zaterdag 24 mei 2014

5 days and still working hard on pitch, poster and memo

23 May by Sihle Magaga

Five days into the official WETSKILLSSA2014 and we were all still hard at work. The fun and games (Team Building) of the Kruger National Park have since faded into the distant memory as we look towards the deadline in the next 2 days. The past few days have been a lot of hard work and today was no different, if anything we are starting to feel the pressure as the poster, pitch and memo are not where we want them to be.

Anyway, the day started off on a very festive note. It was Marga’s birthday and we took the opportunity to wish her a great XXth birthday (You never ask a woman her age). Unfortunately, that’s where the festivities started and ended for day (except for the cake and a bit of dancing in the evening of course) as we once again got back work.

Happy Birthday Marga !!!

"Moves like Jagger"

The rest of the day was a typical day. Typical meaning that you think you are on the right track only to be “hurricaned” by one of the supervisors. So it was business usual as I heard that “Hurricane Nakampe” hit some parts of WETSSKILLSSA2014 land. Tough times.

The aftermath of Hurricane Nakampe 

As usual we signed off at 22:00 with sleep the only thing on our minds.

Working day 4: Proceeding towards ‘somewhere’

Thursday 22 May by Frank Meijns

Everyone arrived for breakfast at the usual time between 7 and 8 am. The sky was clouded and the temperatures were considerably lower than the days before. With the WISA conference being only 4 days away the pressure was rising and the groups started working on their cases early. The schedule was empty so the entire day could be used to work on the cases.

Our team, ‘Team 2’, continued working on the case of providing water and sanitation in rural communities. There were some intense discussions during the morning but fortunately Nakampe came by to provide us with some new insights and a lunchbox. We are well taken care of by this man.

Later in the afternoon three senior members from Waterschap Groot-Salland (a Dutch water board) came by to have a look at the program and to meet the participants. They had a chat with most of the participants and were really interested in what solution everyone had come up with. They were most interested in Team 1 as they were working on the case that was provided by the Waterschap. So the pressure was on team 1 now who had to explain their ideas with regards to the ‘App’ they are developing. Of course this also provided a nice discussion on which possible directions to take.

Once the sun had set, work was halted as the plan was to go ‘somewhere’ at 6:30 pm. Nina decided to order snails, for some a great delicacy and for others not so much. After some serious peer pressure Anna and I joined in some sort of fear factor exercise and ate the snails without throwing up and being applauded loudly by the group. They weren’t so bad actually. Gao’s meal on the other hand had a mishap so she received a new plate. The food was studied with great care - even a pH meter was offered but did not turn out to be necessary.

After dinner we went ‘somewhere’ which turned out to be a difficult place to find. We first went to Nakampe’s hotel where we had to wait for him for a while for reasons yet to be known (somebody suggested he had to put on make-up). After that we visited a cement factory which was quite interesting to see by night, but not the place we were looking for. Fortunately Erin took over and brought us to the location we were actually aiming for, which was a bar near Crocodile River. 

This bar turned out to have a rather homogeneous audience of middle aged men drinking and talking about their business. We shared drinks and had a good time, we were being hugged and got served beverages by the lovely waitress Chelsea. When the bar was closing we left and the bill was ‘taken care of’ by an unknown beneficiary. Part of the group went home right after that, another group went to a club which they could enter after performing some serious dance moves. Later on when the club closed they continued the party with a local DJ on the parking lot who played his set on the front of his car.

At about 1 am everyone went to bed after a long day filled with both hard work and great fun.

Pitch & Poster training

21 May 2014 by Gaopalelwe “Gao” Meraba

In life you are never certain on what tomorrow will bring. The only trick you need is to commit to the task you have set out to do regardless of what may happen. This day started on a low for most of us as we were so exhausted from staying till late the previous night plus that the weather conditions were not that favourable.

