Accomplishments & Challenges

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L to R: Akhona & Rhino

We feel very fortunate to do what we do. The number of boys and young men whose lives we get to impact on a daily basis reminds us how lucky we are. While it is still over 2 months away, leaving South Africa is going to be very difficult for us.

The nature of what we do works, but the needs are enormous. The degree of poverty and daily struggle for survival faced by most township residents is much greater than many residents of Knysna realize.

The fact that you are reading this blog post means you are more aware than most, and already contributing in the form of moral and/or financial support. Thank you.

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Ben (painting at Ella’s/Penny’s Safehouse)

Guys like Ben make our job easy. Despite being kidnapped by armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo at age 10, and still not knowing the whereabouts or status of his parents, Ben is doing well in his 3rd/final year of a computer science degree at University of the Western Cape. Ben’s education expenses are sponsored by Karen & Mike from Canada and the Khayamandi Foundation.

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Janet, Thembinkosi, Sinoyolo

To further support the members of her Concordia High School physics study group, Janet downloaded 180 instructional videos onto 2 donated laptops. The computers are kept at 2 of the boys homes which most consistently have electricity, but are available for all of the boys to use.

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L to R: Masande, Azo, Mzi

The majority of the boys in our tutoring and mentorship groups are doing well and we continue to add new members. Most of the previously gang-involved youth have ceased such activities and the more academic guys have re-focused their efforts on school and we selected 4 to attend Janet’s study groups.

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Jaendré (15 years old)

15 year-old Jaendré dropped out of school in grade 6 , but is able to read. Jim met Jaendré 5 weeks ago and has arranged for him to be assessed by the Department of Education, such that we can determine how to proceed in his best interest. Jaendré was living in the streets and begging for food, but is now staying with his grand parents.

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Akhona & Jaendré

Drug use is a common problem here, and the above photo captures Akhona (age 17) explaining his personal experience with marijuana and the addictive nature of this drug. Akhona told 15 year-old Jaendré about the difficult withdrawal symptoms he experienced, which are common among boys who have been smoking 2-4 times per day for an extended period. More concerning is that regular users sometimes progress to smoking TIK (crystal meth).

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L to R: Lolo (Ntokozo’s brother-grade 4) & Ntokozo

Each year the grade 10 students at the private school attended by Ntokozo are required to participate in the Oakhill School Odyssey. Students hike-bike-canoe 400km over a 20 day period. Ntokozo’s group departed this past Friday and return March 17th.

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Ntokozo’s group leaving Knysna

From a 16 year-old boy facing serious criminal charges who Jim has been mentoring the past 4 weeks:

“Thanks for believing in me Jim, you made me see a vision bigger then a picture,crazy i just needed someone to show me the picture again.”

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Your donations enabled us to help many youth prepare for the start of the 2016 high school year, enrol in Hands & Heart Skills Training, and commence or return to college  and university. Thank you!

Yesterday Jim purchased school shoes for a grade 10 boy whose home situation is not good. The boy was wearing one size 5 shoe and one size 7. His correct shoe size is 7.

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Janet with the little ones

Each Wednesday morning, Janet, Penny, & Sue visit a different preschool (crèche) to teach township children about responsible pet ownership using videos on iPads and laptops. Yes, that’s correct, Janet working with young children!!!!

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Sue & Liyakhanya (grade 3)

Sue and husband, Ian, reside in the U.K. and spend 3 months each year in South Africa. They have been our neighbours the past 2 years and Sue now tutors Liya in English, as well as participating in the responsible pet ownership program. Thanks Sue!

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Hands & Heart 2016

The #1 item on Jim’s wish list is a trade skills program for illiterate boys, modelled after YFC’s highly successful Hands & Heart initiative. Three of the youth we mentor are currently enrolled in Hands & Heart 2016, which is a 1 year program providing practical training in carpentry, tiling, plumbing, & welding, however the young men must be literate.

Jim’s wish is a carpentry program for boys aged 15 to 21 which is suitable for youth who are unable to read. Jim mentors many boys who dropped out of school between grades 6 and 9 because they never learned to read. When the teasing from classmates becomes too much to tolerate, the boys drop out of school.

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This week Jim started planting the seed with potential individuals and organizations for a carpentry program geared to illiterate, yet determined, young men. One possibility is retired men whose hobby is wood-working, but who also have a passion to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth. We’ll keep you posted on our progress!

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Africa & Sissies

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The Khayamandi Team + local guys

Africa is not for sissies, and there certainly were no sissies when the Khayamandi Foundation recently returned to Knysna. The group of 14 from America worked alongside local tradespeople and youth, including 12 of the boys and young men we mentor, to complete a 4 bedroom addition to one of Ella’s & Penny’s safe houses for young children. It is always a jam-packed week when the “Americans” are in town (lol), with plenty of positive and lasting impact.

