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Paul Miedema changed our lives. It is through Paul that we connected with the A.V. Bukani Primary School community, a wonderful place we now consider our second home.
But Paul did more than connect us – he was our support, our mentor, our ally, and our friend. Just a few weeks ago, we had a long conversation with Paul about a possible sixth volunteer trip to Nomathomsanqa.
Paul defined the word “authentic.” He had no tolerance for BS and never sugar-coated anything. And that is why we absolutely trusted him. We knew he would tell us the truth. How often do you have someone in your life that you can trust like that?
Paul was devoted to two things – his daughters and his country. And they were closely tied together. He worked tireless to build a strong South Africa that he could leave for his children, and one that would support everyone’s children because he knew you could not separate the two. A strong South Africa had to promote respect for every person of every background or it would not be a strong country.
Paul is one of those people who truly made a difference in his daily life. Our hearts are breaking that he cannot continue this work. And yet his legacy is the many colleagues he supported within and beyond Calabash, as well as the many volunteers whose eyes he opened and whose hearts he inspired.
You will be missed Paul. Thank you for all you gave to us and everyone around you.
Eileen and Larry
(frequent volunteers with A.V.Bukani School since 2009)
“This world is in desperate need of people like you, who always keep asking questions, care for others and are never afraid to say what needs to be said – but now we must soldier on without you.”
Freya Zandatra journalist
“A great guy…I will never forget sharing the panel with him at the WTM Africa conference in Cape Town and he opened his presentation by showing how disgraceful and unacceptable it was for South Africans to be attacking people from other African countries in Jo’burg. He was and continues to be my HERO. We lost a great person and will remember him for his contributions towards the poor and vulnerable.”
Adama Bah, tourism and development practitioner
“He was a pioneer and leader in fighting for social equality and justice through responsible tourism in Port Elizabeth. Through his unwavering dedication and passion he touched the lives of many people in his community and beyond to achieve lasting change for the better. ”
Claudia Eckhaert, tourism consultant
“Paul was a leading light in Responsible Tourism in South Africa – we should honour his memory by redoubling our efforts.”
Harold Goodwin, professor of responsible tourism Read the rest of this entry »
(the following is a story from volunteer, Anke)
Paul and I met more than three years ago, when he left a short message on a people and places Facebook post about my volunteer placement in The Gambia. His comment turned out to be the beginning of an exciting chapter of the lives Paul and I shared for a while as colleagues, passionate advocates for responsible tourism and social justice, co-authors, and friends. It seems appropriate telling our story through the medium that brought us together, and adding some bits that sum up a man who truly inspired me and will have a special place in my heart forever.
Paul leaves a comment on Facebook, inviting me to come to PE for my next volunteering trip:
The video of Paul passionately speaking about responsible volunteering at WTM 2012 was the only thing I knew about Paul at that point. He addressed the issues in community volunteering in a way that left no doubt about what irresponsible volunteering looks like – ‘inspirational if a little bit scary’ as Sallie rightly said above.
Watch here, Paul starts around min 26:30: I should soon experience myself how inspirational and a little bit scary Paul could be…
Paul’s messages, both, from his talk and comment on Facebook stayed in my mind and the idea of working with Calabash started brewing in my head for a couple of month.
January 2014- contacted Kate to see how my skills & knowledge could support Paul and his team. Spoke to Paul a couple of times via Skype to find out what we’d expect from each other during a potential placement. Quickly, we all got excited about the opportunity to be working together for a while. The next thing we know:
9 February 14:
Somebody else, the wonderful Sallie, shares my excitement being in SA:
11 March – Meeting with the team at Emmanuel Project, a HIV care initiative Calabash supports:
Same day: Paul as one of the Panel speakers at one of Calabash’s partner schools, a note of the school’s appreciation of support below:
Sep 14- Paul talks about why he chose to work with ‘people and places’ on his community programme – here’s the link
February 2015 – It us took almost a year until we proudly published an article ‘The Dilemma of Fair Shares in Township Tourism – A Case Study from Port Elizabeth’
(Click on the ‘Download’ link on the left of the page – the article is on Page 4)
The process of writing, providing feedback to each other and rewriting was quite a lengthy one. For Paul, every single word had to be scrutinised for its meaning, and he was really hesitant to adapt to a more academic writing style – typical Paul, he felt it had to be said the way it was. We had planned to write and publish more like this together for others to learn and be inspired by Calabash’s approach to responsible township tourism.
