The Cape Winelands and the Franschhoek Valley, situated in a rural setting approximately 1 hour from Cape Town, is an area of both incredible natural beauty and, in contrast, crushing poverty and the attendant social issues such as illiteracy, crime, fractured family structures and substance abuse. The challenge for a child growing up in this environment is compounded by educational factors. One of the primary drivers of the negative factors in these communities is a broken educational system, beginning with the earliest years of schooling. As a result, South Africa regularly ranks at the bottom of all international studies of literacy and numeracy of school children – a factor that largely determines educational and economic success as adults. The aim of The Kusasa Project is to break this paradigm and offer the chance for a brighter future by addressing education at the earliest opportunity.
During our earliest interactions with the local government schools beginning in 2006 it soon became apparent that the challenges of changing behaviours in existing schools was an obstacle which would take years and considerable political will to alter.
After consultation with skilled educators and social workers both in South Africa and abroad, we soon came to realise that a more direct approach was needed, integrating the following parameters:
- Full control over the curriculum and delivery of the educational experience, utilising an internationally recognised approach tailored to the local environment
- Intervention at the earliest phase of the out-of-home educational experience, beginning at pre-school age
- Attention to the basic health needs of children by providing healthy meals, hearing and vision tests, basic dental health etc. – provisions which are rarely or only cursorily provided in government schools
- Parental engagement and support
A simple and consistent approach and with our kids as the greatest representatives of the work we do, we have gained the trust and support of individuals, foundations and organisations locally and abroad, who recognise the intelligence of our engagement and the success of our programmes. This is evidenced by the growth of our activities each year. Through the work of our dedicated, dynamic trustees and educators we work every day to maintain this trust and build an exciting vision for the future.
For a more detailed history of the first 15 years of the The Kusasa Project, read our blog post here.
A dual US/UK citizen, Dave Riordan founded The Kusasa Project (with Doug Gurr) during a sabbatical with his family in South Africa from 2006-2008. Education and the welfare of children have long been areas of interest for Dave, both as a father of 3 boys and as an active member of his community. He has served as a youth sports coach (baseball and rugby) and a school governor (UK and S. Africa). He currently holds positions as: Chairman and Trustee of The Kusasa Project, trustee of The Kusasa Project UK, Governor of Beechwood Sacred Heart School (UK), and rugby coach at Tunbridge Wells Rugby Football Club (UK). Dave has had a 35-year career in corporate banking, in the US and UK.
Doug co-founded the organisation in 2006, having moved to the Franschhoek Valley in 2002 after a successful career as a stock broker. Doug is now a partner in the Franschhoek arm of Pam Golding International, a highly regarded estate agency firm, and is widely regarded by locals as the unofficial “Mayor of Franschhoek”.
Amy is a dynamic business woman, philanthropist and bank spokesperson. Her background and tireless efforts in the field of education have transformed the lives of millions of children in South Africa.
Richard is a businessman with extensive experience in developing and financing fast growing telecommunications and software companies in Europe, Africa and the Americas. He has lived and worked all over the world, most recently in Nairobi. He is now an active investor in, and board member of, a wide range of disruptive businesses and lives part of the year in Cape Town. Richard, with his unique combination of business acumen, financial expertise, operational skills and knowledge of the challenges of operating in Africa provides an excellent addition to our governing body. He comes from a family of teachers.
Jeff lives in Pennsylvania in the US – with an extensive background in the financial services industry, as well as a founder & CEO of one of the 100 largest minority-owned, service companies in the United States (a telecommunications & logistics startup). He grew up in a family with a long history of involvement in the civil rights movement and helping people who are at risk. Hence, he has always held on to higher purpose of “giving back” and has helped lead non-profits in the US for many years. Jeff is married to a teacher – Pam – and they have two wonderful children.
Our UK Fundraising Team
Jonathan has over 30 years experience working for major banks in London and Paris, including Bank of America and Société Générale. He is married with 3 children, and also has a passion for sport and Rugby in particular. Jonathan developed a love for South Africa when he visited Franschhoek for the first time in 2006. Having witnessed The Kusasa Project while it was in its infancy, Jonathan was delighted to help establish the UK fundraising arm and is currently its Chairman.
Andrew has enjoyed a successful investment banking career spanning over 30 years. His current venture is VSA Capital, acquired in 2010, which Andrew has rebuilt into a successful Investment Bank and brokerage firm. VSA Capital has a global client base, with a focus on Natural Resources, the Battery market and Asia.
Victoria established Victoria Wall Associates Ltd over 30 years ago – which advises on organisational change, recruitment and development programmes. Her experience, executive coaching expertise and keen interest in potential performance and career development also led to the creation of VWA Consulting – a leadership development consultancy that works with a broad range of clients from FTSE 250 corporations, pharmaceuticals, private equity investors, to hedge fund managers and exhibitions companies. Victoria is passionate about helping to educate the next generation and also serves as a trustee of South African based Shine Literacy.
Mark works as General Counsel for the Nationwide Building Society. He joined the Kusasa Project UK team in 2018. He and his wife Claire had just spent a year living in their Franschhoek house, during which time they both volunteered their time at the Kusasa Project school, helping with sport and music and reading to the younger kids. It was a wonderful and life-changing experience and Mark is delighted to have the opportunity to do anything to help the kids from afar in the UK until such time as he is able to start spending more time on the ground in South Africa again.
“The children we have been privileged to work with at The Kusasa Project have immense, untapped potential and a joy for life which humbles us all. In spite of living with crushing poverty they seek only that we share our time, knowledge and love to give them the skills to reach their potential as valued human beings. To pass through the gates of our school on any day you will be met by a wave of energy and a tangible pulse of happiness as you step into a dynamic learning environment; a school populated by eager students and inspiring teachers. This is the heart of The Kusasa Project and why our team works so hard to never let these kids down.”
Dave Riordan, 2019
100% black beneficiaries | S18A PBO approval with SARS | A proven track record since 2006
UMALUSI (the SA Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training) accreditation number: 20 SCH01 00807
UK Registered Charity (Number: 1134655)
Netherlands Charity (Stichting 8511:28:002)
Affiliated with The Columbus Foundation. US Charity (EIN 31-6044264)