Teachers flying high

About 150 teachers representing 28 different schools attended a two-day “Onniesymposium” at Glenburn Lodge in Muldersdrift on the 2nd of August.

“We did this to give back to those in the education system,” said Marilet Vosloo, a Fairland Primary School teacher.

Onniesymposium is the brainchild of a group of Fairland Primary School educators who attend Rian Truter’s education summit in Stellenbosch each year. “One is so inspired after the summit,” Vosloo said. As the educators were sitting in the airport about to go home, they wondered: ‘Why can’t we bring the summit back to Gauteng?’

And so the first annual Onniesymposium was born.

“Fly high, spread your wings” was this year’s symposium theme, said Vosloo. Each teacher received a gift bag containing a red Superman cape.  

The symposium hosted seven keynote speakers, one of whom is the only Down’s Syndrome woman with a teaching degree in South Africa. Others included a communication specialist and university professor. The first speaker got the guests to put on their capes and dance on their chairs.

Teachers won prizes of spa packets, manicures and monetary gifts. Etienne Venter, the principal at Unika Primary School, won a spa packet at the event. “The symposium was a great way to see how others view life in education,” said Venter.  

“It’s a difficult career to be in sometimes,” said Vosloo, “but you chose this career; you were called on to be a teacher.” The symposium gives educators courage and energy, so that they can make a difference when they step into class again on Monday, she said, and “Be the best teacher for South Africa’s children.”

The main sponsor of the symposium was Fundi, which is “a one-stop-shop for all things educational,” said Sue-Anne Groenewald, the company’s business development manager. Fundi aspires to create a ‘cashless campus method’ where children don’t need to bring cash to school. “The children pay via a Fundi wristband, card or app,” said Groenewald.

“Fundi believes in all things educational,” she said. “It’s important to support our teachers, principals and deputy heads.”

Here comes the bridal expo

Over 3000 people attended a weekend-long bridal expo at Oakfield Farm in Muldersdrift on the 29th of June where over 150 exhibitors showcased their wedding services.  

“It’s Gauteng’s biggest bridal expo,” said Siann Upton, Oakfield’s marketing director of seven years, who organized the entire event. With 72 acres of gardens and fields Oakfield Farm has more than enough space to host a massive annual expo to make every bride’s dreams come true.

Twenty-two years ago, Upton said, Oakfield started hosting a small open day for engaged couples, which eventually evolved into a large bridal expo. The event usually occurs in January and June. The summer expo attracts around 6000 people, she said.

More people showed up to this winter expo in comparison to previous years. “We spent more money on marketing this time,” said Upton.  

Members of Oakfield Farm start organizing the event months prior to its occurrence, said Greta Ogborne, Oakfield’s brand manager, and it takes two weeks to set everything up.

This June event started at 10 am and required a R100 entrance fee. The expo housed clothing sales and food and drink services.

“It’s all for the brides,” said Ogborne. “They need to plan their big day, and this gives them the opportunity to explore everything they need all in one place.” It is a combination that is sure to ward off bridezilla symptoms and pre-wedding anxiety.

Ingrid Vorster, who went to the expo out of curiosity, said she was surprised at how big the event was. “It had all the services for a wedding under one umbrella,” she said. Vorster wished that she had known about such expos before she had her own wedding.   

Some might think that this event is only for those who say “I do,” but it also secures potential clients for businesses that organize weddings. Hermione Ballinger, from a wedding and events magazine, said that her business secured over 100 new clients within three hours at the expo. The exhibitors were dress designers, décor managers, photographers, lawyers and others.

“Our exhibitors come from small businesses,” said Ogborne, “and this expo helps them get their name out there.”

Ilze Fourie advertised the Farm Inn Estate at the expo to showcase their wedding venue and said that they had gotten many leads at previous Oakfield events. “It’s good leads. It’s not just people passing by,” she said. “It’s definitely worth our while.”    

“We get fully booked,” said Cheree Pritchard, a baker from Jeanette’s Cake Creations. This company has baked wedding cakes as high as 1.1 meters tall and has been attending the Oakfield expo for over two years. At an expo like this, Pritchard said, people can share ideas and businesses can develop partnerships. “A nice web connection is formed as you get to meet new people that might lend you a helping hand if you ever need one.”     

The expo also showcased the talents of DJ’s and musicians. The Blu Earth Marimba Band performed during the weekend’s expo. The band members play marimbas for background music at weddings, said Khabonina Motaung, the band promoter. “We believe in the uniqueness of the marimba instrument,” she said. “It just gives a different vibe to a wedding.”