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Everyone worked extremely hard under the hot African sun. This was the first real job for most of our 12 boys, but they quickly demonstrated their willingness to follow instructions and remain focused. The 12 guys included Ben, who just completed the 2nd year of a Computer Science degree and whose education is sponsored by Khayamandi, 3 former gang-involved boys who took the day off school to help, young guys who were waiting to start college the following week, and others who dropped out of high school 2-3 years ago. It was a life-altering experience for all the boys.

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Rhino and Olwethu

Rhino is 16, stopped going to school in grade 7, and cannot read. We met him in 2014 when he walked onto the Khayamandi site and worked the full week with no expectation of financial compensation. He returned for the 2016 Khayamandi week which led to a permanent job with the project’s general contractor and Rhino is now learning the skills of carpentry. Olwethu is in grade 10 and decided he also wants to become a carpenter.

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Jennifer, Akhona, Chris, Kyle (red shirt)

Kyle developed a strong friendship with Akhona when the Khayamandi team visited in 2014 and Kyle (U.S. army medic) was treating a large cut on Akhona’s foot. This time Kyle’s wife accompanied him to Knysna such that she could meet the 17 year-old boy Kyle had grown fond of. Tears were shed, and Jennifer and Kyle continue to be very supportive of Akhona who now works for a new painting contractor.

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Athi – worked all week with Khayamandi

Jim was introduced to Athi in December and Athi’s extra effort at the Khayamandi work site earned him the largest cash bonus of all the youth. Athi has been stalled in life since completing high school and we introduced him to a 1 year trade skills program called Hands and Hearts. Upon completing his week with Khayamandi, Athi applied to the skills program and was accepted. He loves the program and is now hopeful about his future.

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Masibulele – worked all week with Khayamandi

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The painting crew

One of the boys we met in March 2015 was recently accepted to TSiBA College and wrote the following: “Hey, what a great 1st academic week 😊 ,Thanks 4 getting me into this place, I can feel it will certainly work wonders 4 me & my future, 🙏🏿 thanks again😀”

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Andrew – worked 2 days with Khayamandi

Jim was recently introduced to Andrew who is 19 and ceased attending school in grade 9. Last week they identified possible sites for Andrew to start a car wash business catering to taxi vans in the township and, on Monday, he and Jim will acquire the supplies Andrew needs to start earning an income.

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Masibulele & Mandla – both worked the full week with Khayamandi

Masibulele completed grade 12 in November and commenced a 1 year business certificate at TSiBA College on January 25th. Mandla just started a 1 year certificate in social work (with sponsorship from Khayamandi) at a Cape Town College. Having lived 12 of his initial 18 years in an orphanage, it has always been Mandla’s dream to study social work and help disadvantaged youth.

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Hands & Heart -Class of 2016

Hands & Heart is an 11 month trade skills program operated by YFC Knysna which provides hands-on training in plumbing, tiling, carpentry, and welding, along with business and life skills. We believe this is one of the best programs in Knysna! Three of the boys we mentor joined the class of 2016 on January 25th and they all love it! Vogen is 17, Athi is 21, and Gavin is 23. This represents a new and promising start in life for all 3 guys.

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Ntokozo & Kurt Cooper of Khayamandi

Ntokozo continues to do well (grade 10) at the private school he attends, thanks to sponsorship from Khayamandi. While he was unable to work at the safe house project due to school, Ntokozo joined the Khayamandi team for dinner on their final night. Ntokozo is Captain of his school chess team and recently completed peer counselling training.

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posted at township medical clinic

Life in the townships is difficult and our friends who are involved in social-betterment projects are fond of saying that Africa is not for sissies.

Since our previous blog post, one more boy Jim knew was stabbed and killed, and another almost died from stab wounds. Jim met the 17 year-old who was killed just 2 weeks prior to his death. He dropped out of school in grade 10 and was scheduled to work with the Khayamandi team as the next step in his new start in life.

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Buntu’s incision

Buntu is 17 and in grade 10. He is a good student, responsible guy, and joined our Bulele mentorship group in December. Buntu was stabbed mid-January during daylight hours less than 1 kilometre from his home. He required emergency surgery.

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Buntu (far right, striped shirt)

Buntu (far right in striped shirt) is now doing much better, and returned to school this past week. However, growing up in the township is not easy.

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Students waiting for school gate to be unlocked.

“Schools Reflect Society they do not change it. The danger to our society is maintaining the myth that the miseducation of millions for over half a century merely results in personal tragedies.”  Dr. Martin Haberman.