Defying The Odds

Janet and Jim – Robberg Trail – South Africa

Once again, the time is approaching when we take a break from South Africa and return home to Canada. Thank you to everyone who provide words of encouragement, monetary support, and laptop computer donations. It takes a team, and we appreciate that so many people have remained faithful.

We experience mixed emotions in the lead-up to our departure, but recognize that the time we spend with friends and family in Canada is critical to remaining passionate about our initiatives in South Africa. Our resolve has not diminished, and we don’t want that to change.

White Location (Knysna township)

To acknowledge the obvious…rising above poverty is tough. To say it is difficult is an understatement. Escaping generational poverty, particularly in a country steeped in a history of oppression and racism, remains elusive for all but a few. The majority of South Africans live in poverty and, if you are black or Coloured, your likelihood of being poor is considerably greater.

When we speak of poverty, we don’t simply mean the refrigerator is old. We mean the refrigerator is sometimes empty. And by empty, we mean empty. A few years ago a rather bright teenage boy, Kudzai, opened his empty refrigerator and jokingly said “this is where we store the lightbulb.

Because of your individual donations and support from the Khayamandi Foundation and Moondance Foundation, this promising young man now attends university. And he is one to watch.

Spaza shop (corner store), White Location

World Bank Study on South Africa – Geoffrey York, April 5, 2018:

“Nearly a quarter of a century after apartheid ended, South Africa remains the most unequal country in the world by any measure, and race is still one of the biggest determinants of income and wealth, a new World Bank study has found.

Inequalities are being passed down from generation to generation, “implying little change in inequality over time and perhaps even a worsening of the situation,” the World Bank reported. “Current levels of inequality are likely to persist in the future.”

Poverty and inequality have both increased in South Africa in recent years, the report said. Poverty rates still follow the old geographic and spatial patterns that were created during the era of white-minority rule, a result of the “enduring legacy of apartheid,” the study found.

At the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa was measured as the most unequal country in the world, although some Latin American countries such as Brazil were at nearly the same level. Since then, the Latin American countries have become less unequal, but South Africa’s level of inequality has barely changed.”

White Location (Knysna township)

Only 8% of grade 8 students attending under-resourced, township high schools in South Africa will attend university. Needless to say, fewer than 8% will complete their university studies.

Only 50% of grade 8 students will make it to grade 12. Only 40% will graduate (matriculate) from high school. In many respects, the 40% misrepresents the gravity of the situation. Reason being that a student can matriculate in South Africa despite their highest mark being only 40 percent. Furthermore, of the 7 subjects taken in grade 12, two only require a minimum mark of 30%.

Knysna – view from the townships

So…how does one defy the odds and escape poverty in South Africa? Based on our observations, by completing a university degree, 3 year vocational program, or equivalent. In other words, through significant formal education. Seems obvious, and relatively straightforward.

Straightforward until we factor in the stress of growing up in chronic poverty, and its documented negative impact on cognitive development. Factor in the days with little to no food, or substandard nutrition, dysfunctional or violent home environments, overcrowded classrooms with up to 50-60 students, and the challenge of living in communities impacted by crime, drugs, and gangs.

For most, the barriers verge on insurmountable. But some do make it, and that’s what is important. We have profiled many such youth in previous blogs, including Thomas, Ben, Aphiwe, Ntokozo, Kudzai, Wanga, Paul, Siyathemba, Daniel, Onke, Ace, Zamela, Junior, Masonde, Axo, Sibabalwe, and more.

Janet and Mandla

One young man who has defied the odds in many ways is Siphamandla (aka Mandla). We met Mandla in grade 10, soon after he turned 18 years of age. Along with each of his siblings, Child Welfare removed Mandla from his alcoholic parents and placed him in the care of an orphanage at 6 years of age. Mandla remained at the orphanage until the age of 18 when he was required to leave.

The home environment Mandla returned to at 18 was as crazy and impoverished as ever. Little had changed. Within months of meeting Mandla, our friends Penny and Ella came to his rescue while we were in Canada. Ella grew up in a similarly dysfunctional home and knew Mandla would never be able to complete high school if he remained with his parents.

