Africa’s Allure

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Knysna (photo by Terrah-Caleb Mello)

In a matter of weeks, we commence the return-journey to beautiful Knysna. What better time to reflect on why Africa has captured the hearts of so many, including ourselves.  

“Few go there. Africa has a reputation: poverty, disease, war. But when outsiders do go they are often surprised by Africa’s welcome, entranced rather than frightened. Visitors are welcomed and cared for in Africa.  If you go you will find most Africans friendly, gentle and infinitely polite.  Africans meet, greet and talk, look you in the eye and empathize, hold hands and embrace, share and accept from others without twitchy self-consciousness.  All these things are as natural as music in Africa.”  Richard Dowden – Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles

“It’s addictive. Get’s under your skin like chiggers (mites). You scratch and it gets worse.” Kathy Eldon – In the heart of Life

We received the following whatsapp message from a grade 11 youth who, 18 months ago, was gang-involved, stabbed at school and nearly died, and on the wrong path. This youth proved instrumental in helping Jim connect with other gang-involved youth and work towards the signing of a truce between 3 gangs in April, 2015, which remains in effect:

“Hi jim am working hard on my studies i want u 2 see de guy u give hope on is going 2 prove u right.”

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Carpentry-Mentorship Initiative: Last week we commenced the search for adult mentors using social media, letter-to-the-editor of the local Knysna newspaper, and advertisements (see photo) in the weekly issue of Knysna ‘Action-Ads’.

The youth we have identified for this initiative are not ready for employment, or on-the-job training, and are best-suited to a mentorship relationship.

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Thank you for your donations, as this is the time of year when we rebuild the war-chest for the challenges and opportunities awaiting us. We are anxious to return to South Africa, and will keep you posted on our progress. Janet, Jim, & Clarke

Iizidima Blog Homepage

Back to Africa

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L to R: Siyambonga (Gr 9), Sinoyolo (Gr 11)

Only 5 weeks remaining until we depart for South Africa, and we can’t wait!

During our time in Canada, Janet continued to tutor some of the boys in math, and Jim mentored from afar (using Whatsapp Chat).

With so many social-ills in South Africa, one could easily become overwhelmed. Remaining focused on our mandate helps us maintain perspective and remain passionate.

When we originally visited South Africa and Zimbabwe, many youth identified the shortage of male role models in their lives, and how this has negatively impacted them and their impoverished communities.

Mandate: Developing Male Role Models, by helping youth navigate life.

We mentor disadvantaged male youth by imparting life-skills and educational support, to better enable youth to navigate life. Our ultimate goal is a more able, better-educated, self-supporting young man who serves as a positive role model.

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L to R: Kudzai, Junior (brother), & Mom

“I’ve seen what happens in varsity. I’ve seen the pressure people give and the way most people lose focus and get lost in the fun. I’ve seen people do really crazy things just to get validation from the fellow peers. The question “what is a man is often asked but not more than the question “are you a man?”. I proudly say yes and quickly remember that Jim taught my brother and I what it meant to be one. We did not see it then and most won’t see it now but what you taught us was how to be men and how to maintain strong principles. You taught us that ambition was to be cherished…” Kudzai (studying at University of Namibia)

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L to R: Paul’s classmate, visiting student from Northwestern University – Boston (USA), and Paul.

The following are excerpts from a newspaper article about Paul, whom we met 3 years ago while he was studying at TSiBA Eden College. 

“You have to look back in order to know where you going” These are the words by which Paul Itumeleng Mphambani lives. Paul, 27, grew up in Soweto with his mother and five siblings. After his mother passed away, Paul knew he would have to be the future breadwinner and desperately needed to get an education.

Never in his wildest imagination did he dream that one day, he would be pursuing a Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) degree in Cape Town. He remembers: “when I was accepted to TSiBA Eden, I knew this was an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others and provide for my family.”

“TSiBA taught me resilience; the importance of self-development and, one of my most important values, discipline.”

