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  • Nanosponges for Water Cleanup?

    In 1997, Los Alamos National Laboratory announced a polymer-based material that cleans up water. As its name suggests, a nanosponge works on a molecular level. It is not really a sponge; it was so-named because it "soaks up" organic contaminants from water.

    That was 12 years ago.

    A few weeks ago nanosponges made it into the news as a possible solution for cleaning up South Africa's water. The country currently uses conventional purification treatments for coolant water from power plant turbines. But they aren't enough. South Africa water is also polluted from mining activities, sewage, and phosphorous fertilizer runoff.

    The nanosponge—still expensive and unproven as a long term solution—is reusable and responds to molecular charges instead of just filtering. Because they can be created to target specific polltant, they are described as "smart" sponges.

    But is this the perfect solution for water purification? Read Nanosponges: South Africa's high hopes for clean water and decide for yourself.

  • Tshepang Means Have Hope

    A few months ago I met an incredible woman whose story I'd like to share with you.

    Imagine being between the ages of 12 and 18. (Maybe you already are, so that part's easy!) Now imagine you are also the oldest member of your household. That's right, living in a home with no parents AND responsible for your younger brothers and sisters. Sounds unimaginable. 

    But wait. There's more. Your home is a shack. You don't have a toilet or running water. No water, no electricity—You don't have a washing machine. You struggle to go to school but the chores to take care of your sisters and brothers make it difficult to do your homework. That and the dim candle light. This might even be your home in Roddepoort. (Photo courtegy of the Tshepang program.)

    That's the way it is for many children in South Africa in the Roodepoort slums. (Roodepoort is a city in South Africa.)

    The situation seems hopeless, doesn't it?

    In March 2005, in another part of town—a richer one with proper houses—Susan Rammekwa was unhappy with her job. She was a social worker and tired of a job that kept her in the office. She wanted to do more to reach people in need. So she quit her job.

    Susan ventured into the slums of Roodepoort to help its children. She set up a place that had water and electricity. She cashed in her pension to buy food for the children. She used her last pay cheque to get a stove. By the end of the first year, more than 80 children were going to Susan's program for a meal, to wash up, and to do their homework. She also taught the children life skills and encouraged them to play games and tell stories.

    She named the program Tshepang. That means "Have Hope." Here she is with her children.

  • The Most Dynamisante Woman

    Susan Rammekwa's work got noticed when she won the "Most Dynamisante Woman Award 2006", a South African award sponsored by Clarin. Dynamisante is French for "instigating." Indeed Ms. Rammekwa is someone who "brings about and initiates" change. The award came with a chunk of money that she used to expand the Tshepang program. T

    Ms. Rammekwa has seen changes in the children since the program began:

    "They used to fight a lot and were usually so dirty. Now they are so much more confident and play nicely together and are so good with their chores. I think all kids are like that, they just need someone to bring out their skills and build up their self-esteem."

    Tshepang hit a snag in 2008.

    The land Susan Rammekwa was using for the program got sold to a developer. The SEEtrust stepped in and helped Susan get new property. With more than 110 children in the program, the move provided an opportunity to expand.

    "Moving into our new property would help us have support groups for such families on a continuous basis. We would also be available whenever they need some material assistance even on weekends. Also we would help the children, by washing their clothes as support for the mother and older sibling. They would also be bathed at least twice a week at our house. Sometimes children go for many days without a bath."



    Susan wants to find a way to empower the children to become self sufficient. She says that is the only way any of them have hopes of breaking out of poverty. When I spoke with her a few months ago, she envisioned a business that the children could help with. Something that would teach them a skill and provide an income to the program. Her website mentions a bakery. When I spoke with her, she had just received a donation of sewing machines. Her Mom had agreed to teach sewing to the children. his is Susan Rammekwa, her Mother, and Tshepang staff.

    What is the Tshepang Program Like for Children? Find out by reading about Bungani, Aretha, and the Molokwane family