Township Fire

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White Location

On Sunday evening we observed thick black smoke rising from the top of the township. Within minutes, flames were higher than the trees and we heard the sirens of emergency vehicles en route to the fire. While this photograph does not do justice to the extent of the fire damage, Jim was told by an adult male that 17 homes/shacks were destroyed.

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White Location

The same adult male told Jim that, upon returning to his girlfriend/wife in Knysna, a man learned that she was cheating on him and he decided to burn down the shack in which she lived. The fire spread quickly to surrounding homes. Fortunately, the home of a 16 year-old member of our original Bulele membership group who lives only 6 houses from the fire site was spared. IMG_2070 Janet and our Canadian friend, Elizabeth, visited a wild cat sanctuary during her stay in Knysna. These are 4 month old lion cubs!

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Marlise and Robin

Jim and Robin attended the annual e’Pap luncheon where Robin was invited to speak about his experience with e’Pap. e’Pap is a nutritionally complete porridge developed many years ago by an African social entrepreneur. The e’Pap program in Knysna feeds thousands of disadvantaged preschool to high school-age children each school day. Robin graduated high school 4 months ago and credits much of his academic success to the fact that he ate e’Pap daily through primary and high school. Many youth attend school on an empty stomach and suffer the distraction of hunger on a daily basis.

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Truce-Signing

Following the signing of the truce between the 45 boys in the 3 high school gangs, the Police invited the boys and their parents to an evening meeting intended to reinforce the importance of parental involvement in the long term solution to this issue. IMG_1821 The meeting went well and each member of the panel and Jim spoke briefly, after which parents asked questions and offered input. Two youth also provided input.

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South African Police Services community meeting

Many of the boys attended the meeting, along with some parents, however it is possible that many parents never received the invitation letter from their sons.

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Red Bridge

With only 1 week remaining before we return to Canada, we remain busy with our     youth-related projects and implementing plans to maintain communication with many of the youth during our absence.

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L to R: Jim, Dennis, Michael

Preparing to depart also includes saying good bye to the many friends we have met over the years. Last weekend we were invited by Marie and Brian (from Ireland) to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon on their boat. We dropped anchor by scenic Red Bridge.

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L to R: Micheal, Brian, Janet

We will certainly miss our friends and the natural beauty of of Knysna… Janet & Jim

Field Trip & Truce

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Bulele Group from Percy Mdala High School

The 8 members of the Bulele mentorship group visited the Knysna Correctional Centre during their Easter school break. The prison has 350 inmates aged 21 and older in a facility intended for half this number of prisoners.

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Prior to entering the prison

Janet photographed Jim instructing the boys on some safety tips while inside the prison. The Bulele boys are a terrific group of young guys who are very responsible, yet were keen to visit the prison. While they were shocked by some of what they learned and observed, they thoroughly enjoyed the field trip.

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Knysna experience a few days of heavy rain last week, resulting in significant soil erosion at this township house.

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Janet and Siyathemba outside Siyathemba’s home

Thank you to our Canadian and South African friends who have donated used laptop and desktop computers. Two deserving grade 11 youth who we have known for 3 years are the most recent recipients.

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Siyabonga

Siyathemba and Siyabonga are thrilled that they can now become more computer literate and prepare homework assignments using WORD and Excel.

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Inside Siyathemba’s home

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Masibulele (grade 12)

Janet recently installed a computer at the Safehouse operated by Ella & Penny of Emzini Tours. The desktop computer was donated to Emzini and will enable Masibulele (grade 12), Robin (applying to university for 2016) and other Safehouse residents to complete assignments, prepare CV’s, and become more computer literate.

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Hands & Heart Skills Programme – Knysna

Hands and Heart is a 9 month skills training program developed 2 years ago by YFC Knysna. Jim took 5 boys to Hands & Heart during the Easter school break.

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clockwise: Jim (old), Masande (15), Sinethemba (18), Vogen (16), Luthando (14), Teswill (16)

The boys learned that the program teaches the basics of carpentry, plumbing, brick laying, welding, and electrical, and requires a minimum of grade 9 education. 

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Members of 1 of the 3 gangs Jim has been working with. The fighting/stabbings which commenced 2 years ago involves approximately 45 boys between grades 7 and 11.

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Signing of the Truce.

TRUCE SIGNING – On Friday, April 17, a truce was signed at the outset of the school day. Each of the 3 gangs selected 2 members from the opposing gangs to sign on behalf of their members. Initially, none of the boys were willing to be the first to sign. Following 5 tense minutes, and some gentle prodding from Jim, the signing process commenced. While the situation remains volatile, this is an important step.

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Knysna – Thesen Islands

Fog rolling over the hills separating the Knysna lagoon and houses on Thesen Islands from the Indian ocean.

Sun and a high of 20C today. Autumn has arrived. J & J

Happy Easter from South Africa

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Jim, Coop, Tracy

Our American friends Tracy and Coop recently brought us some wonderful “toiletry kits” for youth who lack these essential items. The kits include a bar of soap, facecloth, toothbrush, and toothpaste, and are an improvement on the loose bars of soap and toothpaste Jim used to carry in the trunk (boot) of his car!

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Phumlani and Siyabulela using Janet’s iPad

To live in South Africa, you must learn to live with the ambiguity of the place. If you can’t cope with ambiguity, I recommend Canada or Australia. (The Long View: Getting Beyond the Drama of South Africa’s Headlines, J.P. Landman)

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Dr. Muir and Tyler

Tyler is 15 attends grade 8. When Jim met him he discovered that Tyler was struggling to read and words and sentences seemed to appear in duplicate. Jim arranged for Tyler to have an eye examination (one hour long!) by a community-minded optometrist and Rotary member. Not surprisingly, Tyler needed glasses and needs to do daily eye exercises to improve his eye control. The examination and glasses were provided free of of charge.

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Concordia High School is the newest school in the township. It opened in January 2012 and caters to both black and coloured students. English is the language of instruction for black learners, and Afrikaans is the language of instruction for Coloured learners. The black students study their home language ( isiXhosa) as the 2nd language requirement, while the coloured students take English.

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Sergeant Lumkwana – South African Police

Concordia is the school where Jim has been working with youth involved in 3 gangs. Recently, Jim took 3 boys from one of the gangs to meet with Sergeant Lumkwana of the South African Police. The meeting went very well. The following day, Sergeant Lumkwana came to the school such that he and Jim could simultaneously meet with 17 members of 2 gangs.

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Concordia High School

While progress is being made with the gangster boys, one boy was badly beaten last Saturday and another was stabbed once on the way home from school 2 days ago. However, there have been no further fights or stabbings on the school premises. The reason we are working with the boys is because this issue has become a significant distraction for many of the teachers, school administrators, and responsible students. Furthermore, many of the gangster boys also want the violence to end.

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Janet, Mxolisi, and Thanduxolo

The boys finished their end of term exams a few days ago and now enjoy a 10 day vacation from school. Hopefully their tutor, Miss Janet, will also take a little break.

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Clarke LOVES running on the beach and in and out of the ocean. He says “I’m not returning to Canada. I’m staying in South Africa”.

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Knysna sunset

To learn more about the some of the racial issues impacting South Africa, watch this informative video entitled:                                                                                                I’m Not Black, I’m Coloured – Identity Crisis at the Cape of Good Hope (2009)

Video link:   https://vimeo.com/23617382

Janet, Jim, & Clarke