The only thing that kept us going was the activities that were set for the day. This was mainly cantered round continuing working on our group case studies. The interesting part was really when Jannekke gave a presentation on how to make a poster and an elevator pitch. This was mainly because most of these concepts were not that new to most of us. Now we have the opportunity to practice or sharpen them.

What really stood out for me with regards to the poster was that we must be as relevant as possible. With the pitch the key is to leave the audience begging for more. It was in fact clear from the group discussion that most of us have learned the do’s and don’ts of how to put a poster together and give a brilliant elevator pitch.

With all that morning activity it was then time to drive back from the venue at Protea Hotel to Bundu Lodge. On arrival, with the sun now being out, the trampoline and the swimming pool proved to be more favourable as we all remembered that ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’. This break in transmission assisted very much as the energy was now very high and work could continue.

As jokes and laughter was shared amongst friends who in less than a week ago were strangers, goes to show that no man is indeed an island. ‘Ubuntu’ (The spirit of togetherness) amongst the delegates still remains the order of the day.

When I now look back on the day is how it is never how you start that matters but rather how you finish.

Team 2: Trampoline at the lodge

Getting to work

20 May by Evans Khobo

20 May, this was the second day of work on the Wetskills Challenge. This day was programmed for working on the case study, discussion with case study owner and plan of action discussion per group. These activities were realized at the Hotel Protea in Nelspruit, in fact this was the first day we worked at this venue and it was very nice because it was a different place.

After 4 days for team building, this was the first day in which the participants started working as a group. During the days of team building we were trying to get to know each other and one of the good things is the mix that the supervisors made in the groups. On this first real working day we worked for at least 8 intensive hours and it was very visible how much the groups were committed with the case studies.

After a full day of intensive work we went back to Bundu Lodge and we continued working until dinner time. After diner we had a very different and relaxed moment. On that night the supervisors arranged a large room at Bundu Lodge where we played very nice games like "Pepeta", "Zip, Zap and Bop", etc. I think everyone enjoyed, we needed to relax.

It's not only about case studies and expertise, but it is also about cultures, learning with each other and working in groups, making new friends and last but not least to have some fun. In fact we have many funny moments together. So we work hard in the groups and we also have a lot of fun in the groups. A nice way to continue.

donderdag 22 mei 2014


19 May 2014 by Nthabiseng “Thabi” Masehla

 The brain hurricane session was too daunting to say the least. It felt more like a brain tsunami than anything else. Our minds were congested with thoughts and bubbling with ideas. As young people in the profession it was exciting to come up with concepts while being channeled in the direction to follow.

The day was both overly exciting and exhausting but worth it nevertheless. We slept with our brains still buzzing and afloat. This is a feeling that every young person should have every day. The passion and zeal that keeps you awake at night and gives you goose bumps in the day.
The day was well spend and well utilized. Working on our case studies with the different groups of people helps us to tap more into each other’s cultures, minds and personalities. To get to know each other better and build friendships.

Thank you to everyone for the co-operation team work; craziness and knowledge. This is truly in the truest sense of South Africa’s “Spirit of UBUNTU”. Where we see no differences but young people coming together to achieve one common goal.


We are the Game

18 May by Maarten van der Meer
While we were leaving Kruger National Park in the direction of Komatipoort, an enormous elephant bull decided it was not yet our time to leave the Park. It rose from the bushes onto the road. Instead of us watching the bull, it felt like he was watching us and we were the game. We were forced to turn around and move backwards, while the bull pushed further along the road. It took us half an hour to bore the bull before he let us continue our way to the exit of Kruger National Park.
And there they were, two leopards, enjoying the sun.  Laying on their back, not realizing what enormous joy they brought to the Wetskills participants. We were on the right spot at the right time, was this the plan of the elephant bull all along?

