COMMUNITY IS A CENTRAL PILLAR OF ZULU CULTURE and a fundamental aspect of Balega’s corporate responsibility. Since it’s inception, Balega has sought meaningful ways to pay tribute to to the culture and country that is so much part of its identity. In 2003, Balega successfully launched the Lesedi project in order to give back and strengthen its community.
“Lesedi” means “Light and Enlightment”. Light, which radiates brightly outward, and enlightment, which shines deeply inward, are both concepts that connect the spirit of Balega with its greater communities around the world.
The Lesedi Project’s first initiative was assisting the Ethembeni School for the physically disabled and visually impaired children of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Established in 1984, “Ethembeni” means “Place of Hope”, and the school serves as a safe haven for the region’s handicapped children. With the help of its retail partners, Balega established many fundraising programs such as fun runs and school projects to raise monetary support for the children of Ethembeni.
The “Lesedi Project” socks with the children’s beadwork raised enough money to fund 60 tuition fees and purchase a special wheelchair-accessible bus!
In Zulu culture the art of beadwork is more than an art form. The COLORS of the beads are all symbolic messages of either LOVE, STRENGTH, JOY, SORROW, PEACE OR WAR:
BLUE represents Fedility
WHITE is symbolic of Peace and Purity
YELLOW and ORANGE are the colors of the sun - symbolizing light and life. It depicts the beginning of a New Life, beginning of Spring and Prosperity
GREEN represents Contentment
RED is the symbol of Love, a strong expression of Passion
BLACK depicts the regeneration of Life, often used in the context of marriage
Balega, a key vendor partner of Fleet Feet, Incorporated, is an international company with its roots in South Africa. While headquarters is based in Hickory, NC, all of Balega's products are developed and tested in Cape Town, at their South African production facility.
Balega has partnered with Fleet Feet Sports stores to support The Lesedi Project. This program was developed to give back to the South African culture and community on which Balega relies.
Lesedi Project key initiatives:
In the heart of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, nestled in the magical valley of a thousand hills, lies Ethembeni school. Situated on the legendary Comrades route, the school is home to some 300 disabled and disadvantaged children. Ethembeni means “place of hope” and that is exactly what it has become for the physically and visually disabled children who both live and study there.
Ethembeni plays a special role in South Africa’s premier running event the Comrades marathon. Each year, children from the school create beadwork necklaces, which are sold at the marathon expo. Many of the runners wear these necklaces during the race as a sign of support for the school.
The school only receives partial funding from the state and relies more and more on private benefactors and the extended community for support.
The intention of the scholarship fund is to provide money for the education of the children of Ethembeni. Each year, Balega International will donate a percentage of the gross revenue generated from the sale of its products in Fleet Feet Sports stores to the scholarship fund. It is their hope, that as our business grows, the annual contributions to the fund will increase and that more and more children will benefit.
In Zulu culture the ties of family and community are paramount. Individuals who show great leadership, bravery or service are held in high esteem. This culture of family and community is mirrored by the commitment that many store owners, their families and employees have made to their own local communities.
The InDuna award recognizes the store or individual who has shown outstanding leadership, commitment and service to their local community throughout the preceding year. In Zulu society these people are given the title “InDuna” a word meaning great leader, ambassador or headman.
Each year the recipient of the InDuna Award will be invited to South Africa as our guest so that they can experience the spirit of Zulu culture first hand and see how the passion of running is celebrated during the festival known as the Comrades Marathon.
Balega's hope is that the recipients of the InDuna Award will be enlightened by their experience in Africa and that this in turn will help to generate more interest and support for the Lesedi Project.
For their commitment to their local and extended community, Balega is proud to announce that Brett Lamb and Kim Holt of Fleet Feet Sports San Francisco are the 2009 recipients of the InDuna award.
Beadwork is a traditional Zulu craft and is a skill that is taught to the children of Ethembeni school. Each year the children of Ethembeni school create beadwork necklaces and bracelets which are sold at the expo of the Comrades marathon.
For the Lesedi bead project we have commissioned the school to make a series of beadwork items. Each piece is named after a pupil at the school and is being offered for sale through participating Fleet Feet Sports stores. All of the funding and logistical support for this project has been provided by Balega on a non-profit basis. All profits generated by the sale of beadwork pieces are returned directly to the school and go towards the costs of boarding and education.
Please support the Lesedi Bead Project by buying and wearing the necklaces and bracelets made by the children of Ethembeni.