Funda Nenja (meaning “learning with the dog” in isiZulu) is an NGO based in Mpophomeni, a township near Howick, Kwa-Zulu Natal with over 30,000 residents. The project was started in 2009 by a group of women who had been inspired by their time spent volunteering at the local SPCA. They realised that the community didn’t quite know how to care for animals, and that dogs, if not used for security, were considered to be pests.
The women started a basic training programme that children from the townships were invited to attend, together with their dogs. Needless to say, student numbers grew rapidly and the welfare of the dogs improved as the children were taught to care for them.
In 2017, home visits became a part of the programme and the aim of developing compassion and respect in children became a reality. Through the method of dog training, and by forming a strong bond with their dogs, students are taught important life skills such as discipline and respect for others, while the programme also covers substance abuse and prevention of disease.
Adrienne Olivier, a founder of Funda Nenja, has seen first hand what influence the initiative has had on everyone involved. “We’ve created a unique model of animal welfare which not only impacts the animals but also the children and the local community. I believe that we’re not just addressing the immediate welfare needs of the dogs and children in the programme, but are also investing in the welfare of future generations, as the Funda Nenja experience will have a lifetime impact on those who experience it,” she says.
So far, the organization has provided sterilization for over 280 dogs; they visit homes to assess the needs of children and their families, and they also provide counselling.
Lindy George, treasurer of Funda Nenja says, “Through the programme, children learn to understand other living beings and how to care for, love and nurture animals. Their achievements in the training programme in turn teach them compassion and pride, enabling them to continue with commitment, pride and self-esteem in the future.”