With the big-five in our pocket, we left Kruger National Park. Time to visit the Komatipoort water purification plant near the Mozambican boarder. The Dutch, South Africans and Mozambicans were divided among the vehicles for the 3 hour drive. Even if you didn’t want too, you were forced in bonding. The water supply plant was small but effective. Next stop: the Barberton prison wastewater treatment plant. Another 3 hour drive. 

While driving through a mountainous landscape with valleys full of orange trees, we had all the time to have lengthy conversations. We discussed subjects like drug abuse, living in compounds, elections, BEE, apartheid and the born free. It’s not possible to comprehend the complexity of the Rainbow Nation. To me it seems that South Africa is an ultra-mixed country, you don’t only have the blacks, colored, whites, Indians and Asians. There are eleven official languages and a great diversity of religions (Zion Christians, Pentecostal, Roman Catholics, Dutch reformed). Chance on segregation is everywhere.

When visiting the Barberton prison wastewater treatment plant, Nakampe explained the working of the plant and sketched the background of the two case studies: “Turning waste into business” and “Water and sanitation challenges in rural communities”.

 From there it was another 1 hour drive, time to talk and scratch on the surface of South African culture.  A well-disserved sleep was awaiting us in the Bundu Lodge. Return of Wetskills fellowship to Bundu.

The Big 5 in Kruger National Park?

17 May by Neusa Andre Lampeao
I will talk about the practical summary of all activities of Saturday the 17th of May when we spend the whole day in Kruger National Park.
We had breakfast and then headed out of the camp to drive around in Kruger National Park. It took some time to get used to the slow pace as the speed limit is 50 km’s or sometimes even 40 km’s p/h. The good thing about this slow driving is that you can see a lot of animals. We all wanted to see the big 5: lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. We did not see all of them, but most and then also hippo, giraffe, wildebeest and many impala’s. It was lovely to just drive around.

We came back to Skukuza to have lunch. After this we choose the theme of the study group. So after this we were all divided in four groups and we knew which case study we were going to be working on. This in order we headed out to walk around the camp and went up to the swimming pool. Some of our colleagues swam and we all took many pictures.
Back home in the evening we all got together to prepare dinner. There was plenty left from the night before so we had another braai, but smaller this time. But with the same amount of fun. After dinner we collected us to our rooms. It was a lovely day in the park and in the camp area.

Start team building, driving to Kruger National Park

16 May 2014 by Erin Parenzee

 Awkward; cautious; aloof & stressed; words synonymous with first meetings, and in this case perfectly summed up the mood when the South African, Mozambican and Dutch delegations met for the first time. Once the dust settled, we set off on our way to the Kruger National Park (Skukuza camp) but not without a detour.
This however was a very necessary one, as the important facet of food and meal planning had to be fulfilled. It was however the perfect opportunity to exercise “Ubuntu”*, and teach our foreign delegates about this concept. This was done by pooling our resources and buying enough groceries to cater for all of us, and then some! In theory it sounded really easy, but in reality this turned out to be a daunting task. As this meant that some of us were being volunteered to do the shopping for all of us. Meaning that all of us stormed the shop and ran around trying to find all that is needed for a true South African feast.
Finally the trek towards our accommodation for the next two nights could truly start.
Following this, was the next lesson in true South African hospitality by exposing all to the wonderful experience of a braai. And in true Mzanzi^ fashion, all the stops were pulled out. The menu included some of our finest cuisine, like chakalaka#, atchar%, pap and the hero of the meal…chicken feet! All in all it was well received and as we know in South Africa, a team that eats together, stays together. Long may it continue!!

 * roughly translated as humanity towards each other. It is the belief that sharing connects us all, and that this bonds us as a community.
^ colloquial name for South Africa
# vegetable relish
% pickled mango

South Africa Experience day 1

15 May by Nina Jansen

 After a comfi 12h flight in a nearly empty airplane, I arrived at Johannesburg airport. While hugging goodbye to my new airplane-friends, a half-Chinese Dutch guy was waving at me, carrying a piece of paper with my name on it. Wetskills was about to start!