Ella and Penny invited Mandla, and his friend Masi, to move into their Safehouse. The boys jumped at the opportunity. Three years later, despite considerable expense (funded by Ella, Penny, Canadian couple Laura & Steve, and other donations), Mandla completed high school. It wasn’t a perfectly smooth journey! Lol. However, to the surprise of some, Mandla defied the odds and graduated high school.

L to R: Masi and Mandla – working with Khayamandi Foundation

Mandla always wanted to be a social worker. It’s a common job aspiration among township youth; they want to help their communities. That being said, few qualify academically for admission into such a degree program.

Mandla was no exception. Despite graduating high school, his marks were poor. He qualified for a 1 year social work auxiliary program, however such programs are only available at private colleges. Private college means no government funding available. The R50,000 ($5,000 CDN) amount Mandla required would exceed the annual household income of most township residents. Cost prohibitive.

Yet Mandla was determined. He had already applied to a private college and been accepted. The deadline to pay a required deposit was quickly approaching. Somehow, Mandla sourced the deposit from a municipality education fund.

Now Mandla needed the big money. It so happened that the Khayamandi Foundation had a mission team in Knysna at the time, and Mandla was working with them for a few days. Long story short, after many discussions and undying determination by Mandla, the Khayamandi Foundation agreed to sponsor Mandla.

Center: Siphamandla (Mandla)

Mandla is now a certified Social Work Auxiliary, employed full time with a youth-development NGO that played a crucial role in his life during the years he resided at the orphanage.

Two weeks ago he was offered a position with Child Welfare, a child protection organization in Knysna. After much consideration, Mandla chose to remain with his current employer. Mandla loves what he does, is implementing new school-based programs, and believes he is making a difference in the community.

Mandla’s parents and his disabled sister have also benefited from Mandla’s education and employment. Multiple lives have been positively impacted.

Mandla defied the odds, but it required the emotional and financial support of many. Thank you to everyone who participated.

South Africa

If you have visited Africa, or call Africa home, possibly these words from author Dana Atkinson will resonate: 

“I dragged myself onto the plane. As it took off, I stared down at Africa, watching her get farther and farther away from me. I told myself…that I had to take what I learned from the land, the animals, and the people and be a better person because of it. I had to make my life have meaning.” – Domestic Departures: A Midlife Crisis Safari, by Dana Atkinson

Janet, Jim, & Clarke

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Disadvantage

Joodse Kamp – Knysna

How does the world appear through the eyes of boys growing up in poverty?

Is there a causal link between the chronic stress of poverty and an overdeveloped fight or flight response?

Do disadvantaged youth demonstrate a lack of resilience or motivation?

Why do children living in poverty often struggle academically?

These are some of the issues we encounter in South Africa.

Khayalethu – Knysna

Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed and How Kids Learn Resilience, documents the effects of toxic stress on children living in poverty.

“On a cognitive level, chronically elevated stress can disrupt the development of what are known as executive functions: higher-order mental abilities…”

“When parents behave harshly or unpredictably—especially at moments when their children are upset—the children are less likely over time to develop the ability to manage strong emotions and respond effectively to stressful situations.” 

Concordia – Knysna

While the body’s fight or flight response to danger serves the purpose of shortening reaction time, environments which chronically stimulate flight or fight are not healthy.

“…toxic stress can make it difficult for children to moderate their responses to disappointments and provocations. A highly sensitive stress-response system constantly on the lookout for threats can produce patterns of behavior that are self-defeating in school: fighting, talking back, acting up,…” – Paul Tough

Jack Shonkoff – Director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child

“If you haven’t in your early years been growing up in an environment of responsive relationships that has buffered you from excessive stress activation, then if, in tenth-grade math class, you’re not showing grit and motivation, it may not be a matter of you just not sucking it up enough. …you may not have developed those capacities because of what happened to you early in life.” – Jack Shonkoff

Khayalethu – Knysna

Gender Gap: A Disadvantaged Start Hurts Boys More Than Girls – Claire Cain Miller

As society becomes more unequal, it seems, it hurts boys more. New research from social scientists offers one explanation: Boys are more sensitive than girls to disadvantage.”

“Any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters.”

Marianne Bertrand (University of Chicago) with Jessica Pan “…also found that boys fare worse than girls in disadvantaged homes.”