The Oakfield expo increased the band’s exposure. “We would love to be a go-to band for many functions,” said Motaung, “and Oakfield is the perfect platform to make that happen.”

Oakfield also provided excellent security on their premises. “We have roaming security guards, undercover guards and guards stationed at the entrance,” said Upton. The Oakfield members also took safety measures to ensure that their guests’ vehicles didn’t get stolen.  

“Overall, everything was smooth-sailing,” said Upton.

Oakfield aspires to remain one of the biggest wedding influencers in Gauteng with each annual bridal expo. For more information on the Oakfield Farm, contact their office at info@oakfield.co.za .   

A home away from home

Logwood Village in Muldersdrift has thrived these last few years with residents exploring society and Special Olympic Games, despite South African stigmas on mental health.  

Logwood Village is a residency for intellectually disabled adults, according to their website, with over 20 different diagnoses.  

Logwood Village’s 51 staff workers provide a safe and loving home for all the residents. “The people who work here are experts in their field,” said Wolhuter.  

Families who rely on state facilities for their loved ones only receive sub-standard care, according to an Independent Online article. Every Logwood resident, however, gets state-of-the-art care and living arrangements, Wolhuter said.

Logwood has three types of living. Independent living consists of two to four residents in a home. A care facilitator lives with those in semi-independent living. Those in high-care living receive 24/7 assistance.

“Our philosophy is to bring the world to us,” said the director, “which can be done by giving our residents in-house work opportunities.”   

The Village has three workshops. In the income-producing workshop the residents work on labor-intensive assembly work, which includes packaging, folding serviettes, assembling electrical appliances and electric fence bobbins and attaching medals to lanyards. Sixty women from the Video informal settlement on Elandsdrift Road work alongside these residents in the income-producing workshop, as part of Logwood’s outreach program. Logwood also provides these women with income and basic healthcare.

Logwood is accredited by SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit), said Wolhuter. SMETA is a standard of improving ethical supply-chain practices, according to their website. With this accreditation, the residents can sell their products to Sedex members. A portion of the profits are used for the residents’ families who cannot afford the Logwood fees, said Wolhuter. Currently residents are making squares for Mandela Day blankets.  

Besides work, the residents partake in sport to keep them active, she said. Activities include swimming, horseback riding, golf, yoga, dancing and more. Emmanuel Maqashalala, a resident, said that his favourite activity is soccer and that he practices at four o’ clock almost every day.   

Bocce is another favourite sport amongst the residents. Rosemarie Waidalich plays it often and says that it is one of the few sports that she can participate in. Bocce is an Italian game closely related to bowling, according to the Special Olympics website. The objective is to roll the bocce ball as close to the target ball as possible, said Waidalich.    

Three Logwood Village residents participated in the Special Olympics overseas in swimming, aquatics and golf, said Bonita Bondesio, Logwood sports and activities coordinator, and Andrew White won a gold medal in golf.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver (John F. Kennedy’s sister) founded the Special Olympics in 1968. All the Special Olympics participants are intellectually impaired. The Special Olympics organization thrives on donations and has an office set up in South Africa, explained Bondesio.  

Everyone at Logwood gets the opportunity to participate in sports, said Bondesio. “If you can run 100m in 30 seconds or in eleven seconds, it doesn’t matter, everyone gets an opportunity to participate.”

Opportunities also arise for residents to partake in external activities outside of the Village. Maqashalala celebrated his 21st birthday at Burger King. “We try to make their 21st as special and memorable as possible,” said Lennon Chikumbirike, the Logwood social worker.  

The staff provide the residents with transport to be with their families during the holidays, said Wolhuter. Rosemarie Waidalich sometimes visits her mother’s family in America.      

Community members are also encouraged to volunteer at Logwood, said Wolhuter. “We are very careful when it comes to selecting volunteers as our residents can be quite vulnerable,” said the director. Volunteers are usually parents of the residents and one of them helps with adult education.  

Although selecting volunteers is a tough process, it is also challenging for Logwood to find volunteers in the first place. “When we send requests out to the community, we don’t get much feedback from them,” said Dawn Engelbrecht, Logwood’s administration manager. “Some don’t know much about Logwood and others are discouraged by stigmas.”    

Mental disability stigmas evolve from fear or ignorance and can be combatted through education and increased contact with the mentally impaired, according to a Health24 article.  

