Ubuntu Makasi trip — Inspiring stories of social entrepreneurs, activists & grassroot NGOs in Africa
Back in April 2015, I had the privilege to meet with Dayana Dreke, who used to work for the Western Cape Network for Community Peace and Development, and her multi-cultural family in Cape Town, South Africa. We met in a cosy café in *Observatory where they told me about their plan to travel a year through Africa to share inspiring stories of social entrepreneurs, local activists, artists and successful grassroot NGOs. Eight months later, this dream is finally turning into reality for the family. Next week, they will start their journey with their motorhome ‘Ubuntu Makasi’. In this interview, you can find out more about their upcoming journey and learn about lessons learned while working in an NGO active in community development and peace building in South Africa.
1. You are about to travel Africa for a year to document inspiring stories. Please tell us more about it, your motivations and aspirations!
Our first idea was to start our journey in Berlin, where we prepared our trip and travel via Southern Europe, visiting friends on the way to North Africa and then via West Africa to Central & East Africa, and through Southern Africa finishing in Cape Town, South Africa, where we have been living for the last 8–10 years. However, due to official travel warnings (especially terrorism in these regions) and for many positive reasons, we decided to turn this route upside-down and start in Cape Town, where we surprised family and friends after shipping our motorhome in September to Namibia and driving to Cape Town in October.
The countries and route we selected are based on our personal networks incl. local activists, social entrepreneurs, artists and successful grassroots NGOs to tell their inspiring positive stories that are often ignored in mainstream media that portrays Africa rather stereotypically as the dark, violent, poor continent depending on the ‘West’. We also want to promote the African ‘Ubuntu’ philosophy´ (meaning humanity/human connection) as compassionate interconnectedness thinking on a global level by igniting dialogues and hopefully inspiring also much-needed actions.
2. Since when do you dream of travelling Africa and how easy, or difficult, was it to convince your partner to join?
It’s a longtime dream, especially after traveling as a 19-year-old volunteer to Burkina Faso in 2001, and it became more concrete when I went for the 2nd time to Ouagadougou in 2005, where I volunteered together with a young female Swiss doctor at an orphanage. We had the idea of traveling through Africa to facilitate basic first aid courses adapted to African conditions.
When I shared my dream with my partner Tresor that I met in Cape Town 2009, he was very excited and immediately all for it! We started planning that we will take a one year break in 2015 to realize our African travel dream. Our first crazy idea was actually to travel like no one before on a horseback through Africa — but through research and doing short horse-riding tours, we saw the hectic challenges of just alone trying to find a resistant horse breed and the difficult logistics of taking horses over African borders… and well, also our little girl Benisha was born end of 2013, so we had to make our Africa trip much more child-friendly and safety became also a bigger priority.
3. What did both of you do before? Did you quit your job in order to travel?
Tresor was doing his Diploma in Film & Media Studies in Cape Town and worked as an independent filmmaker on his own social documentary projects as well as commercial media projects. His latest project is the LOVE IS music video (check Tresor’s filmmaker website with the music video) of the South African artist Julian Wenn.
And I had worked for 5 years since 2010 as a seconded development professional from EED/Brot für die Welt, managing first a local NGO with focus on child & youth empowerment in the context of crime & violence prevention through holistic education, and then coordinating a provincial Peace Network of ca. 25–30 NGOs turning it into an info & resource hub as well as creating Peace events and peace-building workshops for local communities. So we planned our trip after the end of Tresor’s studies and my work contract, which coincides with the end of my life-enriching decade in Cape Town, South Africa, and the start of an exciting new chapter for us as a young family.
4. How do you finance your trip?
As traveling is our passion and the Africa trip being already a longer dream of us, we have been doing quite some savings over the last years. And basically, once you have the vehicle, your equipment, visas and insurances, you save on accommodation costs during the trip and have just the general spendings on food and petrol that you would also have when staying home.
However, we had quite some unexpected expenses with the shipment to Namibia as North & West Africa was too unsafe for us as a family to travel through, and we also still look for supporters who want to donate to realize our documentary film and travel book project, so people can donate any amount via Paypal just using this link.
