Ingwavuma, South Africa,
Dear Sponsors and Friends,
“I did it, I did it!” the powerful words which our children have said over and over again in the past six months. Not “you did it” or “we did it” but “I did it”. A sense of achievement that you can’t buy, you can only earn. 2015 has been another busy year for the Zoe Sarojini Education Trust. We have seen the completion of the orphanage counselling room, raised funds through University, school, club and social fundraising events, seen our children achieve fantastic exam results and increased our response systems acting on our children’s needs faster than ever before.
Working in Ingwavuma
For me it has been an incredible experience to spend these past four months in Ingwavuma, working alongside some of our children every day. This has allowed me to develop my relationships with them and help them develop as young people, both academically through studying, and emotionally through organising counselling and providing love and support on a daily basis. I am also working on our current systems adapting, improving and modifying them to fit the needs and challenges of Ingwavuma. I have loved teaching at Khethani and slowly sharing my ideas and teaching practices from the UK. Guided by Mr Swift, the principal, we have adapted UK born ideas to fit Zulu culture introducing a school science day, reading rockets (shared different age reading time) and positive behaviour reinforcement techniques. For more insight and information please refer to my first three reports in the news section of our website www.zoetrust.org.
Building the orphanage has been an on-going project for the trust over the past five years. This year we completed this project by building and furnishing a new counselling room, providing a much-needed indoor area for the children to study, play and receive counselling. Since its opening, the room has been enjoyed by all and is a hive of activity as the children enjoy exploring new toys, books and stationary provided by the trust. Zodwa, the social worker uses the counselling room to provide the children with the therapy and guidance they need to move on from the traumatic early years that they have experienced. She also leads groups for teenagers to discuss the topics of pregnancy, contraception, HIV, alcohol and drugs.
Tensions in South Africa
South Africa can be an unsettled place at times and recent violence in the township area where our children in Cape Town live has created tension and worry for our children. A number of our children have themselves witnessed violence on the streets and for a few days been unable to leave the area to attend school. This culminated last week in a huge fire that left 2 dead and 4,000 people homeless including one of our families. At these times we are extremely grateful to our mentors who help us to navigate these difficult situations from afar. As a result we were able to act fast moving the family into temporary accommodation and then thanks to a rapid response from our sponsors support the family to start rebuilding their lives.
Challenges of starting High School
The end of this year marks a big milestone for two of our boys in Ingwavuma, as they complete primary school and
prepare to enter the world outside of Khethani. 2016 is set to be challenging for the boys and the trust as we attempt to help them navigate the complex world that is high school. They move away from the nurturing home of Khethani with only five students in their Grade 7 class and teachers who know and love them into classrooms of 60+ children and teachers who are over-stretched. The boys are aware of the problems that they will face and have already made positive decisions about how they can supplement their studies through internet use and extra maths lessons.
End of year reports to make us proud
As always this time of year is a wonderful time of celebration as end of year reports arrive in our inbox. The majority of the reports are positive, with children showing academic, musical and sporting ability. This was also backed up in the end of year celebration where a number of our children received awards including Lindelwa (Grade 1) for gold academics, Rebecca (Grade 5) for character, Slindile (Grade 6) for sewing proficiency and Phila (Grade 7) for diligence. In addition to the academic and character awards our children also cleaned up the sporting awards with Sanele (Grade 5) winning an award for best netballer, Phila (Grade 7) winning an award for character in cricket and Lethu (Grade 7) winning best footballer, best cricket player and best rugby player.
Here are examples of some of the report comments:
“Kayla is helpful, kind, caring and full of energy.”
“Lindelwa is self-motivated and her work is always neat and is a pleasure to mark.”
“Phila has had a good year in both academics and character. It has been a great privilege having him in my class.”
“Rebecca has been honest, responsible, helpful and well organised. She has been eager to learn and would ask and answer questions.”
Three success stories
For me there are three reports that stand out and this year it is all about the boys. Firstly Nkosinathi, whom I wrote about last year, started the year unable to walk unaided. Thanks to much encouragement, he can now walk around the entire school. This new-found ability has opened up his social circle as he is now able to join in with games of “it” or red rover and can often be seen tottering around with the other boys. His teacher writes: “Nkosinathi is always smiling and kind to others. He has so much courage and it’s amazing to see him walking more confidently this year.”
The other two are Lucky and Lethu who have both had a fantastic end to what has been an inconsistent year. These two boys crave love, structure and support. Lethu came alive during study sessions suddenly realising that with a little bit of work he could make a big difference to his marks. Once he saw an improvement in his marks this enthusiasm increased. He was always early for revision sessions, started taking work home and keen to revise at every opportunity. As a result his exams results were good and he finished the year above the class average. In line with this increase in academic work his character transformed as well, the carrot of a bike for no detentions definitely helping. Lucky is another difficult character. Working alongside his teachers and carers, we have made it our priority to focus on the positives, taking interest in his achievements and successes rather than his demerits and detentions. We have also set up strong links between school and home. All of this paid off and this term Lucky did not receive a single detention.
Our tertiary students in Cape Town have also had an impressive year. Winnie passed her first year at university with three distinctions. She has now a full scholarship so her Zoe Trust sponsors can now sponsor a new young person, Siya. Siya has spent the year working as an assistant at the Wardoff school some of our younger students attend, and has loved it so much that she now wants to study education. She will start her first year of teacher training this coming January alongside her work at Wardoff. Okuhle and Yolanda have also had good years, both flourishing academically and socially. Yolanda is also now on a full government scholarship. Alison has been mentoring these young women for close to ten years, and it is the richness of these relationships that inspired the creation of the Zoe Trust back in 2010.
It is all about love….
All of these stories show how important it is for our children to feel loved, cherished and wanted. When they have someone to work for and to behave for they thrive and both their character and academics improve. As a result, we are working hard to find more mentors on the ground who can develop further these intimate bonds with our children. This is something we have seen work in Cape Town were Jennifer, our new mentor, has created an amazing relationship with our younger children. Jennifer joined us in early 2014, taking responsibility for five of our children. Alison and Jennifer’s personal connection with the children means that we can react to their needs and problems as they occur providing solutions to problems as or before they arise rather than dealing with the consequences.
What a year 2015 has been, full of joy and success! Together we have the immense privilege of helping young children to develop their character and academic ability so they can not only reach their potential but strive to exceed it. Our children often talk about the Zoe Trust family, about how we are spread around the world, how different we are but ultimately how we share one thing – love for education and each other.
With my best festive wishes to all our children and sponsors,