Aimee-ClaireI recently took a short trip down to Cape Town from my hometown of Pretoria, and of course had to visit my friends and old co-workers at the FunDza offices in Muizenberg.

FunDza is still and always will be very close to my heart. After seeing the team again, I began reminiscing about my internship there earlier this year, and reflecting on what my life has been like since my internship came to a close.

Within weeks after moving back to Pretoria and returning to building my career as a freelance writer and social media manager, I quickly found myself missing the office camaraderie and the feeling of doing and being involved in meaningful work.

So, I began to look into what other literacy related NGOs there are that I could become a part of.

From my investigations, I felt that there were too few literacy-focused NGOs in South Africa. Many of those that do exist operate from Cape Town, with limited exposure on the ground in the Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, and the rest of South Africa.

Also, I felt that many NGO’s (FunDza, Nalibali, Biblionef, etc) are working largely on their own. I felt that there was little collaboration and conversation happening between them. I discovered, that some of them have never heard of each other.

I believe that, as they share the same vision, literacy NGOs in South Africa should be working together more, supporting and learning from each other as they all strive towards a more literate South Africa.

I did eventually find a Gauteng-based NGO, Puku, and got a three-month internship with them, under Executive Director Elinor Sisulu. It was Elinor who brought my attention to the lack of solidarity in South African literacy NGOs.

While for FunDza I edited and compiled feedback on stories written BY South African youth, for Puku, I read and reviewed stories written FOR South African youth.

Puku believes that the stories a child hears and reads, especially at a young age, shape who he or she grows up to become. This is why quality South African children’s books, which promote wholesome characteristics and virtues such as honesty, curiosity, industriousness, etc, are so important, especially in indigenous languages such as isiXhosa and Sepedi.

Puku reviews children’s books in order to guide parents, teachers, and librarians on which books to buy for and read to their children, and how they can use those books to educate and grow the characters of their children. Puku also hopes to encourage parents, teachers, and librarians to write and submit reviews of their own.

My internship with Puku came to a close in mid September, after the SA Book Fair, and I went straight into another internship, this one with online magazine Between 10and5.

Between 10and5 celebrates and showcases creativity across Africa, from young musicians to illustrators, painters, clothing designers, DJs, and everything in-between. At 10and5, I interview artists and write daily and feature articles. I’m really enjoying being in an office filled with artsy, diverse people, and the challenge of learning 10and5’s “voice” and the journalism writing style.

I’ve also been busy with personal and freelance writing. Writing is my truest passion and first love, and I’m always looking for ways in which I can improve my writing or even get away with doing it for pay.

I had three articles accepted for publication with my favourite online magazine, Elephant Journal, and was hired to write a few articles for the up-and-coming children’s magazine, Supernova, and won a full scholarship to Joanne Fedler’s online writing course, ‘The Author Awakening Adventure’.

As I mentioned in a previous article, my internship with FunDza taught me many invaluable things about myself, life, the world, literacy, and South Africa. It also grew my confidence, helped me become more self-assured, and helped me find my direction in life.

I’ve definitely referred back to, drawn from, and built on these lessons countless times throughout the past few months. Without the experience of interning for FunDza, I don’t know if I could have done all of the things I’ve done since moving back to Pretoria.

I’m still young and, no matter how much I try to control and plan for it, my future is unpredictable. But I am excited for what lies ahead: all the internships I’ll do, all the articles and books and poems I’ll write, and how much South Africa will grow as a result of the work of FunDza, Puku, and all the other South African literacy NGOs.

Note from the editor:
When Aimee-Claire penned this she wasn’t aware of the collaborative work that many literacy organisations are already doing, nor of the existence of the newly-named Literacy Association of South Africa, LITASA (formerly the Reading Association of South Africa, RASA). She was delighted to learn that Dorothy Dyer is chairperson of LITASA for the Western Cape chapter, and plays an active role – with many other organisations and academics – in this space.

As an organisation, however, we’re hugely aware of the vital need for literacy groups to work together to grow a culture of reading and develop the literacy skills of young South Africans. Aimee-Claire’s thoughts, and her commitment to developing readers and writers, are appreciated and commendable. We wish her so many good things in her future.