Rheenendal settlement – near Knysna

Reclaiming Youth At Risk : Our Hope for the Future – Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg

“…kids growing up in adversity often make choices that seem in flagrant opposition to their self-interest, rendering those goals more distant and difficult to attain.”

“Frustrated in their attempts to achieve, children may seek to prove their competence in distorted ways, such as skill in delinquent activity.”

“But for others, the fear of failure is stronger than the motivation to achieve. Youth who have learned to expect failure seek to escape further shame and embarrassment by working very hard at avoiding work.” 

Knysna Location

Protective Factors and the Development of Resilience in the Context of Neighborhood Disadvantage – Ella Vanderbilt-Adriance & Daniel S. Shaw.

“…resilience refers to the process through which positive outcomes are achieved in the context of adversity (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000a).”

“Protective factors are defined as characteristics of the child, family, and wider environment that reduce the negative effect of adversity on child outcome (Masten & Reed, 2002).”

“Several studies…have found that qualities of the parent–child relationship are not related to positive outcomes for children living in the worst neighborhoods (Gorman-Smith et al. 1999; Shaw et al. 2004).”

After-School Mentorship Group

“Across risk status, child IQ has consistently been found to predict a range of positive outcomes, including academic achievement, pro-social behavior, and peer social competence (Masten et al.1999), as well as the absence of antisocial behavior (White et al. 1989).”

Thank you for your continued support. Janet & Jim 

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Hope For The Future

Jim learning to dance (lol) – March 2017

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was born in 1931, son of a primary school Principal, opponent of apartheid, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (1984), author, and served as chairman of South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

The Archbishop wrote the introduction to a book entitled Reclaiming Youth At Risk: Our Hope For The Future. We’d like to share the introduction with you.

Janet & Haylen (age 17) – Hands & Heart student

“Children from difficult circumstances need someone to throw them a lifeline since it is very difficult to pull oneself up by one’s own boot strings. Without help, too many young persons will drop out of school, become involved in substance abuse, and increase the population in jails. We talk about youth as if they are statistics, but they are not statistics. Perhaps we should ask, “What would you do if this was your child?””

L to R: Urhll, Haylen, Duran. All 3 guys attend Hands & Heart skills training. This photo captures Haylen receiving prescription glasses from Jim, after 2 years without glasses. His uncorrected eyesight was 20:200

“We have based our whole society on power; portraying compassion, gentleness, and caring as “sissy” qualities. Tough, macho – this is how you should operate. Children adopt these values because they are so prevalent.”

“I fear that our wonderful expressions of concern for young people are often just so much baloney. This is all hot air because our deeds speak far more eloquently than words.”

Photo taken after the long walk home from carpentry training on a very hot day. L to R: Angel, Haylen, Dallin, Rivano

“We must realise that it is a very, very shortsighted policy if we fail to redeem and salvage our most needy young people.”

Hands & Heart carpentry/welding program (March 31, 2017). Thank you, Kurt (standing with hands on youth’s shoulders), for volunteering many hours the past 3 months.

“A great deal of violence happens among young persons who feel that their lives will end in a cul-de-sac. They may come from depressed communities and lack father figures or caring adults. Without human comfort and outlets for wholesome recreation, they may turn to drugs for excitement and seek status or security in guns and knives. They desperately want to count, but take shortcuts to gaining respect. If you can’t be recognized for doing good, maybe people will take notice of you if you are troublesome.”

Chaylon (age 16)

Chaylon attends the Friday carpentry training for boys who struggle with reading. After weeks of perfect attendance, Chaylon missed 2 consecutive Fridays because his only pair of shoes were no longer wearable.

Chaylon’s home

We purchased shoes and socks for Chaylon last Thursday and he returned to the carpentry programme the following day.

Thembelani – grade 10

Three weeks ago, 17 year-old Thembelani returned to high school after missing the initial 2 months of the academic year. There were many hurdles to overcome, the least of which was money for school shoes and school fees. Thembelani recently messaged the following to Jim:

“no I should b da 1 whose thinkin u for everything u have done for me and showin me how important education is and for that salute u. ure da first person who learned me somethin important.”

L to R: Santhonio (Leighton’s older brother), Leighton, Angel

Leighton (centre) turned 14 in January and commenced grade 8 in January 2017. One month ago, Leighton’s high school deregistered him based on 11 days of arriving late or being absent. Leighton’s mother only learned about his lateness and absenteeism on the day he was deregistered.

