Friends of Mutale

Project Details

Friends of Mutale is a small grassroots humanitarian organisation designed to facilitate local access to education, sports and a better quality of life.

Who we are.

Friends of Mutale was set up by Vince Mehers in 2009 after he saw the next generation of young South Africans in the area not having access to quality education, this was after travelling and volunteering across Africa, from Sudan to Tanzania to South Africa and back again, since 1995.  Vince’s passion is  for the people of this fantastic and diverse continent, the custodians of some of the most beautiful and bountiful wilderness areas on the globe.  

Many people have given up lands for National Parks for the benefit of the world's population yet see no tangible benefit in return, lack access to quality education, sports, and even their own backyards. Nearly 75% of children who live next to National Parks have never seen an elephant or rhino, or even to enter the parks next door.

What we do.

Friends of Mutale believes in an organic approach to community development, a bottom up rather than top-down method. Education has been the primary proponent of FOM from Early Childhood Development to Adult education, not every project has been successful, and some have fallen by the wayside.

Currently, FOM has a Learning Centre in the village of Bennde-Mutale from where we hold After-School Clubs, it also housed the creche in the past, in addition to this FOM has initiated a new Sports for Social Impact project focusing on supplementing Grade 6 and 7 classroom learning on the field of play.

Our latest project brings education outside of the classroom with our Sports for Social Impact project where we are working with 10 primary schools in South Africa, 10 in Mozambique and 10 in Zimbabwe.

Where we work.

We are situated in the Land of Legends in the very northeast of South Africa, in the last or first village of South Africa, Bennde-Mutale - surrounded by baobabs and rivers. Bennde-Mutale,  the hub of our operation,  is a village situated 800 meters from the Pafuri Gate of the world-famous Kruger National Park, 10 km from the Limpopo River, the border to Zimbabwe and Mozambique is 33 km to the East past the Kruger National Park.

If volunteers find themselves in Zimbabwe or Mozambique, they may have to take care of wild animals at night, as there is no fencing between the communities and the parks, this is mainly the case with elephants and it is quite a rare occurrence to stumble across them.

While South Africa as a whole has a bad rep when it comes to crime the further you go into the rural areas the safer it becomes. In the small communities where we operate, once you have been introduced to the village Headman and the community, the community as a whole look out for you, even if you don’t realise it!  Volunteers will have a local coordinator who will be with you at most times for the first few weeks.

Malaria is the only downside, which can be quite prevalent throughout the year, so volunteers must take prophylaxis, advice can be given in advance of your arrival.  Volunteer are asked to check with their doctors for the latest information on which vaccines are needed. Yellow Fever is only needed if you plan to travel further up Africa.

Summertime can hot 40’c + (110F)  with November to February being the hottest months, while winter, May-August, is the most pleasant - 27’c (80F) during the day with a cool 8’c at night.

Our History

FOM was registered as a UK charity in 2009, since then we have built a Learning Centre in conjunction with a local church group, this learning centre houses the local Home Based Care, a group of ladies who look after the elderly and infirm of 5 local villages. It is at the Learning centre where we hold our after-school clubs and community meeting or workshops.

From 2009 to 2016 we hosted a creche at the centre, however, due to local politics (makes international politics look like child’s play) the creche closed down, it is ready to be started again, however, the impetus must come from within the community first.

Over the years FOM has taken hundreds of children to the educational Centre in the Kruger National Park as part of its educational programme and continues to do so today though our World Park, World Cup programme.

Our Vision/Mission

Friends of Mutale endeavours to harness the power of sport, to instil in the young and the youth the ability to think critically, to seek solutions to issues which are relevant to their communities, and to connect conservation and climate change awareness across cross-border communities in the Pafuri Node of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) through our World Parks, World Cup programme.

World Parks, World Cup started in 2016 with a cross-border competition between local community teams, park authorities and law enforcement of South Africa and Mozambique, including players from the  Kruger National Park and Parque Nacional Do Limpopo. World Parks, World Cup has grown to include four communities which border national parks from 3 countries:

  • South Africa: Mutele and Makuleke Communities
  • Mozambique: Pafuri Communities
  • Zimbabwe: Malipati Communities

Across the region, we are engaging with 30 primary schools, 3 secondary schools and various community female under 21 teams.