5. What can people expect to hear from you during the journey?
It will be an authentic, awareness-raising and entertaining documentation of our trip traveling as a multi-cultural family through ca. 16–20 African countries (depending on changing conditions eg. travel warnings, visa changes) including the exciting obvious highlights as well as the adventurous challenges, especially when traveling with our 2-year-old daughter, telling the inspiring stories of people we meet along the way and sharing Ubuntu experience to portray Africa rather as a diverse, uprising continent full of hidden potentials. We will also share memorable poetic visuals and powerful local African music to let our followers get a taste of diverse African cultures and their ´joie de vivre´.
6. What kind of organisations or people inspire yourself, and why?
True authentic and serving leaders with integrity and compassion, sustainable community-needs driven grassroot projects, innovative social entrepreneurs, ground-breaking artists that challenge the status-quo, and inspiring survivors who make it happen despite the odds — as these are the kind of people and organisations we would like to see a lot more of to make a real positive impact in our world.
7. I can imagine it requires a lot of time to research visa regulations, suitable accommodation, inspiring organisations or NGOs — Is there a way people can support?
Indeed, it is months of research to prepare such a 1 year trip through Africa, and having our own caravan helps us being independent from having to look for affordable accommodation along the way. Furthermore, in the spirit of Ubuntu — our theme for our journey — we will mainly visit African countries, where we have friends or connections to NGOs, activists, artists etc. so that we also have longer and safe stop-overs there.
We also have our public Africa Facebook group ‘Ubuntu Makasi — Our Africa Adventure’, where friends and other interested people can follow our trip and share info around inspiring connections, helpful travel info e.g. road conditions, must-sees in the countries, health tips etc.
And on our travel blog, we also have a “Support Us” section, where people can find ideas how to support us from sharing info, expertise, donations, sponsorships etc. and you can follow us on Twitter and on Instagram.
8. You have lived in Cape Town and worked for the Western Cape Network for Community Peace and Development before deciding to travel. What are your top 5 learnings of working in an NGO in the community development field in South Africa?
I have been now living for about 10 years in Cape Town, South Africa, and have been involved in the development work field in different capacities as volunteer, consultant, coordinator, trainer and programme manager, and I definitely learned a lot — professionally as well as personally!
- A leader can make or break an organization.
- To implement projects successfully in communities, one needs to involve them already from the project planning level on, so it is based on their real community needs, creates ownership and secures their commitment.
- Get the right people in your team, that have the passion, commitment, expertise and experience to move the organization forward to best serve the beneficiaries.
- Be conscious about the socio-cultural and historical context that you work in — and speaking a local language is a huge advantage to connect, build trust & collaborate with locals.
- Managing a NGO as a learning organization helps to adapt to changing conditions — and NGO founders should learn to let go of their ‘baby’ and invest in training up young successors to avoid the negative ‘founder syndrome’ that can break organizations.
Dayana Dreke when working for the Western Cape Network for Community Peace and Development at an annual peace event organised in collaboration with UNASA — Unite Nation Association South Africa
9. Any idea what you will do after this journey?
After our journey, we will be staying for 2–3 years in my home town Berlin, Germany, where the first months, we will be busy with post-production of our Africa trip documentary film as well as writing a travel book and/or a children’s book illustrating the perspective of our 2-year-old daughter traveling with us through Africa, as an educative awareness book about the beautiful continent of Africa. After Berlin, we plan to spend some years in Kinshasa, DR Congo, Tresor’s home country, to innovatively contribute building up a local film & media industry.
10. Is there anything you would advise others to realise their dreams?
Just go for it! But strategically plan and work hard with passion to achieve your vision, belief in yourself and be determined despite challenges. And we like Mark Twain’s quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
*Obervatory, also known as ‘Obs’, is a bohemian suburb where under apartheid, people from all races lived together. It lies east of the city centre, a 10–15 minutes ride by minibus. The suburb is famous for its Victorian houses, its bars, live music and trendy restaurants.
Originally published at whatamission.com on November 28, 2015.