“In Langa (township), where I live, we have started a community project to pay it forward which is a philosophy I learned at TSiBA. As TSiBA students, we are all on full, or part, tuition scholarships and while we are not required to pay back the scholarship portion monetarily, we are required to pay it forward by transferring our skills into the community to drive social change in our country. For this community initiative we teach youngsters about cycling.”

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Daniel (attending a Scout camp)

Daniel lives in Zimbabwe and is so excited to be starting his first year at university this week!

Upon graduating high school (O-levels), Daniel completed 2 years of A-Levels (pre-requisite for university) in December 2015. His final term mark was 14 out of a possible 15. Very impressive. Daniel is one of the most on-purpose young men we know and remains an active leader in the Scouting movement in Zimbabwe.

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It won’t be long before Janet will resume her weekday routine of preparing sandwiches for the boys she and Jim tutor/mentor!

Young boys play soccer on a dusty field in Thokoza township east of Johannesburg, South Africa, Thusday, May 28, 2015. The image of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup has been shattered by allegations that its bid over a decade ago was involved in bribes of more than $10 million to secure FIFA votes _ possibly with the knowledge or involvement of the South African government. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Geoffrey Canada (Author, Educator, and Founder of Harlem Children’s Zone) was asked: “What you really think is the way to dig kids out of poverty?”

“I’ll tell you straight. They need all the things you and I give to our own children. What poor kids need is a lot. But you can sum it up by saying that what they need is a decent childhood.” G.C.

From a 21 year-old Jim mentors:

“…and i appreciate that sir. for being there for me you like my father now. And this is how i’m gonna descipline my kids too when they do same mistake as me ..this is a learning curve for me too.”

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Knysna children

Jack Shonkoff  (Harvard University – Center On The Developing Child)
“If you haven’t in your early years been growing up in an environment…that has buffered you from excessive stress activation, then if, …you’re not showing grit and motivation, it may not be a matter of you just not sucking it up enough. A lot if it has to do with problems of focusing attention, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. And you may not have developed those capabilities because of what happened to you early on in your life.

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Ben (3rd year Computer Science Degree – University of Western Cape)

Youth Update: Most of the boys and young men continue to do well, but a few are struggling. Ben, Wanga, Aphiwe, Kudzai, Paul, Onke, Siyathemba, Thomas, Mandla, Luyolo, Robin, Vogen, and others (no particular order) are making us particularly proud.

Your donations allow us to support the education of each of these deserving young men. All are studying at the college or university level, or graduating high-school this December and are university-bound.

Thank you for your financial contributions which make these and other success-stories possible.

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Eugene

Boys Who Can’t Read

Eugene is 17 and dropped out of school because he never learned to read. His situation is too common, and is more complex than a few sentences can explain. When Jim departed South Africa in May, Eugene was essentially homeless. Saying good bye to him was very difficult. Regrettably, we know too many ‘Eugenes’.

Teenage boys who are functionally illiterate need a skill which makes them employable, and they need the life skills necessary to retain employment. None are ready for employment, even if a job opportunity existed. Their life skills are as lacking as their literacy/numeracy skills.

Mentorship Program – Carpentry/Life Skills

Next week we commence the search for retired men whose hobbies include carpentry or woodworking. Using print and social media, we are seeking men each willing to mentor 1 youth for a 3 hour period, 1-2 times per week. Suitable mentors must also be interested in imparting life skills. While the mentorship relationship will be structured around 3 hour sessions designed to teach basic carpentry and use of hand-tools, much of the mentor’s role will be that of social worker.

We have been engaged in discussions with a well-established Knysna NGO about partnering with us on this initiative and, in the least, providing facilities where the carpentry training would be delivered. While we anticipate it may be a challenge to identify suitable mentors, we need a solution to restore hope for youth like Eugene. We will keep you updated on our progress.

Thank you for your continued support.  Janet & Jim

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