Cycling into Barrydale South Africa I am sweaty and tired. On the watch for baboons reported to be waiting at the petrol station my nerves are fraying. I wonder to myself why in the world I thought it would be a good idea to be on a bicycle in Africa!
Little did I know the South African village of Barrydale would forever steal a piece of my heart.
Emerging fresher and in far better state of mind following a shower in our lodging for the night, the manager of the Karoo Art Hotel announces we are in for a very special pre-dinner treat.
Visions of ice cold cocktails dance in my head. Sitting in the now cool shade on metal chairs lined along the grass, a local dance group is about to perform.
As the children appear with their paint can drums and wide smiles we learn that these are members of Net Vir Pret. An official NGO since 2004, Net Vir Pret translates from Afrikaans to English as ‘Just For Fun’.
Through dance, sports activities, arts and crafts, reading and educational programs, Net Vir Pret aims to break the cycle of poverty, drug and alcohol misuse and domestic violence at home and in the community.
Working with at risk youth from deprived communities in the Barrydale South Africa area, Net Vir Pret strives to keep youth off the street and out of danger.
By offering children activities after school, on weekends and during school vacations the organization fosters confidence, self-development and a sense of responsibility.
How hope began to bloom in Barrydale South Africa
Peter Takelo has a long time dream. “To have a creative and safe space for children where they can enjoy themselves and develop to their full potential.” As a child development professional in Capetown he met with Ann Harries in 2002. Sharing Peter’s enthusiasm for the project Net Vir Pret was born.
Has Net Vir Pret made a difference?
From humble beginnings and with increasing generosity of donors, the organization now works with approximately 500 children each week. There are countless stories of success we hear during the evening but perhaps none so inspiring as Project Hope.
In May 2016, Net Vir Pret reached out to 14 boys in the community. Having earned a reputation for lawlessness in the village, none were attending school and many came from over crowded and challenged homes.
Aiming to develop basic literary skills, keep the boys out of trouble and develop a sense of of self worth, Project Hope was born. Participation in arts and crafts was sporadic but once the boys joined the bike club, hope sprang forward.
Learning how to repair and maintain their bikes and riding together three times a week hooked them. Once engaged, other activities such as reading and drumming were added.
Soon after they formed a soccer team which beat the highschool team 13-0! At last report 12 of the 14 boys are back in school. Net Vir Pret meets with the boys’ teachers and supports a mothers’ group led by a social worker where parenting skills are taught.
Reviewing the statistics of children from the program currently in or have recently graduated from university or post secondary education my eyes blur at the extensive list.
Lives changed through the power of education. Peter’s philosophy of allowing children to be children reflects in their accomplishments.
Dancing to a new life in Barrydale
Originating in ancient fireside rituals of the KhoiSan people, the riel dance is seeing a huge revival in South Africa. It is one of the oldest indigenous dance styles in Africa. The upsurge of the story telling dance reflects the pride of culture and heritage.
This interest is not only near Barrydale South Africa but the entire country, especially Western and Northern Cape.
In 2016, the senior Net Vir Pret group made it to the finals of the Riel festival. Taking home third place their dance told the story of HIV and the impact on the African people. They also were awarded the most improved group trophy.
Net Vir Pret now has twenty riel dance groups. Some of the senior dancers train new or younger members in and around Barrydale, South Africa.
If you watch one video of ours this year please make it this one below. To think of the hardship these children have overcome through the dream of of one individual makes me believe anything is possible.
Have you found hopeful surprises in your travels?
You can learn more about Net Vir Pret here.