I have been to events in Africa where an organisation would donate truck loads of food to a refugee camp in front of cameras and journalists, only to pack it up later and leave again. I have seen people who think charity means to take a few pictures of themselves playing soccer with African kids.
Africa is a place of opportunity and a place that tests your resolve. We have learned over the years that sometimes it might be helpful to donate food and operate soup kitchens and most of the time it is better to walk a road with a person in need, helping them to become employable and look after themselves. Pictured here is a refugee camp at the Zimbabwean border where we provided food for hundreds of people.
I am more of a quiet, steady type. Without much publicity we have been helping to feed many refugees and help people find more sustainable ways of supporting themselves.
Also, our project to supply the local magistrate courts with boxes aiding children who have to testify, has been going strong over the years without me finding the time to write about it. With help from friends of our local church I am able to year after year fill boxes with goodies that assist the children and their mediators at court.
The boxes contain a new stuffed toy, which helps in comforting the child and also assisting the child in demonstrating where and how the perpetrator touched them.
Furthermore we add cookies and juice, some sweets and chips for energy during the often long wait at court.
The box also contains paper and crayons to help with communication during the trial and a coloring book to keep little hands busy during waiting periods.
The project has helped the court personal working with the child abuse survivors to establish an environment in which testimonies are being given with greater confidence.
Of course that is just one tiny step in helping people leave the cycle of abuse.
Newly released statistics from rural clinics outside of Thohoyandou show that children as young as nine are falling pregnant or acquiring HIV infections.
This was revealed by Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba as she commented on the spiralling HIV infections and teenage pregnancies in rural schools in Dididi village, saying the country is being taken backward in its fight for an HIV-free generation.
Ramathuba recently held a teenage pregnancy awareness campaign in the area, after the shocking statistics were released.
According to the Department of Health, Mukhwantheli Secondary School in Dididi village has a record number of 36 pregnant learners.
Another 31 learners aged between nine and 19 from both primary and secondary schools in the same area have been infected with HIV, putting a strain on the department’s fight against the spread of HIV among the youth.
“We are worried as a department when learners between nine and 14 are being found to be HIV positive and both their parents are negative. It tells us that most children in this age group could be involved in sexual activities,” said Ramathuba.
“Life is about choices and if you choose to engage in early sexual activity you will regret it when you grow older. Why should you break your virginity in the bushes when you can read books and be educated and successful in life to a point where you can choose any hotel in the world where you can then engage yourself in sexual activity as an adult?”
Ramathuba also reminded people not to be fooled by fake prophets who tell them they are cured of HIV and should stop taking their ARVs.
She said the high rate of alcohol consumption and lack of extra mural activities after school have been identified by the community as the driving forces behind the high rate of teenage pregnancies and the HIV infection rate.
Ndamulelo Liphadzi (23), a grade 12 learner at Mukhwantheli Secondary and mother of a three-month-old son, said she regrets not listening to the elders when they warned her about boys and engaging herself in early sexual intercourse. She now struggles to raise her son and keep up with her studies.
“I wish I had listened. I am now learning the hard way that raising a child is not an easy job, especially when you’re still at school. My message to others is to abstain from sexual activities so that you don’t end up having to do what I am doing at the moment.
“It is hard to focus on your studies while your child is crying and needs your attention,” she said.
Yesterday I took some time to make a Lebkuchenhaus with my little boys.
We have summer holidays here in South Africa. Nevertheless I want them to grow up with some of the German Christmas traditions I so cherish.
While the English do have something they call gingerbread it is not even close to true Lebkuchen. And we don’t really enjoy that burning ginger taste. Lebkuchen dough is made with honey and many spices and has to rest a few days before baking.
So yesterday we took the dough I prepared earlier from the fridge and started baking, decorating and assembling this little house.
While I go through length to preserve some true German Christmas tradition, Germany this year shocked me with throwing out these reminders of Christ in order to not offend Muslim migrants. Schools and Kindergartens were asked to refrain from singing Christmas carols and some Christmas markets were renamed into Winter market.
