For Betty Fullagar an American woman from California,It started as a safari to South Africa. She had never been on the African continent before.
guide took the group to a village “that you will not find in any tourist brochure,”
she says. It was a poor, remote village known as Boxahuku. After her visit she
wrote, “As a teacher, I was frustrated; as a naturalist, I was awestruck....”
The visit moved Fullagar deeply, and she came away determined to do something about it. She asked herself, “What would it be like to walk in an African’s shoes…being a white woman in America with all these privileges….”
Her visit to Boxahuku inspired her to start a
program she called In African Shoes.
It’s goal is“to create opportunities for African kids” by promoting
computer literacy and other after-school programs.
She became aware of the toll HIV has taken on millions of South Africans and the many children who are AIDS orphans. There are not enough caretakers, so one of the goals of In African Shoes is to look after these orphans and provide help to local families that take care of them.
With the help of her friends in California, Fullagar has collected hundreds of books that she sends to South Africa. Much of the reaction to her efforts has been positive. She has experienced an outpouring of help and support “far beyond any expectation….”
Less than two years after her first visit, she has completed building a learning center in the village. She plans to expand it with a computer lab that will provide classes in computer use and adult literacy. She is also working to create after-school programs for young students who have little do outside school.
“I strongly believe that if you engage them and give them something to do…they will see greater opportunity and better chance at succeeding…. Right now their lot in life is not a good one,” she says.
The organization promotes a concept it calls “voluntourism.”
It helps arrange trips for the purpose of visiting local communities and
working to improve the lives of people living there.
Her work has not been without challenges. Some were caused by a shortage of funding. But most of them came from people in the village who did not understand why a foreigner would be interested in helping them. “Many of the village leaders and educators had a certain amount of suspicion,” she says.
But Fullagar overcame those suspicions with perseverance. “We have had many challenges,” she says, “but not the kind that are insurmountable.”In fact, based on the success of her program in South Africa, Fullagar plans to take the same idea to Sierra Leone.
Watch Video about In African Shoes below: