Students in South Africa

Students took part in a project to help Goodwill & Growth For Africa UK (GAGA UK), whose mission is to generate growth for African children and communities devastated by HIV-AIDS and poverty.


Over three weeks in the summer, the students were involved in activities that centred on helping local communities get to grasp with nutritional values and to experience the damage that the HIV virus has caused there.

Esther Koh highlights some of her experiences from South Africa:

Sawubona (Hello in Zulu)! This is Esther reporting from Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal. 

On Monday and Tuesday, we revisited 1000 Hill’s Community Centre, Hillcrest Aids Centre and the White House. We had the privilege of meeting Tzam, a physiotherapist, counsellor and administrative officer working in Hillcrest Aids Centre. He shared with current patient diets and the daily struggles they face. His love and dedication to helping them is very inspiring. 

On Tuesday, two members of the group headed back to Hillcrest and did a nutritional analysis of their meals. Their diet mainly consists of high protein foods and plenty of water. However, for patients under palliative care, food is used for comfort instead and patients had the freedom to have whatever food they desire. ARV’s (Antiretroviral) drugs for the HIV patients must be taken after food (once a day at 8pm) for it to take effect.

Singing and dancing with the local grannies on Wednesday morning in the Valley of a 1000 Hills was one of my favourite moments of the trip. Dressed in their traditional Zulu costumes, they warmly welcomed us with songs and dance. We joined in the fun as well, though we still couldn’t master the high Zulu kicks. Most of these grannies are going through tough times; loss of their children to HIV and having to take care of their grandchildren (a.k.a hourglass community), battling with depression and physical illnesses etc. I’m glad that they are getting support from Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust, and to know that they have one another for support is really comforting.

We also did an in-depth nutritional analysis of ‘STOP HUNGER NOW’, an emergency meal pack which LETCEE (Little Elephant Training Centre for Early Education) used to feed the Greytown community. We concluded that the recommended serving portion was insufficient to feed the children. We then provided suggestions on how we could improve the calorie density and nutritional quality of the meal.

On Thursday, we visited Njenjabantu, a village that benefits from the work of LETCEE. The village name translates to ‘this is the people’. There was a toy library and a vegetable garden on site. Villagers practice giving 10% of the crop produce back to the community. There is a saying in Zulu called ‘Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu’ meaning ‘a person is a person through other persons’. We affirm our humanity when we acknowledge that of others.

On our last ‘working day’, we went to one of the LETCEE barracks. Some of us tidied up the toy library while others did a nutritional analysis of the children’s breakfast porridge. In the afternoon, some of the kids were very sweet and sang some songs to us before we left. Goodbye hugs and off we went.

It soon became the time to pack our bags and fly back home to the UK. The hours the six of us have spent together discussing and preparing lesson materials had definitely bought us closer together. We are so grateful for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the beauty of South Africa, the warmth of its people, and the chance to use our nutritional knowledge to make a difference no matter how small the impact might be.

I shall end with some wise words from Mary, the founder of LETCEE: “Do not ask for what you can have; instead think of what you can leave behind”. All of us ought to learn to be conscious consumers, to be content with whatever we have, always show kindness to everyone, and never hesitate to lend a hand to our community.

Ngyiabonga (Thank you), and may God bless you.

Signing out,


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