West Vail Red to the sugarcane fields
VAIL ” Growing up in South Africa, Angela Larkan saw kids who were, on one hand, like her, but on the other hand, struggled with immense poverty.
The country’s growing AIDS epidemic only made things worse. Kids are losing one or both parents, forcing them into very adult situations at an early age.
In Larkan’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, 40 percent of pregnant women are HIV positive. Poverty and unemployment are rampant in South Africa ” three out of four children are living in poverty, and one in three adults is unemployed.
Larkan saw no comprehensive system to care for the nation’s burgeoning number of orphans, and to deal with the underlying problems of AIDS, poverty and unemployment.
“They were all kind of Band-Aid solutions,” she said.
As her thesis in college, Larkan devised an after-school program to help these orphans. After a couple of years of planning and fund-raising, Larkan ” and the friends she has recruited ” is ready to make her idea a reality.
“It’s exciting to see an idea I’ve studied so long be put into action,” he said.
Larkan and Tyler Howard, who live in Vail, are leaving in September to barnstorm around the country to raise more funds. In January, there’s going to Umtwalume, South Africa, to start the after-school program. They have found a school to host their program.
They’ve already spent a couple of years selling African jewelry on their Web site, tandazulu.org, to raise money for the project. Their base of operations is their West Vail home, where African jewelry, laptops, curriculum plans and to-do lists are spread around their living room.
They have about 50 volunteers around the country who are helping with their effort. Five other volunteers are headed over with them to the after-school program in South Africa.
The program aims to provide stability for the kids with sports and arts programs and vocational classes.
Larkan hopes the classes will give the students confidence and hope about their future. Hopelessness is pervasive among young people in the region, she said.
“Why would you protect yourself from a disease that could kill you in 10 years if you don’t know where your meal is coming from today?” she said. “We’re trying to get them to think about 10 years down the road.”
They’ll teach agriculture, art, computers, construction and sports, as well as HIV prevention.
“The idea is to help them break the cycle of poverty in South Africa,” Larkan said.
“To keep them occupied,” Howard said. “Not something super-profound. Just something to do.”
They hope the program will become a model that will spread around the country.
In the next few months, Larkan and Howard will go to New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California and London to try to raise funds. They’d like to find big donors who could sponsor a segment of the program, such as sports or agriculture.
Larkan and Howard plan to stay with the program for at least three years, but ultimately hand it over to locals. It’ll be a big change from Vail to KwaZulu-Natal, they said.
“We’re going to drive through 10 miles of sugar cane each day to get to work instead of taking the West Vail bus,” Larkan said.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.