Department of Education policy dictates that “Schools have a responsibility…to investigate and to assist parents and learners to remedy the situation”. On behalf of Leighton’s mother, Jim contacted the Department of Education and officials intervened. Three weeks later, Leighton was permitted to return to school.

Janet & Siyathemba

Listen to Siyathemba’s thank-you for the reconditioned laptop he received in January 2017, prior to commencing his first year at the University of Western Cape. We met Siyathemba when he was in grade 8 and he regularly attended our Bulele mentorship meetings the past 4 years.

Siyathemba Audio: 

Thank you for following our initiatives in South Africa, and caring about the youth whose stories we are able to share. In the interest of confidentiality and youth safety, there are some stories or details we are unable to share. The physical and emotional abuse faced by too many boys at home, or on the street, is real. While none of the youth are perfect, and they sometimes behave like typical teenage boys, their determination in the face of hunger, inadequate housing, or lack of shoes/basic clothing, is impressive.

Janet, Jim, and Clarke

Approaches to Education

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Janet and Siyathemba (age 17) receiving a reconditioned laptop (1 of 6 provided by Kurt Cooper)

Siyathemba graduated (matriculated) from a township high school in December 2016 and just started university in Cape Town. We have known Siyathemba since he was in grade 9, and you will not meet a finer young man. He comes from a good family, father is employed, mother passed away 2 years ago, and his older brother is completing his final year of university (engineering). Siyathemba required assistance with his university registration fees which are not funded by government student loan programs, and we were pleased to help (R5,000).

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Kurt Cooper (volunteer from USA) – Hands & Heart (carpentry/welding program)

Many of the boys in the Hands & Heart carpentry/welding program dropped out of school in grade 9, but are literate. Too many come from homes where emotional and physical abuse is the norm.

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Santhonio – age 16

Santhonio is 16 years old, dropped out of grade 9 in 2016, and now attends Hands & Heart. The daily walk from the township to Hands & Heart is long and includes shortcuts through the bush. Like a number of the H & H students, Santhonio lacked suitable shoes. We purchase many pairs of shoes, as shoes eliminate a common barrier to education.

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Mandla (age 16 – grade 8)

Mandla dropped out of grade 8 in 2016 following 3 years of violence in his home. His mother and step-father have since divorced, and he is now staying with relatives. Mandla attained respectable marks in grade 7 and wanted to return to school, however township schools are overcrowded and many have waiting lists. In January, Mandla’s mother was told he was too old to repeat grade 8 which, according to Department of Education policy, is correct.

Jim contacted the Department who agreed to interview Mandla and assess his situation. Long story short, Mandla was allowed to return to his former high school this past Wednesday and is now repeating grade 8. He’s a very happy boy!

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Garald (Program Director – Hands & Heart)

Hands and Heart provides the prospect of a brighter future, and uplifts youth by restoring self-confidence and teaching hand-skills which can lead to employment.

While it is common for boys to smile on the outside, many cry when Jim speaks with them alone. Many feel lost, most are fatherless, and too many feel shame.

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Danville (age 17) – Hands & Heart

Ten youth who are not literate now join the 25 full-time Hands & Heart students each Friday to learn carpentry and life skills. Thank you to YFC Knysna for making this happen, and providing an option for the many youth who never learned to read and dropped out of school between grades 6 and 9. Needless to say, we have a waiting list of boys for the Friday program.

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Janet and Mihle (grade 9)

It would be easier if we only mentored responsible youth who were doing well at school. However, frustrated drop-outs, illiterate boys, and gang-involved youth undermine families, communities, and schools. Ignored long enough, some will inevitably become the criminals of tomorrow. School Principals and Department of Education officials are very supportive of programs like Hands & Heart and the Friday carpentry initiative. The next challenge is ‘scale’, and serving a larger number of youth.

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Penny and Lolo (grade 5)

Lolo is the latest boy to be sponsored by the Khayamandi Foundation of Augusta, Georgia, and he now attends a private school in Knysna similar to his older brother, Ntokozo (grade 11). Thank you Khayamandi.