Four out of every 100 South Africans have some form of intellectual disability, according to the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP). Stigmas arise because people do not understand that people with intellectual disabilities have trouble learning, understanding and processing information, according to SACAP and a Camphill article. It is a permanent condition, not a disease or illness.

Logwood has a quote on one of their workshop windows that reads: “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.” And so, the Village tries to make their residents’ days as joyful as possible.  

“When you get here, it’s a feeling of unconditional love,” said Engelbrecht. “It’s not an institution; it’s a home away from home.”   

For more information contact Logwood at info@logwoodvillage.co.za 

Mud isn’t just for pigs

About 300 people enjoyed a day of fun completing a doggy obstacle course with their canines at a Muddy Puppy event at The Wedge Outdoor Park in Muldersdrift on the 31st of March.

Oneplan Pet Insurance hosts the Muddy Puppy, which is usually a 4 km fun run or walk offering loads of hindrances and many mud baths, according to their website. The pet insurance company was originally involved in obstacle racing for humans when they opened a training centre at a dog-friendly place, said Lesley Delport, owner of the Muddy Puppy. “We were setting up one day and we happened to see some woman going over an obstacle with her dog. So we decided to combine the two.”

And that is how the Muddy Puppy was born.        

This was the first time that Oneplan held the event at The Wedge, said Delport. The five-hour long affair started at 7 am, when people arrived with their pets. “We can have up to 600 dogs at an event in the morning,” Delport said. Dog-lovers pay a R160 entrance fee, while their dogs get to tag along for free, according to an ad on the Muddy Puppy website. A lot of regulars showed up to support, Delport said.

“I didn’t really expect to see so many people,” said Warrick Ward, owner of The Wedge. “It was actually a pleasant surprise. A lot of guys came out to have a look at it.”

He said he was also quite surprised that the dogs were so well-behaved and that no fights broke out.

“We’ve actually been very lucky,” said Delport. “We’ve had scuffles at the most.”

The organization created a color-coding system to keep the dogs from barring their teeth at each other. If a dog is temperamental or unsocial, they wear a red or yellow bandanna around their neck and all the other owners know to keep their pets at a safe distance, she said. “People respect that.” 

Search and Rescue participants were also at the event to ensure the safety of individuals as well as Man’s Best Friends. “We work with many guide dog associations,” said Delport.

The Muddy Puppy supports a different charity for each event, she said. These charities include SA Basset Adoptions, Cause 4 Paws, Wollies Animal Project, Yorkie Rescue South Africa and many more, according to their webpage.  

The dog charities are usually in charge of washing the dogs after the race and they charge R30 per canine, Delport said, with all the proceeds from the dog baths going to the chosen charities.

The charity supported at The Wedge was The Society for Animals in Distress, which is the single-largest professional welfare veterinary care provider in South Africa, according to their website. A percentage of the day’s profit also went to this charity. Each time someone entered the race, they indirectly helped save a domestic animal from a needy community.  

The race consisted of a 2 km walking trail with some mud slides, a muddy dam, a slip-and-slide and small obstacles for the dogs to jump over or crawl through. The dogs could also get splashed with colorful powders.

“I’ve never done anything like this with the dogs before and I didn’t know how they were going to react,” said Anna Huysamen, a participant.   

Her dogs refused to go over some of the obstacles, Huysamen said. They sometimes crawled underneath instead of jumping over, she said.

Onlookers could hear the chants of many owners encouraging their dogs to jump over hindrances, while their pets ignored them and maneuvered around the obstacles.

“My favorite part was when we had to walk through the muddy water,” Huysamen said. “I fell into the mud a few times, but I still had a great time. I know my dogs enjoyed it as much as I did.”

Every time dogs finished the race, they received medals and had their pictures taken.

“All in all, it was a very successful day,” said Ward, adding that he hopes to accommodate the Muddy Puppy again when it returns in the summer months. He also said he plans to have a better trail that stretches onto the rest of the property. Some of the participants had to complete the course three or four times, he said. “Next time we’ll have one trail where some can run 2 km and others can track over 5 or 6 km down one trail.”

There are no upcoming events planned, according to the Oneplan website. The Muddy Puppy is held about seven or eight times during the summer months, because of the mud obstacles, said Delport. They also host in Durban and Cape Town. For more information contact the Muddy Puppy coordinators at info@muddypuppy.co.za .    

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