Our Goals

Our goals are to supplement lessons learnt in the classroom on the field of play through educational games are interwoven with football, this will be combined with the creation of female under 14 and 17 football teams through the primary school structures which will also include the establishment of friendly regional leagues.  

Supplementing this we will be holding 3 global events:

  • International Women's Day, 8th March
  • International Day of Peace, 21st September
  • World AIDs day, 1st December

These events allow us to bring the children from the region together, as the barriers are broken down with the creation of the Transfrontier Conservation Area, so are the barriers which separate these historic communities of Pafuri. 

At each global awareness event, when we bring the school children together at Pafuri, Mozambique,  where we use games designed: 

  • to challenge stereotypes
  • to help children to think critically
  • to enhance their knowledge through self-directed discovery  
  • to have fun.  

The events we hold are unique to the area and a first to happen across the 3 countries of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area.  

Our programme endeavours to tackle 6 of the 17 sustainable development goals, these being:

  1. #Good Health and Well-Being 
  2. #4 Quality Education
  3. #5 Gender Equality
  4. #13 Climate Action
  5. #15 Life on Land
  6. #17 Partnership for the goals

Who are we looking for? 

We are looking for people who have an adventurous spirit, are independent, adaptable and have a drive to help people attain their goals who may not usually have that chance. We need people who want to immerse themselves in the local culture and who are happy interacting with people of different backgrounds.

Our minimum stay is 4 weeks, as this gives you time to relax into your surroundings and to build up a rapport with the communities and its people you will be working alongside.

If you love interacting people, sharing knowledge, playing sports, then we are looking for you and can offer not only you a life-changing experience but also the kids you will be working with. 

Why Choose us?

With over 25 years experience of travelling, volunteering in Africa, and working with various communities from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa to Khartoum, Sudan.  

We understand the needs of volunteers and how best to accommodate them within a local cultural context so that you the volunteer and the community you work with get the best long-term impact.

Come live in the bush for a while and enjoy some sundowners overlooking the African bush and hear hyena or jackals while you rest at night.

The main focus of the project is on
NPO Status
Yes, registered non-profit organization
Foundation Year
Contact Person
Vince Mehers
Vince Mehers
Spoken Languages

Social Impact

Our social impact is guided by  6 of the 17 Sustainable Goals:

  1. #Good Health and Well-Being 
  2. #4 Quality Education
  3. #5 Gender Equality
  4. #13 Climate Action
  5. #15 Life on Land
  6. #17 Partnership for the goals
During the last year, we have managed to refine and develop our Social Impact message; this has a lot to do with our partnership with Coaches Across Continents who have enabled our community coaches to seek solutions from within their communities.  We firmly believe in an 'inside-out' approach to identifying and solving our social issues and not the usual top-down method used by many organisations.  

Through our programme, we have identified some common social issues such as:

  • Sexual Health awareness
  • Confidence
  • Teenage pregnancy
  • Substance Abuse (Alcohol mainly)
  • Poaching
  • Understanding the environment
We tackle these problems by creating a safe space in which the children can articulate themselves free from fear of ridicule or embarrassment, an area where girls can feel free to ask questions or challenge stereotypes and traditions which may be holding them back from a successful life and career.

During 2017, our social impact included:

  • Trained 52 local teachers/coaches in Sport for Social Impact
  • Impacted on 30 primary schools
  • Reached 1,800 children
  • 60 children attended our International Women's Day -8th March 2017
  • 100 children participated in our International day of Peace - 21st September 2017 
  • 200 children attended our World AIDs day - 1st December 2017
  • Held the first GLTP International Female Under 21 tournament
  • Taken 180 children through the Kruger National Park 
  • Had a local coach selected and attend the Michael Johnson Young Leaders Academy in Dallas, Texas
  • Had another local coach complete a nine-month online Sport for Social Impact programme run by Coaches Across Continents
  • Raised 38 ultra-durable footballs
The above has allowed us to lay firm foundations going into 2018 and beyond and will enable us to focus on our work with local primary schools and with the creation of girls under 14 and 17 teams.  The above includes the establishment of friendly leagues for them to compete in, as well as working with local schools to supplement the children's general education.

Through 2018 we will be developing a 'Women's Rights Policy' which will supplement our 'Child Rights Policy' we developed in 2017 through Coaches Across Continents.  

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