Our Canadian friend Penny has been tutoring Lolo each week during her 7 week stay in Knysna and her husband, Don, volunteers each Friday at Hands & Heart. Thank you both.

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Haylen’s vision is currently 20:200 in both eyes. Corrected vision will be 20:40 in 1 eye and remain 20:200 in the other, but this will be life-changing to this likeable young guy who works hard at H and H. Haylen moved to Knysna to escape gangsterism on the Cape Flats of Cape Town.

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Haylen – age 17

Robin recently commenced his 2nd year at TSiBA College and was just voted President of the Student Representative Council for 2017! Robin has no family to assist him, and we sponsor his annual fees (R1,700), stationary supplies (R500) and incidental expenses.

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Robin – 2nd year TSiBA College

Marowayne commenced his first year of study at TSiBA in January 2017 and also required our sponsorship of TSiBA fees, stationary, etc. Maryanne’s parents are both deceased, and studying at TSiBA has been life-changing for him.

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Kudzai (2nd year University of Namibia), Jim, Junior (final year of College in Johannesburg) – from the archives!

Thanks to everyone who is already helping and making it possible to positively impact the lives of deserving youth here in South Africa. 

We greatly appreciate your continued support. Janet, Jim, & Clarke 

The Future is Now

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L to R: Santhonio, Friend, Angel, Shilyn

Don Pinnock, author of Gang Town, argues that, for many township youth in Cape Town, the future is now. When your community and/or home environment is violent, and there is a chronic shortage of food and other essentials of life, the prospect of a future which is brighter than today may seem implausible.

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L to R: Garald (H & H Instructor), Simbulele (grade 12), Tyler (grade 8), Denver (grade 9), Khanyile (grade 12)

Skills programs such as Hands and Heart which teach carpentry and welding provide hope of a future which includes the prospect of gainful employment for many of the youth we mentor. Jim recently took 6 of the 8 youth in the preceding photos for interviews at H & H, and a 7th will attend the new carpentry mentorship program for boys who can’t read.

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Interview Day at H & H: Zukisani (matric), Urhll, O-Joe, Vano. (the latter 3 youth ceased attending school after completing grade 8 or 9)

While most of the youth Jim has taken to H & H for interviews are 16-17 years of age, and did not complete grade 9, others will complete high school (grade 12) this month or matriculated 1-2 years ago.

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Grade 9 at boys Percy Mdala High School (Principal at rear).

On November 18th, the Principal of Percy Mdala, Deputy Principal, and Jim enlightened all the grade 9 boys regarding the Hands & Heart skills program. The presentation was directed to boys who are struggling academically and who enjoy working with their hands. Most of the boys who expressed a strong interest in H & H were 17 or 18 years of age, yet still in grade 9.

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playing dominoes in the township

Wood-Working Mentorship commences February 3rd!

Thanks to the supportive team at Hands & Heart, the carpentry mentorship program we envisioned becomes a reality commencing February 3rd. Each Friday, availing of the H & H facilities and instructors, supported by the adult mentors Jim recently recruited, will teach wood-working skills to illiterate youth aged 14 to 22. This means young guys who lack the literacy skills required for H & H will now have an opportunity to acquire much-needed life and hand-skills. Thank you to the wonderful team at YFC Knysna for their many initiatives designed to uplift local youth.

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Kurt (Ben’s university sponsor) and Ben

Many of our readers are familiar with Ben who, at the age of 10 was kidnapped, along with his father, by armed rebels from their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ben and a few boys escaped from the camp and made their way to Zambia where Ben eventually found his uncle and aunt who resided there. Long story short, his Aunt brought him to South Africa where Ben attended school from grade 5 to 12, all the while never knowing the fate of his father and family in the DRC. We met Ben when he was in grade 11. In 2016 Ben completed his 3rd year of a computer science degree at UWC in Cape Town.

3 days ago, after 12 long years, Ben found his family!

“I…have many reasons to be thankful at this moment. Today is literally the best day of my life. My longtime prayer has been answered.

I’m proud, happy, excited, delightful, joyful to announce that I talked to my mom, dad and siblings today. They’re all well. I can’t put into words how I’m feeling right now.