Cutting out the house shapes
Icing the roof.
Can we eat it now? Please?
Last night there was an attack on a German Christmas market. 12 people were killed and 48 injured.
Why is Christmas, the story of a little baby boy being born as Gods promise for the salvation of mankind, so offensive to some? Why are Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere persecuted and killed for their faith?
Why do a nations leaders opt to repurpose Christmas instead of sharing this story of Gods humble decision to dwell amongst us as a child?
The forces of darkness can’t tolerate the messengers of light. Christmas always came at a price. We can ignore the persecution of Christians in the middle east until persecution is at our own doorstep or chose to help answer protest.
While Muslim nations forbid Christmas celebrations, German officials have congratulated Muslim immigrants to their religious holidays and then proceeded to repurpose Christmas markets as oriental bazaars and winter markets. Instead of teaching immigrants about Christianity and the values that made the European countries so attractive to migrants in the first place, German kids had to endure compulsory visits to mosques this year. There was very little resistance from churches, in fact leaders of state financed churches rose up to claim Allah and the God of the bible are the same. Christian refugees who often flee serious persecution in Muslim nations are being assaulted in Germany, the country they came to for safety. By Muslims, who are treated with utter cultural sensibility.
Jesus came as a baby in the middle of persecution. Romans where pressing His people hard for taxes, the religious clergy had no answers, the Edomite king Herod slaughtered thousands of babies trying to kill Jesus and only angelic visitations provided Joseph with the necessary insight to bring his family into safety.
Since then, Christians have always been on the receiving end of persecution for what they believe. Although the message is one of love.
His kingdom is not one of Earthly power and manipulation. Those who seek earthly fame will always hate those who proclaim eternal life.
God is just. I pray that Germany will reach out and preach the gospel to all those seeking shelter and refuge from the pain they tried to escape. I also pray that the country will not throw its pearls down the drain but conserve their Christian heritage and not tolerate persecution of Christianity within their borders.
‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be?” Acts 7:49
Prepare your heart as a dwelling place for the Lord.
As 2016 comes to a close, I want to delight you with our very own South African version of the classical children’s ballet Peter and the Wolf. My 4 and 5 year olds at preschool practiced very hard to perform it for you. My own little Samuel, 4 yrs, wanted to be a cat, and Steven, 7, helped out with light effects. Enjoy and comment if you like.
Ever since moving to South Africa, and to such a small town in the rural province of Liompopo in particular, I missed the culture and events of a big city. So at every opportunity we are trying to organize fun events for our children and the students of our preschool. This week we all had a lot of fun having Ollie the Clown come and visit and do a DVD recording at the school. For most of my learners this was the first time they had ever seen a clown. What a joy to watch them smile! A big thank you to @Olliedienar the singing clown.
Recently I attended a Seminar about CAPS, the new National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement. This is basically a new nation wide attempt to provide a comprehensive curriculum for grade R (similar to grade K in the US) to grade 12.
During the seminar we learned about the current state of education in South Africa. It is so sad that for many children there are no or only substandard learning facilities available. Many schools and teachers in the rural areas lack initiative to improve anything on school grounds out of their own pocket. The schools and preschools that are running well often do so because the teachers invest a great amount of their own salary on making their own teaching apparatus and parents pitch in to help buy new toys and paint classrooms, for example. I have too often observed the African community simply waiting for handouts. When talking to the teachers in rural areas which we often do when going to underprivileged schools, it is apparent that the teachers, who earn in many cases more than double my income, are not really willing to invest anything into their own schools. Also it is a long long process to bring a mind set change where teachers use their own smart phones and tablets to start educating themselves about what is international standard.
We trust God and pray and do our best to inspire teachers and ministers of the African communities around us for making changes in 2015. There must be a huge improvement in education and in the available resources. Many schools without basic resources like chairs will need to see the parents coming together and saying “Let us make chairs”. The parents will be coming on board and take initiative instead of the previous passivity there must be active parent involvement.
