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 

What’s Normal?

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Langa Township tour (oldest township in Cape Town) – December 2016. L to R: Jim, Shooter (age 66 – in front of his house), Janet

Normal: the usual, average, or typical state or condition.

While the definition of normal may be the same all over the world, the usual or typical state or condition varies widely.

We mentor boys and young men who are growing up in an environment which many of our readers may not consider normal.

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Franschhoek Wine Valley – near Cape Town (visited by Janet & Jim – Xmas 2016)

When Jim tells some of the boys that, in Canada, he does not personally know anyone who has been robbed, stabbed, raped, charged with a serious crime, or been in prison, they are surprised.

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Township adjacent to scenic Franschhoek (visited by Janet & Jim – Xmas 2016)

During a discussion with a 21 year-old college student (Shane) regarding male role models and the challenge of growing up in a township, Jim mentioned that he had never seen a stab wound prior to visiting South Africa. The youth’s eyebrows raised and he responded “Jim, how can that be?”

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Township in Franschhoek, one of the most popular and scenic towns in South Africa (Visited by Janet & Jim Xmas 2016)

“If you have a good brain and the world you grow up in (chaos of poverty, bad school) demands that you shut it down, you are bound to suffer.” Why Smart People Hurt – Eric Maisel

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Imizamo Yethu township (Hout Bay). 90% of residents live in shacks. (Visited by Janet & Jim Xmas 2016)

Some people continue to ask whether what we do makes a difference. The irony is that it would be very difficult to not make a difference.

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L to R: Gaylen & Jaendré (December 2016)

So many young people are desperately seeking guidance and direction in life. Many are lost, like a rudderless boat at sea.

On a daily basis we see teenage boys come alive, and feel hopeful for the first time in a long while. They start believing in themselves again. Working with disadvantaged township youth has been our most rewarding experience in life. 

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L to R: Harris, Zane, Jim, Max (December 2016)

Jim recently took 4 teenage boys to visit their 4 teenage friends who are in custody at a juvenile correctional centre awaiting trial on very serious charges.

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L to R: Max, Zane, Olwethu, Harris

One of the 4 youth in custody for 16 months while awaiting trial told Jim “You see us laugh when you visit, but it is tough in here. It’s dangerous, with 30-35 guys per cell, and not a place the other guys want to be.” 

None of the 8 boys, including the 4 in custody, believe crime is acceptable. But many grow up in environments where fighting, bullying, drug use, being robbed, dysfunctional homes (alcoholism, violence), and barely passing (or failing) at school has a semblance of ‘normal’. Not right, but normal.

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Mosselbay Junvenile Correctional Centre

Upon exiting the correctional centre, Jim and the boys had a healthy discussion about ‘normal’. Their normal, Jim’s normal, and the normal facing their friends in custody. No one was flippant or disinterested. The mood was sombre.

If we ignore such youth, it will likely be at our peril.

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Chester (commences carpentry training February 3rd)

The Hands & Heart carpentry & welding program commences Monday, January 16th, and the 24 guys are very excited to start.

The 1 day per week carpentry program for boys who struggle to read begins Friday, February 3rd and Jim has selected the initial 10 youth.

The college and university students previously profiled on our blog all continue to do well, academically and otherwise.

Final results for all grade 12 students in South Africa were released 5 days ago. Many of the original members of our Bulele mentorship groups completed grade 12 in 2016, and all did well. Most did very well and will attend universities in Cape Town.

Schools reopen Wednesday, January 11th for the start of the 2017 academic year.

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township spaza shop (corner store)

“All the best in 2017 and thanks for your continued support.” Janet & Jim 

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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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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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Poverty is Complicated

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Ottawa River (Canada)

We are back in Canada and enjoying the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends, while preparing for our next adventure in South Africa.

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Knysna township May 1 – 2016

Poverty is complex. But does this diminish the social value of the more advantaged continuing to strive to better understand the less advantaged?

Statistics South Africa (2009) reports that 61% of children live below the poverty line, with 36% of children living in homes where no adults are employed. (While there are monthly child grants, grants for the elderly, disabled, etc, there is no welfare system for individuals on the basis of having ‘little to no income’ in South Africa.)

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Some might argue: If poor people behaved more like middle class people, they wouldn’t be poor.

“…if I made you poor tomorrow, you’d probably start behaving in many of the same ways we associate with poor people.” Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much (Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir)

“Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.” (John Scalzi)

“All the data shows it isn’t about poor people, it’s about people who happen to be in poverty.  …it is not the person, it’s the context they’re inhabiting.”  “…people make bad decisions because they are poor.”  Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much (Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir)

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overlooking Knysna lagoon from the township

“In August, Science published a landmark study concluding that poverty, itself, hurts our ability to make decisions about school, finances, and life, imposing a mental burden similar to losing 13 IQ points.”   (Your Brain on Poverty: Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions – Derek Thompson)

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Sheldon (on bike) & Max (grade 9 – age 16)

Sheldon is 13 and dropped out of school last year. He was being bullied about the deformity to his right hand (see photo), and never learned to read. He approached Jim in the township asking if Jim would enrol him in the cycling program at Knysna Sports School. Jim visited the non-profit sports program and arranged for Sheldon to start.

