22 November 2008


Lou Billet is an Australian who settled in South Africa in 2003 after travelling through the Wild Coast. She later started African Angels, a NGO dedicated to educating the underprivileged children of the region. She left a banking career in Australia to travel around the world. She spnt five months in India, then travelled through East Africa and ended up in South Africa in December 2003. After exploring the Wild Coast and staying in Chintsa for a while, she decided to stay. She started African Angels with Tracy King of the King’s Playschool in Glen Eden. The charity provides an opportunity for very poor children to receive a high quality education from preschool to matric. Finding sponsors is always a challenge. About half the sponsors are from overseas, and half from South Africa. On weekends, Lou runs her restaurant, the Country Bumpkin, in Chintsa East.


Greatergood SA is urging South Africans to make this Christmas different by choosing gifts that will change lives. Make Christmas Matter is an annual call-to-action campaign offering a range of alternative Christmas gifts. You can see and buy gifts on-line, and then personalise gift cards to send to friends, family, colleagues or business associates explaining how the gifts are helping to change the lives of people in South Africa. Some of the gifts include:

A new school uniform for an orphaned child at R250.
Vitamins for a person living with HIV or Aids at R50.
Materials to help a small entrepreneur package their products attractively at R250.
Organic farming training for a subsistence farmer at R500.
A soft toy for an abused or neglected child at R50.
Food for an orphaned baby baboon at R100.
An income-generating township veggie garden at R5000.

The campaign supports carefully selected projects. An intensive assessment process includes peer review panels, site visits, a comprehensive organisation and risk assessment, research, evaluation and detailed reporting. This is the fourth year that GreaterGood SA will run the Make Christmas Matter campaign. Since it started in 2005, Make Christmas Matter has raised almost R1.5 million for 17 development projects ranging from a child immunisation programme in the Northern Cape to a community environmental education drive on the East Rand.


The Department of Home Affairs publishes a list of critical skills required to keep the economy growing. The latest list was published in April and includes:

500 actuaries and risk assessors
500 agricultural economists
500 statisticians
500 economists
200 chemical and materials engineers
1000 civil engineers
150 structural engineers
500 aeronautical engineers
500 aircraft maintenance engineers
250 avionics engineers
500 electrical and electronic engineers
100 industrial engineers
100 mechanical engineers
100 mining engineers
250 quality engineers and inspectors
500 specialists in pipe engineering and manufacturing
200 astronomers
200 astrophysicists
200 atmospheric physicists
200 space scientists
100 chemists, analytical chemists and industrial chemists
500 agricultural and forestry scientists
500 bioengineers and biotechnologists
100 food technologists
100 geologists
150 geophysicists
250 veterinarians
5000 clinical and biomedical engineers and technologists
300 research and development pharmacologists
4000 school teachers (maths, science, design and technology specialisations)
50 education planners
5000 agricultural science technicians
250 earth science technicians
1000 biological science technicians
1500 civil engineering draftsmen, technicians and technologists
500 electrical engineering draftsmen and technicians
250 electronics technicians
250 mechanical engineering draftsmen and technicians
250 hydraulics and pneumatics technicians
1000 industrial and product-development technologists and testers
350 autotronics technicians
150 mechatronics technicians
1000 aircraft and avionics technicians, including maintenance technicians
150 manufacturing technologists and technicians
500 sheet-metal tradesmen
1500 structural steel and welding tradesmen


Melanie Mayer (20) and Marlen Sartorius (20) are German volunteers with African Field Services (AFS). They are working at two Eastern Cape schools - Melanie at Hoërskool Cowan and Marlen at Laerskool David Vuku. The two women are helping to upgrade the schools' libraries. They've approached businesses in Port Elizabeth and Germany for sponsorships. When they return to Germany in September, they hope to leave behind fully-stocked school libraries.


Since 1976, Buks Delport (aka Father Christmas), has been driving around Johannesburg's poorer suburbs in his red 1958 Ford bakkie decorated as a sleigh with reindeer, dishing out sweets and toys to children. He hasn't missed a Christmas in 32 years. The 67 year old Buks lives at Vaal Marina, on the Vaal River. He owns Buks Delport motor scrapyard in Ophirton, Johannesburg. His fiancée, Marietjie Steenkamp, helps out with the special deliveries. His late wife, Mara, used to knit dolls and toys throughout the year. Now Buks buys the sweets and toys himself, bar a few donations. He sometimes receives invitations to act as Father Christmas at Christmas parties, and the money he receives for this, he donates to children's homes.


Pregnant with her first child, Betsy Klein, an artist, is summoned from her home in New York to her father’s hospital bed in Cape Town. Harold (Harry) Klein was a doctor in a small country town in South Africa, but is now in a coma. This is Anne Landman's second book. The first was The Devil's Chimney, published in 1997. The Rowing Lesson is a memoir novel, part Anne's family history (she lives in New York and was unable to be at her father's deathbed in South Africa in 1997), part fiction. Harry was a skinny boy with a hot-tempered mother and a good-hearted father, Joseph a Jewish shopkeeper in a town a few hundred miles from Cape Town. In 1938 Harry goes to medical school and marries a woman from a socially superior Jewish family. They have two children, both of whom move to the USA. Harry has a life-long jealousy of his younger brother, who becomes a flashy, respected cardiologist. As Betsy sits by his hospital bed, she recalls her memories of growing up. Her father was not always likeable or kind, a product of his background and times. The Rowing Lesson novel looks at the dynamics between father and daughter, between children leaving the country of their birth and parents that stay behind.