Churches play an essential role in community upliftment. The province where we are living and working is the poorest one in South Africa. many schools rely on feeding schemes by churches to feed their students. my husband and I oversee 17 other churches in this province including many African churches. We see that the African churches often struggle with moral issues and are trying to encourage them to get involved in community programmes to help assist the education sector.
More churches will establish their own schools resulting in more involvement from businesses supporting church based schools to help them to continue with that. There will also be moral initiatives from churches going into schools. Churches will use local media and create educational upliftment and holiday programs. Christian programs will help children over the holidays where children who usually got food from the schools will be provided with nourishment.
If you want to help us do so, you can send a donation here.
Every penny helps, as we are currently really tight on resources.
South Africa is so different from Germany in many aspects. In Germany, just like in the US or Canada, our school year ends in July. You graduate in July and you start school again in September. In August you generally rest. Then, when you start school and work again in September, you get to rest at the end of year during Christmas and New Years, before starting the year again in January.
In South Africa, the year lasts from January to December without any major interruptions. In November all the reports need to be written, and what ever needs to be done has to be finished by the end of November because December is the big summer holiday. I find it to be a very long stretch of hard work culminating into a high pressure November. I tried to to find some resting points in between like going fishing with my boys but boy, am I tired right now!
I was so happy to be able to do a big preschool graduation concert with our school. Every child received a detailed report on their development and the milestones they reached. Since I am trained in child development (MA) this was quite a thorough report and many hours were spent accessing each learner. We are so proud of the fact that all our preschool graduates have been accepted into good schools after doing really well in the application interviews.
Here are some impressions from the concert for you to enjoy.
Yes, the road to recovery is a long one. Yes, a box full of helpful comforting items is just a tiny stepping stone on that long road of healing. but it is an important one, as this box aids the young children’s capacity to testify in the Magistrate court against their abusers.
You probably are already familiar with the high child abuse statistics in the Limpopo Province South Africa, where every 3 min a child is raped.
Listen to this letter of the Intermediary at the Magistrate court, Salome Phaho, in which she wrote me this morning: (the style reflects the local tone of communication in South Africa)
“Beloved am delighted to hear we receiving new boxes again, am already jumping with the joy of the Lord which has given me strength. I am already looking forward to welcome those victims knowing they will receive full support and comfort from the Lord through those gifts.
I am amazed by the love you have for the vulnerable which to many whose eyes of understanding the Lord haven’t yet enlightened, the story still remains the “same”, they should have been careful enough or could have prevented it somehow and you ask yourself but how since some victims are hardly a year old.”
She refers to the care boxes I am making up with the help of friends and church members.
We will be handing out about 30 -40 more boxes soon of the value of 70 -100 Rand each.
It generally is a big struggle to get child abuse cases to trial, as the young girls are being shamed and not supported by the local culture, as you could read in the letter above. Also, at court the young abuse survivors face many challenges. Long hours of waiting, having never met their intermediaries before, testifying, often 3 hours of cross examinations are just a few of the challenges.
Often the girls and boys (we make special boxes for boys too) will be too shy and close up totally so their testimony can not be validated and subsequently the case cannot go into trial.
I came up with the method of using care boxes to help the children relax. The box contains a new, cute stuffed toy to immediately help the intermediary form a connection with the child. The box contains a high quality fruit juice and some snacks to help keep the child alert during a long and hard trial. Furthermore there are crayons, colouring books and sticker activities to help the children bridge times where the court is in recess or formalities need to be followed up with, which can talke an hour or more.
On Sunday November 9 we had a court staff member testify in our church on the huge impact these boxes have in calming the children, how they can hold on to their toy and how their concentration has improved. The court also uses the crayons and colouring books to help verify if the child understands the concepts of truth and lie which is essential to the testimony being accepted in court.
The juices and snacks are so important as the children often come hungry and tire quickly during trial.
