Executive director hosts South African Eisenhower fellowPosted by | 10.24.2016
Great Smoky Mountains Association Executive Director Laurel Rematore recently spent an afternoon with Eisenhower Fellow Ms. Sbusisiwe (Sbu) Myeni of South Africa discussing the ways in which GSMA programs and services contribute to the fiscal sustainability and operation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the ways in which nonprofit cooperating associations work with other partners to enhance the public lands visitor experience.
Sbu is a former banker who reinvented her life by launching the Imbeleko Foundation [www.imbeleko.org] to provide holistic education and support for vulnerable children in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, a rural community outside Durban, South Africa. Imbeleko currently runs two core activities: a series of afterschool programs and a scholarship fund.
A number of other initiatives, ranging from nutrition and food, healthcare, mentoring, sports, arts and culture, and family counseling provide needed peripheral support to the children’s families to ensure their educational success. Imbeleko, which Sbu created as a legacy to honor her late sister, has and continues to serve hundreds of children and youth each year.
On fellowship, Sbu will develop a social tourism venture as part of her foundation’s efforts to ensure long-term self-sufficiency, boost skills training and address youth employment. She will also explore after-school program models throughout the U.S. in an effort to build a solid foundation to empower South Africa’s next generation.
Eisenhower Fellowships is a prestigious exchange program that selects ascendant leaders from around the globe to pursue an intensive five- to seven-week program uniquely tailored to each Fellow’s profession and interests. The program consists of a series of high-level meetings, activities and site visits, and culminates in a project that will bring impactful change the fellow’s home country.
Laurel said it was an honor to meet Sbu, and to learn about the challenges and opportunities she and other social change leaders in South Africa face. Sbu also observed repeatedly how beautiful our fall colors are. Apparently, while the topography of the Smokies is similar to her home community of Valley of a Thousand Hills, the leaves just turn brown. Nonetheless, it sounds like there are some wonderful cultural exchange opportunities that could grow out of Sbu’s social tourism venture.