2015 until recent – delighted seeing Paul’s articles being published on Germany’s tourism-watch.de website, seeing him becoming a spokesperson for child protection, continuing supporting township schools and other initiatives by linking skilled volunteers to projects, supporting PhD researchers, and still being passionate about sharing a bit of his world with visitors during Calabash’s responsible township tours.
February 2017- this story of Paul and I ends here. Beyond the memory snippets above, he was great fun to be around, at least most of the time. I never met somebody like him who could drive one up the wall with his passion for a good debate and stubbornness, while at the same time being very generous explaining things and trying to find solutions. I’m sad beyond words having lost such an inspirational mentor, colleague and friend – travel well Paul.
We have been touched by all the messages we have received from volunteers.
“I have fond memories of Paul when he took us under his wing in Port Elizabeth back in 2010. I am sure he will be greatly missed and I hope Calabash finds the strength to continue his legacy.
And thanks should go to you, too, for providing me with the opportunity to meet such a great guy and to take part in such a worthwhile project.”
Sue (Henry Nginza School)
“I only had a brief acquaintance with Paul but, in that short time, I was impressed by his commitment to the township schools, his contribution to reducing inequality, his vision and his ability to tell things how they really are. He gave me amazing support at the time of a very difficult personal event and I will always remember him with great respect and affection. Paul was a very special person who is greatly missed. It seems unbelievable that he is no longer here.”
Carole (Charles Duna School)
“I had great respect for Paul when I was out there. Thoughts and prays to his family. Very sad news.”
Ellen (W B Tshume School)
people and places has facilitated several such placements – Master’s students who need ‘in situ’ experience to complete their research & assignments. The key for us is that such placements will also be of benefit to the communities / projects where volunteers such as Lisa are placed … Lisa’s report shows how this can work, and what we mean about this being a ‘win-win’ volunteer placement.
Lisa worked in Port Elizabeth (PE) with our local partners at Calabash in one of the township primary schools that we support.
Finnish volunteer, Roosa, is a professional in the art of graphic design. She worked for 6 weeks with the ‘media team’ in Hazyview Digital Learning Campus – and my goodness, her work was hugely appreciated!
“Even with years and years of experience in graphic design, when you ask Roosa if she will be able to help in that field she always replies saying: ‘I will try.’
And then delivers a masterpiece.”
It’s so exciting: a new local partner and project near Kruger National Park … about to welcome NEW volunteers! The latest addition to our programme is about to welcome their very first ‘people and places’ volunteers.
Ray and Catriona recently took early retirement from full-time work in training and mentoring, as well as business and hospitality management … so, what better match for their placements than in the amazing Hazyview Learning Centre in South Africa?
Needless to say, Ray and Catriona know perfectly well that they are the first ‘people and places’ volunteers to work in this project, and although their placement outlines provide clear areas of input for their work, both are approaching their placements with a very real willingness to be adaptable and flexible … as well as excited anticipation.
Ray will be helping in the conservation academy, working with the staff as well as with 2nd-year students going into Kruger National Park as part of the ‘wildlife conservation’ course.
Catriona’s primary focus will make use of her expertise in the hospitality industry, working with staff and students in the ‘hospitality’ course, as well as assisting in career planning and guidance.
And we’re already working with the next volunteers to whom Ray and Catriona will ‘pass the baton’!
So – “watch this space”, as the saying goes … there will be updates about their placements in our next newsletter, as well as any interim posts in our blog …
Gosh – where to begin ? Best to let Sonia tell you something of her six months in the townships of Port Elizabeth, where her work involved counselling in both Emmanuel Advice and Care Centre and in Emafini School, which is one of a cluster of township schools supported through the education development programme.
So, in her own words, here are some extracts from Sonia’s blog and volunteer report. Read the rest of this entry »