The EXPEDITION Project, a highly innovative social and environmental campaign developed to inspire sustainable change across South Africa, has reached the halfway mark in its year-long road trip along the perimeter of the country. It is funded by lead sponsor Place in the Sun wines.

Capetonian and social activist Roger Wynne-Dyke, who is running the initiative, has traversed 10 000km during the first six months, visiting 100 towns across six provinces. He and his team have visited places as diverse as Aurora, Askham, Garies, Hotazel, Vanzylsrus and Visgat.

Throughout, they are documenting the challenges and opportunities affecting the communities they encounter. “We certainly are not trying to take over the world with ideas and opinions and we do not advocate a top-down approach. Our first task is to listen and then to try to understand where needs exist. What has become glaringly apparent is the growing competition amongst community organisations for funding, whether from public, private, domestic or international sources.

“Chasing a small pool of funding and sponsorship, which in many instances is dwindling given increased global economic pressures, has led some organisations to see it as risky to partner or share ideas with similar-minded projects. This is potentially inhibiting viable co-operation, while at the same time obscuring unnecessary overlaps and duplications.  By exploring the creation of a network amongst all currently competing organisations in South Africa, we believe we can have an impact, for it might then be possible both to collaborate more effectively and to generate funding from new sources so people are better equipped to create their own change.

“We want to work with projects in a way that focuses not just on sourcing funding but also on creating self-sustaining revenue streams, which will also result in greater job opportunities.”

Wynne-Dyke said this, the first year of the project, was of a largely exploratory nature, gathering data in the field as the basis for establishing the necessary information to ultimately match potential donors with projects. “The information we are gathering now, also allows us to create the platform for local and international volunteers to share skills in areas we are jointly identifying with the communities we visit.”

Deidre Samson, global marketing manager for Place in the Sun, said: “Place in the Sun is inspired by the fresh, positive approach of The EXPEDITION Project to finding sustainable solutions to community problems and in developing strategies that encourage people to make their own change. It provides a very well-matched fit with our own positioning, which is about facilitating trade rather than aid through our Fairtrade accreditation.

“Growers are paid a premium for their grapes harvested for Place in the Sun that is directed towards social development of the wine-farm workers involved. They decide on how the funds are to be spent. Currently, premiums are funding early learning projects; tuition and school uniforms at schools of choice amongst farm workers; stepped up sporting activities; and the creation of a vegetable garden to improve nutrition amongst local communities.

“Through the Place in the Sun website, we are also creating our own network, encouraging wine lovers to converse online about projects they know of, that have been developed to make a difference and help people and communities find their place in the sun.”

The EXPEDITION Project will be travelling along the east coast back to its starting point, Cape Town, where it is scheduled to arrive on the last day of 2012. At every stop, the team is taking a souvenir that encapsulates the community encountered, while leaving something behind to seed the process of creative problem-solving.

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