I am so thankful we can hand out these boxes as a powerful tool to court staff who can connect and communicate easier with the children that way.
I am thankful to everybody who brought a teddy, snacks, crayons, stickers or money to make this possible.
All boxes contain a message saying: You are special!
Yippeh! I am sooo happy that in between raising two young and very busy sons, pastoring a church, managing a preschool and doing various charity work, my husband and I were finally able to complete our first book together!
This book is born out of the amazing things we have experienced in our daily walk with God in a nation that has many challenges. With so much crime and no real social security, we need to hear God’s voice so much more.
God talks, wants to warn and advise and encourage you! Dreams, visions, the bible, prophetic insight popping up in your spirit when you pray, we talk about how you can fine tune into God’s voice.
This book contains more than 60 exciting stories and events in our lives where God spoke things we couldn’t possibly know through human understanding alone, and how God uses a sensitive believer to impact the lives of others. Your personal faith will be built up, we will make you rush back to your bible to see if God really does all we quote from the book of books, and you will be so motivated to listen to Him with a new expectancy of getting answers. Thanks for buying our book, you are supporting our work in Southern Africa.
Since amazon has different platforms for different nations, you are welcome to browse on your respective amazon site for our names or book title and download the book onto your kindle or kindle app from there! Look for “The Powerful Impact of a Spirit Led Life”or Andries van Heerden or Christiane van Heerden.
In the meantime we have also published a compilation of prophetic words for 2015 available here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QW3A252 check it out! Especially inspiring for South African entrepreneurs and educators.
Andries and Christiane van Heerden are senior pastors of Emmanuel Church in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, South Africa. Besides impacting their own community in areas of ministry, education and charity work they travel to nations around the globe to inspire believers to really listen to God’s voice for a more effective impact into their communities. They enjoy raising their two sons, Steven and Samuel. For more information on their church and ministry check http://www.emmanuellife.org/
Our young dancers have started work on a dance drama Jan Venter and I developed a while ago, and I am positive this is going to be instrumental in raising awareness in young men and women that we’re all responsible to intervene and prevent abuse!
check my post about the topic here.
We had decided to go and visit specific classes at separate visits to bring specific aid to the different departments. There are 360 learners at the school and it is impossible to bring something for everyone at one visit.
Today we went to visit grade R-3.
With the help of friends from our church and Hope for Limpopo and using my own ressources I had purchased different educational materials such as CD players, educational CDs ranging from sound effects such as weather and animal noises to nursery rhymes, stories and songs. I also made shape, number and letter sorting boxes that can be used by deaf and blind children alike since the letters are made from wooden shapes that must be matched to the appropriate shape fixed to the box.
I had also been making several educational tools myself such as letters and numbers to feel and match.
We brought modelling clay, toy animals, puzzles, toys, clothes and blankets. The children enjoyed me singing a few songs with them and Roelien handed out some sweets for everybody.
We went to the very drab and depressing dorm rooms to take measurements for the mattresses we are going to order for the children.
I so hope we can find some sponsors to help renovate this boarding school for the visually, hearing and physically impaired children!
Field trips are great, and field trips that come right to your preschool are a lot of fun too because it is safer!
Horses are magnificent animals. Horse riding and interaction with horses is a proven aid to education, concentration, honing fine and gross motor skills, muscle development and social skills. Unfortunately many children do not have the opportunity of the benefit of getting to know these amazing creatures.
Therefore we are offering our children at Emmanuel Kinderland Preschool a very special chance every Monday morning.
We provide our students with a chance for horse interaction and an introduction to horse riding with experienced horse trainer Sarah Coronaios from the Rondebosch Riding School.
Today I received this letter from the intermediary for child witnesses and victims of sexual crimes at the Magistrate Court in Sibasa about how our Comfort boxes now are helping even children in the Musina court:
Good Afternoon Mam,blessed be God and the Father of our Lord Jesus who causeth us to triumph through Christ!