 Together with my new Dutch friends, we rented a small car. A very quick coffee later (the most diluted one I have ever had), we found ourselves in the deep end of Jo'Burg traffic where driving at the left side of the road and avoiding potholes were a challenge. For the next six hours, we drove in north-east direction, surrounded by landscapes full of rocky plateaus and exotic vegetation. We experienced the African hospitality and the great cuisine once we arrived at Graskop later that night. Sitting at a fireplace as we were served by a young men with a gorgeous smile, we enjoyed world’s best wine and steak as we got to know each other better and better.

At 5.00 a.m. the next day, we drove down to Gods Window and witnessed the sunrise at the impressive Blyde River Canyon. Peace, serenity and life all over: what an amazing view! Accompanied by the uplifting bongo beats of our new favorite CD (Queens of the Rivers in Africa) we continued the trip while singing, dancing and enjoying the endless views of South-Africa. We drove down to White River to meet up with the entire Wetskills group. Our adventure was just about to start, so far it had been mind-blowing already!

From the East to the South

14 May by Rick Hogeboom

 I remember lively the vast area of the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China. All the nations of the globe summarized to their most successfully marketed labels in their Pavilions. In one of the most popular pavilions, the Dutch Pavilion, we would be presenting the results of the first Wetskills Challenge ever to be organized. We, the chosen water ambassadors, selected to represent our Dutch universities, endeavoring to show the world our wet-skills.

 Now, four years later, I find myself again participating in a Wetskills Challenge. This time as a so-called Young Water Professional, to the South Africa 2014 Edition. The Chinese water students have made place for young water experts from South Africa and Mozambique. The Pavilion at the Expo for the WISA Conference is in the latest World Cup’s Mbombela Stadium.

 The concept is roughly the same: international teams with people from a wide variety of backgrounds in the water sector, an intense and great teambuilding weekend, pressure-cooker problem-solving while battling a lack of time and sleep, information gaps and differing cultural perspectives.

 The Wetskills concept is great, addictive even. I wonder what the WISA Conference next week will bring. I hope I may enjoy it as much as I enjoyed China. I may learn more during the South Africa Edition, given the higher experience level of the participants. And I may even be joining Wetskills again: as a senior water expert.

For the second time in South Africa

May 2014, start by Johan Oost

 For the second time in South Africa

Working together on water issues in South Africa. Gaining experiences by being there and exchanging expertise between young professionals from The Netherlands, Mozambique and South Africa. And of course, coming up with fresh and new ideas or concepts to put into practice. Not as individual, but as multidisciplinary teams with different nationalities. And all that in just two weeks. That is what Wetskills is about. We are heading for the twelfth edition of Wetskills, which is held in Nelspruit, South Africa.

This is the second time that we organise a Wetskills event in South Africa. In 2012 we were invited by the WISA organisation to organise an event during the WISA conference in Cape Town. Based on that success the involved partners (WISA, NWP South Africa Platform, SA YWP and Wetskills Program) aimed at having a new Wetskills event in 2014, in the framework of the next WISA conference  in Nelspruit. The first preparations already started in the summer of 2013 and intensified after the presentation during the first meeting of RandWater Young Professionals in September. In close cooperation we managed to get preparations and logistics done. And now we are heading for Nelspruit.

I am very happy that we succeeded to have another event in South Africa. With six participants from The Netherlands, two from Mozambique and ten from South Africa we have a nice group of enthusiastic Young Professionals to come-up with great ideas for the four study cases. My sincere thanks goes to the study case providers: RandWater, Water Board Groot-Salland, Centre of Expertise in Durban and World Water Academy. Extra thanks goes to the Netherlands Water Partnership and WISA for setting the framework for this Wetskills Challenge. Last but not least, my thanks go to Nakampe, Janneke and Marga for being the supervising team during this event!

Let’s start!

 Johan Oost
Project leader Wetskills-South Africa 2014