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Kirkwood Wildlife Festival set for a higher turnover this year

TAKING CARE ... Burn victim Thandeka Phillip, 4, pictured with Suzette Celliers of Absa, the main sponsor of this year‘s Kirkwood Wildlife Festival. Phillip is one of a number of impoverished and disabled children living in the Langbos area near Addo being looked after by the Sisters of Mercy NGO.ORGANISERS of the Kirkwood Wildlife Festival hope it will generate more than the R18-million in turnover it achieved last year.

Event organiser Jenni Honsbein said the fact that the festival was profitable last year was an achievement, because “most big festivals barely break even”.

Profits for the festival, now in its eighth year, were down last year due to increased overheads and the larger scale of the enterprise. Last year‘s headline game auction brought in R11-million of the festival‘s turnover.

A small portion of the event‘s profits are retained to pay for emergencies and the salaries of the two permanent staffers on the festival team (the others are all volunteers) and the rest goes to social improvement projects.

The projects, which have together received R80000 to R150000 a year in cash or in kind from the festival, each revolve around “centres of hope” focusing on Aids, children, the aged, the disabled, poverty– and the World Cup.

One of these is the Isipho (“gift” in Xhosa) Aids Project in Paterson, run by David Banesi, 38, and his wife Sindiswa, 44, who is HIV-positive.

The couple met and first talked about their project while both in prison in Grahamstown. He wrote a play about Aids and she performed it with other women inmates. Operating from an abandoned municipal building, the two Aids activists now take care of 23 Aids orphans and run a creche.

Working with a state social worker and a team of care-workers, they ensure the orphans are fed, clothed, accommodated and schooled. Isipho gives them uniforms and stationery and pays their school fees. Eight of them sleep at the Isipho building and the rest have been placed with families.

The Kirkwood festival‘s funding was used to help Isipho feed and clothe the children, Honsbein explained.

“Isipho is a centre of hope. It has killed the stigma of Aids and encouraged people to come forward to be tested.”

The festival also sponsors the Bergsig Aged in Action project. Initiated as a franchise by the national Council for the Aged, Bergsig co-ordinator Ouma Evie and her team work out of an industrial container, providing food for indigent elderly and increasingly jobless youth.

The festival also funds the Tape Aids Mini Wheely Library Project, which allows blind or illiterate residents to book out audio-tapes.

It had operated in the Moses Mabida and Valencia townships and had been hugely popular, Honsbein said.

“It is a wonderful form of upliftment.

“Our librarian has been struggling to keep up with the demand.”

Another project, initiated in conjunction with the Sundays River Municipality, was aimed at training local people to become traffic officers.

“The thinking behind this and similar projects that we support is to retain and empower the locals rather than have them drift away to the city.”

In celebration of 2010, the festival has also been sponsoring Bush Pirates from Nomatamsanqa near Addo. The festival management team hopes to target a mega-project to clear alien vegetation in the valley.

The project, which was launched in 2006, promises to create hundreds of jobs, benefit biodiversity and free up precious water. The cost of maintaining the project is about R100000 a year and it is now being run by the Sundays River Citrus Co-operative. But festival organisers are hoping this year‘s festival will generate enough revenue to launch a second inspirational eco-project, possibly to clear the Sundays River of suffocating Spanish reed.

source: Weekend Post

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