I am simply excited for the foundation that has been laid because for this vision to manifest like this means Victory!
My colleagues Nthabiseng Dzhivhani has just given out a 12-15yrs box yesterday @ Musina and I heard the girl couldn’t put it down.
This project is really working as I realized that most kids come dejected and rejected with little or no support from parents or relatives as if they chose to be victims.
But when they find LOVE in that little box is like their WORLD has suddenly changed as they understand that irrespective of what happened and how they feel and what others take them for, there’s still HOPE in life because someone out there loves them and care about them so much.
Thank you once again Woman of God for your heart for souls.
Pass my regards to Pastor
So wonderful to hear about those boxes really making a difference in children’s lives.
Of course I cannot post details about the children involved, but share some photos of the people who work with the children and pictures of the court:
Today I went to the Magistrate Court in Sibasa delivering 40 care boxes.
The boxes contain high quality toys, stickers, activity books, snacks and a high quality fruit juice. Many children have not had breakfast when they come to testify in court and often they wait for a long period of time.
I had been talking to a friend about the plight of the children in Limpopo, with child abuse rates soaring so high. I had asked if there is anything we as a community could do to make testifying easier for victims of child abuse. After obtaining permission by the head of department, I started making of these boxes to help the children bridge the uncomfortable time at court. The boxes will be used in rural courts such as Sibasa, Waterval and Musina.
This has also come up as a topic with the Guardian Angels, our local High Schools care group, who helped me with the collection of boxes while we informed them about their own responsibility to step in and step up when they see abuse happen.
How an individual responds to unpleasant events in their life is crucial for their future.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
To assist a child and young woman or young man in overcoming the trauma of abuse is a call we all need to take up in this nation.
To end this, there are many different steps needed. We as a church are going into schools, training learners how to prevent abuse, how to interfere when you know a peer faces abuse, how to report abuse. We train parents. We try to get the community involved.
It is very important that abuse cases to go to court and the perpetrators get sentenced.
The stress is very high. A case can only be processed when the judge finds the child capable of making a statement. For that, the child must show an understanding of truth, understanding of consequences of lying. Since most children only understand tribal languages, the have to be able to communicate via a translator and intermediary.
The judge says that unfortunately often children stress so much, they tense up and refuse all communication. The case can not go to trial then.
The comfort boxes will be handed to the child by the intermediary. This will give them a positive start in their communication. The child will be more positive about the experience and also have juice and a snack. They often come to court without having had breakfast and without a lunch box. These comfort boxes cover all that.
I do not know about you, but sometimes I feel like the prophet Asaph:
Psa 82:1-8 A Psalm of Asaph.
God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”
Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!
Here in South Africa, I often drive by shockingly pompous places like this one which is a game auctioning facility where buck are sold at astronomical prices:
Antique furniture imported from Belgian castles decorates game breeders offices and the antelope lodge in amazing architecture. No problem at all, everyone do as they enjoy.
Our magistrate courts have no facilities for the hundreds of victims of child rape they process every year, those poor children have to sit next to the perps in court.
Yesterday a boy drowned in a school toilet in a rural area that was basically just a long drop.
We labor hard and sometimes it hurts, to be nothing in the eyes of the great and mighty who so easily could make a tremendous difference.
Being measured by the size of your car and the interior deco of your home can wear down the most spirited fighter over time. So that’s why I share this bible verse with you, because I strongly believe that this world is not everything.
The kindness you share here, the compassion and love, will carry over to the next world, where God will make up for all the unrighteous mocking. I believe Mother Theresa will be a royal princess there!
Currently I am in the process of collecting, buying and making educational material to be taken to the Tsilidzini Special School next week. We need Montessori materials to count, weigh, feel, etc which can be sent directly to the Emmanuel Church where I am working.
I am also trying to purchase 360 waterproof mattresses for the boarding school kids at the Special school as bed wetting seems a major problem.