Anne Landsman was born and raised in Worcester, near Cape Town. She attended the University of Cape Town and Columbia University. Her first novel, The Devil’s Chimney, was nominated for four awards including the M-Net Prize, and was set in Oudtshoorn. She has lived in New York City for 27 years, and is married with two children. When her father died in 1997, she wrote him a letter in the second person. It was read to him at his bedside and also at his funeral. It became the spark for this novel. He got sick, fell and broke his leg. Two weeks later he was dead, something went wrong in the surgery.


In the on-going debate between those who stay in South Africa and those who leave, two things stand out - the mostly negative talk between the two sides, and the name-calling. Lost in this, is the emotional and psychological upheaval that goes with emigration. Now an article has been published in the South African Journal of Psychology, entitled “Predictors of psychological distress in South African immigrants to Australia”. It was researched and written by Nigar G. Khawaja and Lesleyanne Mason of Queensland University of Technology. It is believed to be the first scientific study of South African immigration to Australia that focuses on the reasons for emigrating and the emotional and psychological upheaval that they go through. One hundred and one white South Africans in Brisbane and Melbourne, who had left South Africa less than 5 years ago, were complete a battery of questionnaires. The study found that psychological distress was not affected by gender or employment status. However, it differed significantly on the basis of their duration of stay in Australia with the distress reducing as the length of stay increased. Furthermore, factors such as grief as a result of immigration, low levels of self esteem and finally the experience of crime in South Africa, contributed to the psychological distress experienced by these South African immigrants. The study found that in the first five years in Australia, South Africans feel more bereaved than any other immigrant group. This was studied by means of the Core Bereavement Scale.


Last night Dubai launched its latest luxury hotel with a $20-million (about R211-million) party attended by more than 2000 business leaders, politicians, actors, musicians and members of the Dubai royal family. A spectacular fireworks display delighted all - including Charlize Theron, Kylie Minogue, Robert de Niro, Shirley Bassey and the host, South African billionnaire, hotel and gambling tycoon Sol Kerzner. Guests dined on a 22860m² custom-built deck with a 42,7 metre stage. The menu included lobster and Arabic cuisine prepared by about 500 chefs. Atlantis The Palm Hotel is located at the trunk-top of the Palm Jumeirah, one of three palm-shaped islands. The 1539-room hotel is made up of two pale rose towers, which are linked by a bridge which houses a $35 000-a-night suite. The hotel opened unofficially on 24 September and has had an occupancy rate of 80%. It was inspired by the original Atlantis that Sol built in the Bahamas. It has the largest waterpark in the Middle East and an aquarium in which 65000 fish, along with a whale shark, swim in 11-million litres of water.

The two-day party, labelled the biggest party of the 21st century, was organised by celebrity party planner Colin Cowie. Colin grew up in East London. His mother, Gloria, and one of sisters, Anne, live in East-London, while his other sister, Janet, lives in Port Elizabeth. Colin used companies from India, Dubai, Paris, New York and Los Angeles for about a year, to organise the successful event. Colin's next project is his own US TV show and the launch of his new book, Colin Cowie's Wedding Chic. He lives in Manhattan.


Getting a EU passport is not an easy task. Malta became a EU member country in May 2004, and that has led to a way for wealthy South Africans to secure residency status. To qualify, South Africans have to earn at least R300 000 a year or have a net worth of R4,5-million. They also have to lease or buy property in Malta, and bring a certain amount of money into the country each year. Malta recently joined 26 other European countries which have signed the Schengen Treaty, so people who have permanent residence in Malta have free movement across major European countries, without having to apply for visas. A Cape Town company, Crusader Rock, facilitates and expediates Maltese residency applications.


Masquerade: The Story of My Life, by Rayda Jacobs
This autobiography starts with the author's childhood in Diep River, Cape Town, in 1947. After her divorce, Rayda’s mother moves back in with her strict parents. The family are forcibly removed to Athlone. Rayda grows up in a large, well-off religious Muslim household on the one hand and, on the other, in a household with Jewish roots and an unconventional grandfather. Rayda finds work as a white legal secretary in the Cape Town CBD until someone alerts the authorities. At the age of 21 she leaves with her young sister for Canada, where she spent the next 27 years. There she went through two marriages, the first to an Iranian with whom she had two children, the second to an Egyptian. Both marriages end in divorce. Her daughter's near fatal car crash is heartbreaking. In the early 1990s, the author returns to South Africa where she starts writing full-time and making documentary films, culminating in her directing and acting the lead role in Confessions of a Gambler, based on the novel by the same title which won her the Sunday Times Award. Often the source of controvecy in her Muslim community, at the age of 61 she was the special guest at the Dubai Film Festival in 2007. Throughout her life, beset with hardship, it is her writing and, later, her children that sustain her and help her to survive. One very inspiring woman!