The Elgin Learning Foundation (ELF) opened its doors in 1996. This was the result of visionary thinking of a group of people who saw ELF as a vehicle to support and empower farm workers in the Elgin Valley through skills training programmes. Seed funding was procured through the Wright memorial trust. As this initiative gained momentum, basic training programmes developed to include the farm worker family as an integrated unit and to provide interventions that address challenges poor people face in a holistic way.
What has happened since 1996 can only be described as a small miracle. Whereas the organisation started with 8 staff members, the staff compliment has grown to 150 plus and more than 50 projects that run at any given time. The organisation has become a household name in the Elgin Valley and elsewhere in the country where we work. Our interventions have reached communities in the deep rural area of Namaqualand, the Northern Cape, Gauteng and Kwazulu Natal.
Apart from being active in various development projects and services, ELF’s core activity is accredited skills training through our Section 21, private FET college, the Elgin Community College.
We offer accredited training in health and social care, small business development and entrepreneurship, early childhood development, ABET, agriculture and technical trades such as bricklaying, masonry and carpentry.
More recently the Elgin Learning Foundation has formed a partnership with the Development Bank of South Africa and the Theewaterskloof Municipality with regard to being part of the Grabouw Sustainable Development initiative. ELF has adopted a green ethos which will be integrated into all ELF activities and programmes.
ELF operates from two campuses. Our main campus is found in the orchards and vineyards of Elgin and houses the departments Agriculture, Health and Social Welfare, Education, Knowledge and Quality Management. All matters financial and administrative are managed from this campus. The Occupational Trades Campus is situated in the village of Grabouw where the departments of Small Business Development and Technical Trades reside.
What do we do?
We work in rural and urban communities where people are trapped in a perpetual cycle of poverty and unemployment with the appalling social ills that we have come to know… substance abuse, family violence, child abuse, disease and crime … amongst others. So we approach our work in an integrated way with interventions that are multi-dimensional and address the complex challenges poor people face on a daily basis.
Core business at ELF is concentrated on accredited training, project management and services in Education, Health, Social Development and ICT. ELF interventions happen in the Overberg and beyond, even as far as the Northern Cape.
All our programmes are in the context of the situation/environment where we work. This requires engaging with the communities through participative research, analysis of the situation, environmental scans as well as multi-stakeholder processes. This approach helps us plan our programmes to ensure that our interventions are relevant and aligned to the reality on the ground in the communities where we work. It is essential to get the buy-in of programme participants and to secure ownership of the programmes.
ELF programmes and projects are planned in a participative way. We acknowledge that participants and beneficiaries in our programmes are leaders and thinkers in their own right and come to us with knowledge and wisdom that we cannot risk losing.
True to the integrated approach we have at ELF, we are very serious about the well being of the family unit in our communities. We have a huge component of integrated Health and Social programmes that address the total well being of the entire family. These include health and social care, lay counselling, health promotion in schools, peer education, life skills and others. We have various outreach programmes that enrich the lives of farm worker families. An example is our Rural Schools project which brings music and art as well as sports activities such as swimming to disadvantages rural children. A mobile library goes out on a weekly basis to rural primary schools to improve the reading literacy rates.
A total onslaught to reduce unemployment and under-employment has always been at the forefront of our work. Training programmes at ELF are continuously developed and adjusted so that the training product that we offer adds real value to and is appropriate for the job market.
The quest to help previously disadvantaged students to become employable requires that we address educational gaps which learners face and which are preventing them to be competitive in the job market. We work very hard to improve fundamental skills such as numeracy and literacy. We also assist those students who have dropped out of formal education to come back into the system through our night school which offers Further Education and Training (FET) interventions up to matric.
ELF acknowledges the priority national government has placed on Early Childhood Development (ECD) and offers training and mentoring for ECD practitioners. We also work in partnership with other NGOs to streamline and upgrade ECD services and facilities in the communities where we work.
In a job market that is highly competitive we are increasingly finding that we have to offer so-called sustainability skills such as business communication, financial, computer and information literacy. Our research and that of others have shown that access to appropriate information is vital for development, thus we are increasing our emphasis on community information services and information literacy.
The green revolution that is sweeping the world is impacting on the way we approach our work and in 2009 we started incorporating an ethos of sustainable development in all that we do. Research has started on the integration of sustainable development components in all our programmes. This research will lead to a more comprehensive research and development function for ELF which has the objective of building a sound knowledge base to support development in the Overberg.
Lastly, to ensure that what we do at ELF is appropriate and has impact in the communities where we work, we monitor, evaluate and quality manage our training and development programmes and projects on a continuous basis to keep on improving our services and be true to our vision.