On November 9, 2011, the Wilderness Foundation will showcase its two successful Umzi Wethu academies to sponsors and the media.
The occasion will also mark Absa’s handover of R500 000 towards Umzi Wethu training for 2012.
One of the main focus areas of the Wilderness Foundation is social intervention coupled with experiential environmental education.
The international award-winning Umzi Wethu project was founded by Andrew Muir, CEO of the Wilderness Foundation in 2006 and is one of the foundation’s flagship social intervention projects.
Aimed at displaced and socially vulnerable youth, the three Umzi Wethu academies train young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 for jobs in the hospitality and eco-tourism sectors.
Umzi Wethu harnesses the power of the wilderness, promotes personal wellness in a nurturing home context, provides credible training, and secures sustainable job placements in the hospitality and eco-tourism industry on behalf of the graduates. The project saw Muir honoured as an International Rolex Awards Laureate in 2008 as well as the South African Conservationist of the Year in 2007.
“Essentially we are creating ambassadors for other vulnerable youths and orphans to look up to, and see a brighter outlook. Graduates from Umzi Wethu will serve as examples of opportunity and hope to both their own families and to the communities from which they come,” says Muir.
There are two Umzi Wethu academies in the Eastern Cape. The hospitality academy is based in Port Elizabeth and students are equipped to enter hospitality jobs in urban and rural establishments. They gain valuable practical experience at the on-site Conynghams Coffee Shop and Ray Mhlaba Conference Centre.
The conservation academy is based in Somerset East and focuses on training future conservation leaders as either field rangers or field guides. This academy is located close to the Boschberg Mountain Reserve and other private game reserves which allows for easy access to practical experience.
In July 2009, the Umzi Wethu hospitality academy extended its operations with the opening of its Catering Unit. Based in Port Elizabeth, the self-sustaining Catering Unit employs between three and five Umzi Wethu hospitality graduates on its staff and caters for various private and corporate events in the city. In its first year, turnover exceeded R800 000.
The highly skilled catering team (graduates from the Umzi Wethu Hospitality unit), offers a full range of services, for all types of functions including menu planning, high quality meal catering and event management.
Umzi Wethu’s ultimate success is measured by the number of graduates currently employed. Success is also seen in graduates who choose to further their education as this is another key to unlocking future financial independence.
The Umzi Wethu graduate job placement rate is 95%, job retention rate is between 80-85%. The jobs are well paid and support the graduates’ extended families. Further research into the success of the project over the last five years has revealed that 7-10% of graduates have either advanced to junior and middle management positions in eco-tourism industries, or have been enabled to pursue tertiary education.
- Umzi Wethu is a one year, social development and intervention programme for displaced and socially vulnerable youth (those who have lost one or both parents, are child headed households or live in households with no formal income).
- 2011 saw the graduation of 35 graduates from both hospitality and conservation academy (17 conservation, 18 hospitality)
- A total of 142 students have graduated since the inception of Umzi Wethu in 2006
- Umzi Wethu job retention rate is 80-85% following placement by the Umzi Wethu academy
- 7-10% of graduates have advanced to junior or middle management positions in the ecotourism industry
Editor’s Notes: I was privileged to witness the 2011 graduation and the joy from the graduates was palpable. Cementing my favourable impression even further was once again meeting a graduate from 2008 who had gone on to greater things and, best of all , it was HE that recognised me and started the conversation with a personal anecdote.
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