Here’s how it happened, couple of weeks ago, my cousin in Joburg phoned me to tell me that she gave my contact details to a man. This man is an African arts and crafts dealer who travels regularly in Zimbabwe and Malawi to buy arts and crafts to sell it in South Africa. One day during a conversation with my cousin, he mentioned a young Congolese barber he knew in Harare (Zimbabwe) that he was fond of, he turned out to have the same name and surname and age as my younger brother. My cousin immediately believed there was a huge possibility it could be my brother because years back we received news that linked them to the possibility that they might be in Zimbabwe but we couldn’t get any further lead that time .

… yesterday I got a phone call from them (My parents), they were so happy to know that I’m alive and well . Reception wasn’t very good because they live in a rural area but it WAY was better than nothing. We’ve still got a lot to catch up. I’ll call them tomorrow (in Zimbabwe).”

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Siya (grade 6) and Annie

Our good friends from the U.K., Annie & Dick, have been generous supporters of our initiatives the past 2 years. Most recently, Annie took the big leap and became a volunteer! Annie joins Janet each Monday and tutors Siya in grade 6 English. Thank you Annie!

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L to R: Siyambonga (grade 9) and Mxolisi (grade 9)

Our first month in South Africa is particularly busy for Janet, as November is the final month of the school year. Not only are the grade 8-11 boys writing final exams for each subject in November, but the grade 12 youth write their national matric exams. The school year in South Africa commences in January and ends the first week of December. While this is a stressful period for the boys, Janet thrives on it!

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L to R: Brendan (14) and Monti (13) – both in grade 7

Knysna Hope (NGO) has organized a 3 night camp for youth aged 12-15 this January at the Outward Bound camp facilities near Knysna. Funding from the Khayamandi Foundation means disadvantaged youth may attend for free.

We have been busy promoting the camp to many of the boys we know. Brendan and Mongi are impressive young guys and both are excited about attending the camp. The boys and their friends love to rap, and they create their own beats and write the lyrics. They participate in rap competitions and are keen to record their music. Jim knows some high school guys who have a small recording studio in the township and a visit is planned for next week.

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Onke

Congratulations Onke! We met Onke when he was in grade 9 and joined our original Bulele mentorship group. He just completed grade 12 and attained the highest academic results at his high school!! Two years ago a Canadian friend visited us, met Onke, and was immediately impressed. To reward Onke’s hard work at school, and support him as he commences his university education, this couple from Ottawa (Canada) purchased a new laptop computer for Onke! Thank you for your kindness.

Onke has applied to many of the top universities in South Africa and intends to study accounting, with a minor in economics. Watch this young man…he will go far.

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Thank you to all our followers for your continued support. We have been extremely busy, even more so than previous years. Time is of the essence to coach the graduating grade 12 youth on a suitable path for 2017, as well as grade 9 youth who previously dropped out of school or do not plan to return in 2017. It is also the time of year when we make sure youth who are commencing college, university, or trade skills training have an appropriate pair of shoes and basic clothing. Many do, but many don’t. The depth of poverty experienced daily by so many of the 200 young men we now mentor still, occasionally, blindsides us. Just when we think there is little left to surprise us, it happens.

Janet & Jim 

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Arrived Safely

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Kweila

We arrived safely in South Africa and devoted our first week to settling-in, adjusting to the 6 hour time change, and reconnecting with friends & contacts. Clarke, our dog, also arrived without incident and is doing great.

Janet presented Kweila (see photo) with one of five reconditioned laptops we will be placing with grade 12 high school students and first year college/university students. Kweila commences grade 12 in January, and was just thrilled with his first computer! Thank you to Mona & Paul of Ottawa, Canada for your helpful donation.

Tomorrow we resume our regular schedule in the township and get to work. We both have a full week ahead and are anxious to get started!

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Excerpt from Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging (Sebastian Junger)

“It’s common knowledge in the Peace Corps that as stressful as life in a developing country can be, returning to a modern country can be far harder. One study found that one in four Peace Corps volunteers reported experiencing significant depression after their return home…”

“What people miss presumably isn’t danger or loss but the unity that these things often engender.”

“Whatever the technological advances of modern society – and they’re nearly miraculous – the individualized lifestyles that those technologies spawn seem to be brutalizing to the human spirit.”

“Our fundamental desire, as human beings, is to be close to others…”

Thank you for your continued interest & support.  Janet & Jim 

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

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