What a pleasure to have University of Kentucky students, Ryan Thorn and Dylan Baker, and Hokkaido University student, Yoshiaki Nagasawa, join us at FunDza. Ryan and Dylan will be around till end July, while Yoshi – as he prefers to be called – will stay with us till October. Read the interviews below to get to know each one a little better…

Ryan Thorn (left) and Dylan Baker (right)

Ryan Thorn (left) and Dylan Baker (right)

Learning more about Ryan Thorn
Ryan is from Mercer, Pennsylvania, USA. He’s entering his final year of study at the University of Kentucky where he is majoring in Secondary Education, Social Studies and with a minor in Political Science. He plans to go to grad school and get a Master’s degree in Education. During his stay at FunDza Ryan is assisting with the editing of the Fanz writing submissions, testing courses and a range of other duties.

FUNDZA: What do you enjoy most?
RYAN: I love playing and watching sports. I grew up playing baseball. I also love listening to music. I listen to almost every type of music there is. I also love to travel. I want to see more of the world and even more of my home country.

FUNDZA: What do you love about reading and writing?
RYAN: I love reading and writing because it is an expression of what a person enjoys. I think a person can learn a substantial amount about what someone likes when looking at what someone reads. Reading also makes people more open-minded. Reading something that is different from what a person usually reads makes someone more willing to understand another person’s opinions, perspective, or way of life. Writing, to me, is one of the best forms of expression. Writing gives you the opportunity to write down the thoughts that you wouldn’t necessarily say out loud. You can also craft your own thoughts into a story that other people might empathise with.

FUNDZA: What is your impression of FunDza?
RYAN: I think FunDza is a high-quality organisation. I think it is an important organisation for improving the literacy of kids in South Africa. FunDza is a great outlet for young writers to tell their stories. FunDza gives people the opportunity to not only tell their stories but also to get feedback from professional writers and improve as writers. I also like that FunDza is good at making it possible to distribute the stories of these writers by making them internet accessible and by distributing hard copy books.

FUNDZA: What is your impression of the Fanz stories/submissions?
RYAN: The Fanz stories are very interesting. A lot of the stories cover some subject matter that is not easy to talk about, and these writers do a good job of communicating their thoughts. I’m impressed by how unique these stories are also, each story seems its unique set of circumstances that differentiate one from the others. These stories have taught me how to cope with issues that could happen in my life in the future.

Learning more about Dylan Baker
Dylan is from Lexington, Kentucky. He’s busy with a triple major in Political Science, Psychology, and History at the University of Kentucky. His greatest passions are learning, making music, and engaging with people. He enjoys playing guitar with his brothers, reading books on psychology and history, and listening to music. It’s his ultimate goal to help people – so he’s excited to work with an NGO like FunDza that encourages literacy, education and other assets that help people live a more enriching life. Dylan is also working with Fanz submissions, testing courses and doing other similar work for FunDza.

FUNDZA: What do you love about reading and writing?
DYLAN: Reading and writing are very distinct, yet certainly interwoven, experiences for me. Reading is a fantastic pathway for learning and for experiencing the thoughts/emotions of another. These are both experiences that I value highly. I primarily read non-fiction. My favorite books are those by Malcolm Gladwell. However, I do enjoy fiction as well, Animal Farm by George Orwell and After Dark by Haruki Murakami are two that always stick out for me. If reading fuels my knowledge and understanding of the world beyond and within me, writing is where I find myself processing it. I primarily write academic papers for uni and songs for myself. I never truly appreciated writing papers until I got to university. Since then, it has become an excellent way for me to retain information and understand it in a more nuanced way. As for writing music, I have been doing that for most of my life. I’ve tended to approach lyrics as the message, and the instrument(s) as the transportation to take the listener where they need to be for the message to hit them in the right way. When that combination really works, really hits, and really envelops a person, that’s what I love about writing.

FUNDZA: What is your impression of FunDza?
DYLAN: I think FunDza is great! I have been here a bit over two weeks now, and the organisation seems fantastic. I enjoy the work and the foundational ideals/goals. I have a great appreciation for the approach. FunDza seems structured to bring its projects to fruition, as well as to be perpetually progressing. I am very glad to be in such an environment of dedicated work and brilliant people.

FUNDZA: What is your impression of the Fanz stories/submissions?
DYLAN: The Fanz stories are very striking in individually unique manners. They provide expressive insight into the experiences of youth from a variety of backgrounds. I am enjoying reading them for the most part. I am always appreciative of what I read, of the opportunity to read someone’s art, and of the author’s honesty, but sometimes, given the darker content, it does seem a bit strange to say that I “enjoy” it. I am always glad that I have read each piece though. What they have taught me is a bit of a hard question to answer, because there are different lessons within each. As an overarching theme, they have guided me to a better understanding of the conclusions that people reach from different circumstances, such as the circumstances the writers present in their stories and the messages they assign to them.


Learning more about Yoshiaki Nagasawa
Yoshiaki, or Yoshi as he likes to be called, was born in the northern part of Japan, Hokkaido – the same place where he is enrolled at university. He is in South Africa on a government-funded exchange programme. Yoshi, with his strong interest in technology and analytical expertise, is helping FunDza to prepare analytical reports and work on some new technology ideas.

FUNDZA: Tell us about your background.
In my home town in the winter the temperature comes down to minus 10 degrees. It snows a lot too. The very beautiful nature and good food attract people from not only domestic areas but other countries. That’s why I love nature, so I love Cape Town too! Hokkaido is one of the former imperial universities, meaning the seven universities established by the government around 1900, so each university has a long history. I belong to the faculty of law, and my major is International Law and Human Rights. I chose South Africa because it has a long history in terms of human rights and it is a leading country of Africa. I believe South Africa can lead African continent’s future and from this February, I’ve been studying here.

FUNDZA: Tell us why you love reading and writing?
YOSHI: I love reading from childhood days. What made me realise the fun of reading first was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I soon realised that imagination can make any world by myself. I love this “imagination” as the joy of reading. I also like writing as way of expressing myself and organising my mind. I’ve been writing a diary every day since coming to Cape Town.

FUNDZA: How did you get to hear about FunDza?
YOSHI: It was last year that I found out about FunDza. I joined e-Learning Africa 2016 and met Mignon Hardie there. I think literacy is an essential element of development and I was impressed with FunDza’s goal and methods. I believe the more children come to like reading, the more people enjoy their life. That’s why I like this organisation and staff, who do their best for its goal. The people here are very kind and humorous and lovely people! {Why thank you, Yoshi!}