As to the rape victims: the state of social services regarding under aged rape victims is saddening and really typical for Limpopo, where the triage of services is not working as effectively as in other provinces.
I am handing out the very informative Rape Response protocol posters by the Viva organization at own costs to be put up at public places as to inform women of what they can and should do in the unfortunate event of rape.
If you are interested in the report, pls send me your email address. I am also in the process of putting together these parcels for the young victims: Out of years of experience in a South African setting my friend at Viva suggests a soft toy, a chocolate bar, kiddies juice, a hoodie or cap to feel safe in and maybe something to colour in or sticker activity to have an outlet for nervousness.
NGOs are the ones doing all the little steps to help where the need is greatest. Do not give up your good work, everybody!
As somebody who works in the education field in South Africa, I am tremendously impressed with what happened at the Madiba Memorial. A genius planned a fantastic stage act to expose some of our most pressing issues.
For those of you who do not know, millions across the globe were inspired and moved by speeches made at former President Nelson Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday, December 10, 2013.
You can read about this inspiring event everywhere in the web. Maybe you were also amused at Obama’s selfie shoot,
and Michelle’s angry expression resulting in her even switching seats with the Potus during intermission since he seemed to get a little too comfy with the blonde he was seated next to.Great photo-story here.
But what the international community was really outraged about was this sign language interpreter who was not signing in South African or any other known sign language, but seemed to have stepped right off a star ship :
Or was it true Anti-American activism at work here, really really subtly?
Watch him “translate” President Obama in his historic address to honour old president Nelson Mandela for his life’s work here:
The man, who signed for a portion of the ceremony including Barack Obama’s speech, was simply making up his own signs, say the Deaf Federation of South Africa. David Buxton, the CEO of the British Deaf Association, said the unidentified man, who was supposed to be signing in South African, was “waving his hands around but there was no meaning.”
Mr Buxton said it was “childish hand gestures and clapping, it was as if he had never learned a word of sign language in his life.”
He said sign languages across the world share a similar structure and pattern, but his were just repetitive hand movements.
“It was hours of complete nonsense. He is clearly a fraud who wanted to stand on stage with big and important people. It’s quite audacious if you think about it.”
I beg to differ. I am saying:
Well done, Comrade!
You accomplished what many of us tried before but always failed: to raise awareness on an international stage of the outrageous South African habit to employ someone for any other reasons than qualification.
Let us learn the lesson. Maybe talking about headmasters of special needs schools who receive outrageous pay but do not bother to learn about education should get an reaction?
Will the CIA hold the ANC responsible for allowing a mentally unstable, unqualified person such close access to the president of the United States? Are we ever going to be able to discuss qualifications in South Africa?
Blind children who sit in dark, empty rooms while the donated Braille typewriters stand unused in the shelves because the principal has no idea what to use them for (but he did bother to study the car marked before buying that high end SUV) can maybe draw attention to this problem.
Or a fully equipped computer room that does not get used because, as I am told in no uncertain terms: deaf children can not learn words. Just like that. When I am informing the teachers that you can download loads of visual vocabulary games for free online, they do not even look up from their whatsapp chats on their cell phones.
Applaud this comrade who was bold enough to show how the cadre does not bother a bit about educating the special needs people of South Africa!
Well, whatever episode you are suffering on the mental spectrum, you are normally much more likely to regress back to old habits rather than making up non-intelligible signs. For him to sign: mama makes great stew, or at least repeatedly use the SA sign for Mandela, would have been more likely. Which means this interpreter probably never knew how to sign in the first place.
Singing together with the parents of my preschool’s first ever Christmas Concert.
Living in South Africa can be frustrating, to say the least. I learned: involve some topic that matters internationally, like offending the international deaf community, and you might draw some bit of attention to major South African problems. Will things change? Not through international outrage.
At always, it will be the tedious works of love by dedicated individuals that will continue making a difference.
Here is a great blog summarizing the correct steps that should have been taken in appointing an interpreter for such an historic event:
While my husband had some business to attend in Pretoria and the Waterberg area, we used the chance to explore a little bit more of south Africa.
