Funda Nenja, translates from the IsiZulu language to mean ‘learning with a dog’. It started in 2009 when Adrienne Olivier visited the Township of Mpophomeni and discovered that the community needed help in understanding and caring for dogs. She started the dog school, an activity where the children from the community come on a Friday afternoon with their dog to learn how to teach their dog basic obedience.
The aim of the organisation is to teach children to become more caring, responsible and compassionate individuals using the dog to emphasize the love and loyalty received and to cultivate a bond in order to promote the same compassionate treatment of animals and ultimately for all living beings.
While at dog school, the children are taught how to brush the dog, check if the collar is fitted properly, walk with a leash, basic obedience of ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Local youth join the programme as instructors, they are taught the basics of dog handling and pass these skills to the handlers. On average 80 handlers arrive each week at the dog school.
Our work improves the living conditions for nearly 500 dogs each year, 50% of these dogs are from community clinics held for those who do not attend the dog school.
Dogs are sterilised, vaccinated for rabies and other diseases, treated for worms, ticks and fleas and fitted with comfortable collars. Wounds and skin infections are treated on site and severe conditions are referred to SPCA.
Funda Nenja also holds special fundraising drives in order to subsidise the cost of dog food, collars, leashes and kennels. Donations of dog equipment such as beds, bowls and doggie toys are distributed to our handlers.
Funda Nenja was fortunate to receive international donor support in 2017 which allowed the recruitment of an Education Officer and Social Worker. The process began to develop partnerships in order to engage in the activities outlined in our model.
Partnership with 5 local schools in Mpophomeni resulted in our reaching 2000 learners on the subject of animal welfare from Grade R to Grade 7 in the year of implementation.
The programme is growing in leaps and bounds and our home visits are proving extremely important in understanding the community and their attitude towards dogs.
The need for social services was a necessity and the Family Support programme was initiated. During the home visits, we have found families of varying economic situations. Almost 200 home visits were conducted during implementation in 2017. Only 20% of homes are stable with 30% deemed as being in a fair situation. Fair condition meaning living with the basics and still in need of improvement, the other 50% struggle with various issues such as unemployment resulting in large families living in confined spaces, children needing educational support and the more serious problems of drug abuse. Owing to these problems, some areas of Mpophomeni are much safer than others, for both children and adults.
Our Social Worker provides much needed counselling and parent advisory sessions which makes a positive difference in many lives. Cases originate either from home visits or referrals from the schools in which we work in.
Building on the aims and goals of Funda Nenja, the outreach into schools supports the subject of developing caring, responsible and compassionate youth which is already part of the school curriculum. We were able to present to nearly 3000 learners in our first year. Our supporting lessons are developed to be very interactive and conversational and well received by the schools.
Funda Nenja is a unique programme, its motto is ‘touching the lives of children and dogs through dog training classes’, we have come a long way and have a longer way to go.