On 17 March 2021, FunDza hosted it’s first introductory workshop for 18 young people selected to be the inaugural members of the FunDza Fellowship programme. The plan: to take this group on an exciting writing journey that we hoped would inform, challenge and inspire. Over a period of 10 months, the group has been introduced to poetry through the Wordplay module; story-telling through the What’s my story module; and, non-fiction writing through Writing my World.

Each module contains coursework (delivered through our fundza.mobi learning platform), mentorship and support via email/WhatsApp, and a series of virtual workshops (three to four per module) with each module culminating in a ‘showcase’ event.

FunDza staff members – Ros Haden, Dorothy Dyer and Marché Arends – have been intimately involved in conceiving and delivering the programme, each also working closely with their own group of mentee writers. But we have also received external support. Renowned poet Koleka Putuma hosted a poetry workshop on memory and forgetting. She also provided individual feedback on the Fellows’ writing that came out of this workshop. Medical doctor and award-winning writer Dawn Garisch ran a workshop in the final module on creative non-fiction and personal narrative. She, too, provided feedback to individual writers.

For the fiction story-telling module, we were grateful to Sifiso Mzobe, Masha Du Toit, Janita Louw, Tiah Beautement and Anthea Thorpe for their mentorship of three young writers, each of whom produced a short story that was published on the fundza.mobi site.

Early feedback from the Fellows shows that they have benefitted from the experience. Some report being more comfortable receiving feedback, others note that they are more confident to share their writing work, others say that their communication skills – in general – have improved, and that they have gained respect and a sense of belonging. We are so pleased.

It is not just the Fellows who have benefitted from the experience – we have learned so much too. It has been interesting to see what has worked and what has been challenging and have taken this into account with the redesign for 2022. For next year, instead of running three compulsory blocks we’ll be hosting an initial block for all Fellows that will combine poetry and personal narrative, and then the Fellows will be divided into two streams – a fiction stream that will produce short stories and plays; and a non-fiction stream concentrating on article and blog writing, interviews and opinion pieces. We look forward to seeing how this pans out.

Some of the original Fellows have not been able to make the full journey due to other life and work commitments but we are proud to say that on the 15th December 14 of the Fellows graduate from the programme.

Congratulations go to Anele Jonja, Gouwa Kassiem, Keren Miteu, Khanyiswa Ngcongo, Kyle van Wyk, Mandelnkosi Ncube, Mihlali Gwalisa, Mpho Mphahlele, Muzikhona Allen Mngadi, Resego Sebogodi, Rick Mthembu, Sharon Ncube, Sibusiso Radebe, Yavari Leonie for their hard work and commitment to the process.

Thank you too to the Harry Crossley Foundation that provided us with a grant to run this pilot over the first year, and who will be partnering with us for the next three years in delivering the programme. We are so pleased to be able to run this as our flagship project to develop the writers of the future.

Take a look at the work coming out of this year’s Fellowship on these links:
Poetry from the WordPlay module
Stories from the What’s my story module
Articles and blogs from the Writing my World module

A call for applications for the FunDza Fellowship for 2022 will go out soon… keep an eye on our fundza.mobi platform to find out more!