The following posts will be describing some destinations around that area.
The Geluksfontein dairy goat’s comprises a 400 acre dairy goat farm in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo province. It is 30 km from Modimolle (Nylstroom), 30 km from Vaalwater and approximately 2½ hours from the city of Pretoria.
Steven enjoying the farm feel.
Coming closer to look at the goat.
Hi goat, stop, we just want to play!
Chasing wont work.
Daddy to the rescue. Look, boys, it’s a kid. Be gentle, do not scare her.
So Steven is trying the careful approach now.
Introducing himself without being a threat.
Can we be friends now?
In the end, the little goat followed him everywhere.
When you live in South Africa, chances are that you are barely making it through your month.
That’s why at month end the supermarkets are overcrowded with people who received their pay and can buy some food again. I was not used to this from my former life in Germany. I now earn a fraction of what I brought home monthly in Germany. Medical costs are high – my son needed his teeth fixed and it actually cost more than what I get in a month.
As pastors of a big community church in the poorest of all SA provinces, we deal with so many crises that it sometimes seems like climbing a never ending mountain. We had to bury a lot of young people recently due to crime and traffic accidents.
Working for a church means to be the crisis center of a community. And a church in a poor community in the poorest province has very limited funds, so you end up paying a lot out of your own pocket. A new T-shirt for your child or some shoes for a needy sister? I hope some of you can relate when I write that one becomes a little hesitant to get involved in new things. I am not one of the south Africans driving around with a flashy car spending my mornings in gyms and glitzy malls. Wouldn’t mind, but there is real life happening to real people and i don’t want to play the violin while the titanic is busy sinking. I’d rather be tossing more people onto the life boats, if you know what i mean.
In Africa it goes like this: if you have once helped, you will be always responsible to help. Somehow helping creates the impression you have got a money making donkey in your backyard somewhere. We had many people who we helped, showing up again and again demanding more and more things, not understanding that my sons also must eat.
But the Lord Jesus challenges us to never close our hearts, we need to trust Him to replenish what was given.
Out of that call to love, we dared once more to go and check out people who might be in need. You know, when it comes to children, you just have to throw caution into the wind and get ready to help.
So today I have been on the road to Thohoyandou, the former capital of Venda in the Limpopo province.
Africa runs at a very different pace (hurry up and wait).
This Special Needs School has been all the time on my mind though, and after being in contact with the headmaster and some people who wanted to help, I was pushing my husband and finally today we got to go!
I want to share some impressions and pictures with you.
I pray and hope my words can reach your heart and those of some people able to support.
The school was founded under the old Afrikaans regime, a huge complex with great facilities – in theory.
It is immediately evident upon arriving at the school that the gardens are landscaped and the offices comfortable.
Apart from the front, the back buildings are starting to show signs of neglect and disrepair.
At the moment, the TSS is home to 360 visually and hearing impaired children as well as physically disabled children and children with various degrees of mental disabilities who are schooled in 3 separate complexes at the school.
The Principal, Mr. Maluma, received us sitting at his desk.
He informed us that this is a government school. The government build the school in the 1970s. The different buildings on the vast complex are big and solid. But it is obvious that for a long time no repairs have been done.
The Deputy Principle of TSS Mr. Msrabu was so kind to lead us around the school premises.
This is the main building where the staff offices are.
Please read my report carefully. It is easy to come in, judge and criticize. I really do not want to do that. I am sure the staff of such an institution is really weary of people with a camera throwing some bags of cookies around and thinking they are saving the world.
It is hard to serve at any place and not get accustomed to all the wrongs over the years so much so that you get comfortable and stop saving the world, though.
The way leading to the teaching and housing area of the visually impaired. You are looking at classrooms.
Classrooms around a courtyard.
Dorm room for 7-12 year old girls. Everything was clean except for a strong smell of urine due to the bedwetting problems of many children.