BUT…while driving Sheldon to the cycling program his first day, Sheldon said something which made Jim wonder if he knew how to ride a bike. Nope, he had never ridden a bike! Next challenge…teach him. Jim drove Sheldon directly to Max’s house, since he knew Max had a bike. Max had just returned from school and immediately agreed to teach Sheldon to ride on the soccer field across the road. Within 20 minutes, Sheldon was riding on his own and now attends the cycling program each Tuesday.

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the beauty of Cape Town – Clarke awaiting his flight to Canada

An unedited whatsapp message received a few days ago from a 16 year-old youth we’ve tutored and mentored the past 3 years:

“And yah lots of people in need are here in our country and its us black people.. We need mentors and role models and people to talk to all the time we need to talk and that’s u guys…We weren’t as privileged as other people in our growing we had and still have to work hard for a good life and working hard ain’t easy that’s why people like u are special they help us overcome challenges help us heal and realise other things we never realised in our growing. There’s a lot I could say about what u doing for us.”

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Athi

Jim met Athi in December (2015) and was impressed, but confused. Athi graduated high school 3 years previous, but was now 21 years old and doing little in life. Jim saw plenty of potential, but initially Athi was skeptical and avoided him. That soon changed, and Athi and Jim became good friends.

Sorting out the problems in Athi’s life was not easy, and continues, but there has been considerable progress. Lack of food, issues at home, and many losses in life.

Athi commenced the Hands & Heart skills-training program in late January 2016 and maintains contact with Jim in Canada. Like the many other youths whose education-related expenses are paid from your donations, your contributions sponsor Athi’s monthly tuition fees and make certain he has food to eat while he is “learning to fish.” Thank you.

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Roel Goris (to Janet’s left) – Bulele Group

During our final week in South Africa, the Bulele mentorship group invited a special guest. Roel Goris was the South African Ambassador to Thailand from 1992-1996, and during this period organized and accompanied President Nelson Mandela on a two week Southeast Asia tour.

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Roel and Prayer (grade 11)

Roel shared many interesting stories and experiences regarding the period preceding and following democracy, and the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994. He also explained the role of a diplomat and purpose of having embassies in foreign countries.

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Buntu (grade 10 – driver’s seat) and Kweila (grade 11)

Roel’s sports car was a BIG HIT with the guys, and our meeting ended with a “photo shoot” which included many laughs!

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left: Jaendré (age 15) right: Chester (21)

Chester and Jaendré live in a small town 45 minutes west of Knysna. Like so many of the youth in the township where they reside, their home situations are not healthy. Many youth turn to drugs as an escape, and a few months ago Jaendré and Chester decided they wanted to stop smoking weed/ganja. It was a struggle, so Jim took them to the Knysna Drug & Alcohol Centre. In late April, Jim and the boys met with a social worker to commence the process of having both boys accepted into a 9 week residential drug rehab program. The social worker has visited the boys twice since we departed, but says the evaluation process still requires 2 more visits and additional paperwork.

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Chris – 3rd from left (hat, sunglasses, and dark blue shirt)

When the Khayamandi team of volunteers visited Knysna from America in January 2016, one couple quickly realized this was how they wanted to spend their lives. During their second visit to Knysna, Chris and Rebecca decided they would sell their business in the USA and move their young family to South Africa. Sound far-fetched? Not for this family. The business has sold, the house is for sale, and fundraising to sponsor their mission and October 2016 arrival in South Africa is going well. To better understand their motivation, I have Chris’s permission to share his recent email:

On Apr 30, 2016, at 11:45 PM, Chris wrote:   Dear Jim, Your life challenges mine to live differently. When reading your email posts I am constantly reminded of a scene from the movie Pearl Harbor with Ben Affleck. In the movie Ben Affleck’s character joined the British Air Force in an effort to get into the air faster to fight the enemy. In the scene Ben Affleck was being briefed by the Royal Air Force officer and Ben Affleck interrupted the officer and said, “sir, can we please skip all this unnecessary stuff and get me up in the air so I can start killing the enemy.” The officer replied, “are all you Yankees this anxious to die?” Ben Affleck responds, “I’m not anxious to die sir…I’m anxious to matter.” You may have never seen that movie, but the final quote is the point…I’m anxious to matter, Jim, and you my friend encourage me to do so. I am in awe of you and your wife’s servant hearts.  Sincerely, Chris

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