In June this year, during my summer vacation from University, I was lucky enough to return to Ingwavuma, South Africa for a month. It was a very worthwhile and exciting trip as I spent time visiting and discussing our children and the projects we are supporting there. I hope this short report will give you an insight into the work we are doing in Ingwavuma and the changes we are making as a result of my trip.
It was amazing to visit Khethani again, the school which eight of our sponsored children attend, and to see how much the school has transformed since I was last there. Not only has the school been brought together by the wonderful new school building which (quite literally) shines out over Ingwavuma, but the unification goes much further as the teaching, extracurricular and management of the school continues to develop and grow. Walking into each classroom you can immediately see the depth and breadth of the teaching. Science projects, times tables, spelling lists, treasure maps and drawings cover the walls brightening the classrooms. Each classroom also contains a corner library from which the kids love to borrow books.
In addition, the extra-curricular activities offered by the school matches that of an English private school with a wide variety of weekly clubs including: dance, chess and sports. To supplement these weekly clubs, once every term the teachers run day long activities including woodwork, nature and gardening club. Throughout the year there are various competitions and special days including a spell-a-thon, general knowledge quiz, national Flag Day and a book week. Overall, this is providing our children with a rich and diverse education. I was also present for the end of term assembly which was fantastic. It was a picturesque occasion as the school assembled underneath an old tree in the school grounds in front of their new classrooms. The assembly was a lovely mix of certificates, songs and speeches.
As some of you know it has not been an easy two years with some of our children coming very close to expulsion from the school due to bad behaviour or lack of parental support. So it was rewarding to watch each and every one of these children standing in line with their classmates, smiles on their faces, as they collected certificates and prizes. It felt as though we had finally reached the light at the end the tunnel! We hope that with continued support and monitoring our children will have a good end to the year achieving some great results.
Although Khethani is thriving, unfortunately they still cannot afford to pay teachers a competitive salary. This results in a high teacher turnover rate, which can lead to classroom disruption. Therefore during my trip Tanya and I launched a new initiative at the school, which we have called our “Support a teacher project”. The project aims to support a teacher rather than a student. Thus providing the school with more funds to keep hold of the good teachers and attract quality teachers to the school. We are currently pledging R2000 a month (£124.70) and would like this to grow over the coming years.
You will I hope have all seen the pictures of the orphanage either on Facebook or our website. The first house was completed just before I arrived and I was able to help the children move in. Driving up to it for the first time I was speechless – it is beautiful. The quality of the building compared to their current location is unimaginable. It really is a true home. It felt magical moving them in and watching their faces light up as we unpacked – you could feel the excitement in the air. My only wish was that you had all been there to share the moment with us. I was also very happy to see that the atmosphere within the orphanage remains positive and the kids are healthy and full of life.
This project is ongoing and we are starting to organise fundraising events and apply for grants for future funding to build the remaining two houses. If you have any ideas or contacts please let us know.
In addition to meeting our individual children, I spent time working with our families. I enjoyed chatting to the head social worker and learning about the progress they are making. With a number of children at university or college the effect of our sponsorship is starting to shine through and we have an exciting few years ahead as they reach the end of their studies and enter the working world.
During my trip I met with one of our children, now a good friend of mine. She is currently studying at Rhodes. Her character has transformed from a quiet and shy young girl into a confident, happy and lovely young lady.
Although overall this area of our work is going well, we have decided to make a number of changes as the dynamic of the project shifts. After three years of sponsorship a number of our families have either reached or are nearing self-sufficiency. As a result we have been able to stop the sponsorship of two families as they no longer need our help. In addition we have decided to tighten our criteria for sponsorship making sure that everyone we support is involved in academia. As a result we have moved the sponsorship of one family back to Zisize, the charity with which we work on the ground.
The money these changes has freed up has been moved into other areas including welcoming a new child into the Zoe Trust family and starting up a homework club at the orphanage. It is always sad to say goodbye to children and families. However thanks to Zisize we will stay in touch with them and we look forward to watching their progress over the coming years.
Overall I had a wonderful time in Ingwavuma, as I walked around I could see, hear and feel the influence The Zoe Trust is having on this community. I look forward to watching our children and projects continue to develop and flourish into the future.
Thank you so much for your continued support and generosity,