The Heart of AVBOB: How Poetry and Education Are Changing Lives

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AVBOB is not just South Africa’s go-to funeral service provider; it’s a beacon of literacy and inclusivity. The AVBOB Poetry Competition, launched in 2018, has become a cultural cornerstone, inviting South Africans to explore themes like love, birth, death and hope, through poetry.

The competition, featuring over 19,000 poems on its website, is a platform for both seasoned poets like Simphiwe Nolutshungu and newcomers. Participants receive constructive feedback, and their work is published in all 11 official languages of South Africa. Renowned poet, Antjie Krog, adds, “Every phase of my life has been enriched through poetry. Through the African language poems, you realise that death is not some fearful passage. It’s actually a door towards ancestors. You can relax because they will be there.”

But AVBOB’s commitment to literacy extends beyond poetry. Since 2012, they’ve been donating container libraries to schools. Their recent Road to Literacy Campaign, in partnership with Oxford University Press, provides trolley libraries to schools, encouraging reading among young learners like 10-year-old Lerato. To date, AVBOB has already donated 180 trolley libraries and plans to donate 260 more, each filled with 500 books, valued at R50 000 per trolley. On the infrastructural front, AVBOB has invested R150 million in a R273-million project to refurbish schools, replacing hazardous asbestos classrooms with modern facilities. Refilwe Jacobs, a learner at Joe Solomon Primary School, beams, “We get motivated to come to school, because we can actually take pride in our school.”

Through these initiatives, AVBOB is more than a service provider; it’s a catalyst for change, uniting communities through the power of words and education.

Every phase of my life has been enriched through poetry.

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The Stories

Story 1: Rethabile Possa-Mogoera - Sesotho Editor: AVBOB Poetry Competition

Rethabile shares, “When we’re talking about digitalisation of indigenous languages, AVBOB is 20 steps ahead.” AVBOB’s centenary celebration was more than a milestone; it was a catalyst for lasting change. Led by language experts like Rethabile, the Poetry Competition was launched, embracing all 11 of South Africa’s official languages. This initiative not only showcased poetic talent but also emphasized the importance of linguistic diversity and inclusivity.  

For Rethabile, the impact of the AVBOB Poetry Competition extends beyond publishing winning entries. Constructive criticism is provided to poets to foster growth and improvement. The competition not only serves as a platform for established poets but also gives aspiring writers, including students, an opportunity to have their work published and recognized.

Story 2: Ann Scarborough Moore - AVBOB Poetry Competition Winner

When the AVBOB Poetry Competition was advertised in the Sunday Times, it was as if a window had opened for Anne. She’d had a hiatus of not writing any poetry at all for 30 years, but now has over 80 poems published on the AVBOB Poetry website. The competition serves as a bridge, connecting those who have “the wounds” with those who are “looking for the words to give it,” as Adriaan Bester, AVBOB Corporate Affairs, put it. Competition winners  like Anne, and Simphiwe Nolutshungu, who writes in IsiXhosa, appreciate the freedom to express themselves in their native languages.

But the competition offers more than just a platform; it offers rewards and recognition. Selected poems are paid for and published on AVBOB’s website, and the top three are included in an annual anthology. This anthology is unique in that it features all 11 of South Africa’s official languages, with translations into English for broader accessibility. For many poets, the ultimate reward is knowing their words could bring comfort and hope to someone in need.

Story 3: Tshepo Mabula, CSI Specialist, AVBOB

In 2012, AVBOB launched the Container Library Project, donating libraries to underserved primary schools. Recognizing the need to reach smaller schools in remote, rural locations, they initiated the Road to Literacy campaign, donating mobile trolley libraries. These trolleys are a hit among teachers and students alike and Tshepo loves watching the children light up when a new trolley is wheeled into their classroom. Teachers find them convenient as they can easily move the trolley from one class to another.

Students like Khumo Badiroang, a learner at Tjhebelopele Primary School, appreciate the multilingual selection, saying, “This trolley library has different languages, so I get to know those languages.” The ultimate goal? To make books just “a step away from the learner,” ensuring that every child has the opportunity to read and grow.

Corporate Overview

Gallery

Antjie Krog, Lecturer and renowned South African poet

Antjie Krog, Lecturer and renowned South African poet

Simphiwe Nolutshungu, AVBOB Poetry Competition Winner

Simphiwe Nolutshungu, AVBOB Poetry Competition Winner

AVBOB's CEO, Adriaan Bester

AVBOB's CEO, Adriaan Bester

The coveted AVBOB Poetry trophies

The coveted AVBOB Poetry trophies

Memelucia Rantsatsi, Deputy Principal at Tjhebelopele Primary School, recipient of a trolley library

Memelucia Rantsatsi, Deputy Principal at Tjhebelopele Primary School, recipient of a trolley library

AVBOB's Trolley Library

AVBOB's Trolley Library

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