at the policy table

Today was our first full day with UNICEF partners, who generously came to our hotel to provide us with the necessary background and context to UNICEF’s work in rural parts of South Africa.

Picture by Steven Ambros
Picture by Steven Ambros

UNICEF’s work, to reiterate, is in early childhood development, results for adolescents, and ending violence against children.

UNICEF is successful in South Africa because they establish pilots (muddy boots on the ground) that the government can then see as evidence of their effectiveness and impact to support future and nationwide policy decisions (hands at the policy table). One of the most integrated partnerships that UNICEF has is with IKEA; IKEA should be extremely proud of their association with this international organisation.

Here are some of the statistics that we learned about children in South Africa:

*Around 99.6% of children have access to an education.

*The gap between the rich and the poor is the largest in the world.

*Nine million out of 14 million children get a free meal at school, with the poorest receiving dry rations to take home.

We of course learned much more; some things were inspiring, some shocking.

After the briefing we all loaded up into two mini-buses to travel out of the urban centre to the province of KwaZulu-Natal, four hours away.

Our accommodation outside of the town of Gelucksburg is Kwaggashoek, a lodge on a game ranch. We were treated to a late afternoon drive through the bush with Willie, who shared with us the conservation efforts he has implemented on his game ranch to protect the wildlife. We were fortunate to see gazelles, like the springboek, families of warthogs, a grazing herd of buffalo, and hippos in the water. When in Africa…!


Dinner, again with our UNICEF hosts, was our first traditional South African barbeque called a braai, during which our UNICEF colleagues continued to share with us their successes, and challenges working in rural South Africa. Meeting such dedicated and passionate people has been so inspiring.

Tomorrow is an early start so that we can visit a few schools, and early education and community centres. We will have so much more to tell everyone in the coming days.





    Tanya Imola