This year has been a difficult one around the world and charities have found it hard as countries enter into recession and individuals around the world face loss and financial strain. At the Zoe Trust, we have been incredibly fortunate that our sponsors have remained constant and committed. We are also very grateful that despite the pandemic affecting our children’s education, all of our families in South Africa have remained safe.
We were very thankful for all the donations we received through our Covid appeal including everyone who sent money for Dot’s birthday. The Enrichment Fund, one-off donations, and the communication channels between our trustees and mentors on the ground, have been invaluable this year. Thanks to this close contact, we have continued to provide our children with the love and support they need during the pandemic. We have been able to respond to their needs, whether food parcels, data packages or emotional support via Watsap and phone calls.
Our children have continued to develop into kind, successful and determined individuals. This is especially evidenced by our children’s success and continued determination to learn this year despite everything that has been thrown at them. We have been so impressed with how hard they have worked, how committed they have been to accessing learning and how well they have returned to school once they reopened. Our two children who moved to Richards Bay in January 2020 to attend Richards Bay Christian School are also testament to how well our children are doing as they have made the transition seamlessly, adapting to online learning, accessing emails and life at a big city private school whilst living in a specially set up hostel confidently and successfully.
Below are some extracts from the reports from our mentors on the ground which highlight the impact of the pandemic and the effect our support has had.
When we received notification that all schools in South Africa had to close on March 21st 2020, we had to make the decision of how to support our learners over the lockdown period. Over 20 children at our school are from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds and it was clear that they would have no access to online learning. We therefore needed a multi-pronged strategy:
- For those children whose parents could receive whatsapp messages and support learning at home, our teachers sent daily work and kept in daily contact to ensure they were coping both academically and emotionally.
- For those children whose parents could not afford the cost of the data required for home learning we supplied these families with a weekly data bundle from Zoe Trust funds.
- For those children who did not have access to Whatsapp, we looked at acquiring them a simple tablet and paying the data charges. The Zoe Trust funded the acquisition of a tablet for the Ziqubu family whose two children are sponsored by the trust. They were so delighted with it and have managed to make good use of it during the lockdown, which was hectic for them as 10 of them (including granny, aunt and cousins plus the 4 of them) were staying in a one room house and police were patrolling the streets outside and beating up people who left their houses, so the tablet was a very welcome distraction.
- For those children who lived close enough to my house I would run a daily class at Misty Meadows Farm – we educated 9 children at our farm each day, including one Zoe Trust sponsored child and her family. These children all benefited enormously from the very small group size and daily personal attention and in particular our focus on reading.
- For those children with illiterate parents who could not support home education, we delivered lots of picture books, paper, art supplies, magazines and games to their homes so that they could keep busy with constructive activities during the lockdown. We purchased the stationery with Zoe Trust funds.
- For those children with serious survival issues during lockdown we had to look at providing food parcels. Many of our most disadvantaged students come from two local townships called Lion’s River and Lidgetton, and a squatter camp called Zuzukhela, so we looked at how we could extend our support into these communities as part of keeping our children and our community safe. We have had a very brutal farm murder in our area over the lockdown – a farmer hacked to death by a panga – this is part of the risk of living in a community of people who are starving, and highlights the critical need to feed the community to keep our school pupils as safe as possible.
During South Africa’s COVID lockdown, schools moved their teaching online, as in many parts of the world. A significant challenge to this model is the lack of data and connectivity in many of the country’s poorer residential areas. Quite simply, no data means no education. In response to this challenge, Zoe Trust secured funds to purchase the data needed to keep our sponsored children “in school”. Data vouchers were purchased and sent to our students, allowing them to receive school material and participate in live online classes. At minimal cost we enabled our students to access the online opportunities that many take for granted.
Overall, 2020 has been a year of support and consolidation as we have attempted to keep all our children safe and in education throughout this pandemic which continues to impact our learners around the world. We are delighted that after a late start in 2021 all our children are now back at school and able to receive the quality education they deserve. We will continue to monitor the situation throughout the year, responding as and when needed. We really could not have done this without the continued support and commitment of everyone within the Zoe Trust family.
Unfortunately, this year we said goodbye to Hannah Webb as a trustee as she moved on to different projects. She was invaluable during her time with us and worked hard to co-organise our second Zoe Trust party in February 2020. We were very lucky to celebrate together as a Zoe Trust family before the pandemic hit. It was brilliant to see everyone, to share our key messages and to raise over £4,000. We are so looking forward to being able to party again with you all soon.