Mr. Maluma kept stressing the fact that they need waterproof mattresses.
I really wish the government would provide the funds to renovate the dorm rooms and add some cheer and deco to them.
Another dorm room.
Stairway to the first floor where there are more bedrooms. I was sad to notice the total absence of decorations.
The cafeteria for the blind.
The facilities were all very neat and clean. Although to me the bedrooms are totally drab and sad, I am aware that many learners are from backgrounds where they probably never even had a bed of their own and also not three meals a day. That is much, and it is too little at the same time.
Roof of the kitchen
The government pays the school R17 (about 2 USD) per child per day for food. The parents pay a fee of 1400 ZAR, about 160 USD, per year as a school fee.
As I said it is a government school, the principal and staff are paid by the government. There is no extra initiative to repair the school and purchase any extras out of the private pocket. The government seems to have no funding available to upgrade the cafeteria. The chairs and tables are so worn. I pray we will meet somebody with enough funds and a hart to change this!
The library and resource room. The materials where basically 20 years old or older.
Kids are between grade K (in South Africa it is called grade R) and grade 7.
The severity of their disability differs greatly.
A great number of Albino children (lacking normal pigmentation) whose eyesight is usually seriously impaired, often up to 80%, but who are otherwise fine, are in these special needs classes. To me it was astonishing that they were not wearing any glasses. I do not know enough of the customs in their villages to be able to judge if they are actually better off at this school. I personally felt that the environment in the classrooms was careless and unengaged.
The children were definitely bored as this was not the appropriate place of schooling for those with Albinism.
The classrooms lack teaching materials especially for the little ones.
The kids live at the school but do not have any personal belongings. There are no decorations and also no special materials to teach blind kids. In most classrooms the children were asleep on their desks.
There were Braille typewriters in the class but the teacher said she does not know how to use them.
These typewriters are the only way that blind children can write.
The manager had never heard of Braille and was amazed when I showed him that you can type dots that form an alphabet.
The teachers said it is too difficult for her, she is new. She has been working there since 2010.
I see the effort in teachign the children academic skills. It would be nice if some fun franchises such as Kindermusik could be sponsored to come in and support the teachers.
I noticed that there was only one crafts class, all other craft classes such as sewing and wood work were closed down, although they could produce toys and the likes for the school. I hope the leadership will realize again that fundraising can and must come from within the school, and the nearby tourism due to the proximity of the Kruger National park would provide a great source of income if for example woodwork was to be sold.
Another challenge I noticed is that severely mentally ill children where together with learners who were only hearing impaired and obviously frustrated with the little education they were receiving.
Although the school is only up to grade 7, learners are often 20 years of age when they finish school due to the fact that up to the time they get to this school, they have not been given any education at all. Hearing impaired children have not learned to communicate even the simplest terms in sign language before. The teachers have to do a lot of hard ground work and are in over their heads.
These teens were all desperate for a hug and some praise for their samplers of their work.
One teacher, asked about the stimulation the children are receiving in the afternoons, told us they are only roaming about. No toys, no activities. I want to bring toys for each child, but I am told that the teachers are afraid that this will cause strive amongst the children. I understand that problem.
I can make simple Montessori-type teaching aids by myself for these children. I will try to get our people to help me purchase the materials needed to make those teaching aids myself.
But I would really need you to ask for some sponsors for waterproof mattresses, and anything else you can think of as well.
There is no visible application of modern educational materials. The teachers need to be taught to use computer programmes to teach vocabulary to the hearing impaired children.
This is a government school. But the braille typewriters stand unused because teachers are not knowledgeable about their use.
There is a computer room with about 16 computers in it and I am told the deaf children can never learn to operate a computer.
When I mention that there are loads of educational games available for cheap or even free online (like for example sorting a picture to match a word), the teachers in the class who are on their cell phones and the manager as well say they hear that for the first time.
Who can support us to be involved in helping??? It’s not just material needs. The children are sleeping their formative years away. So much could be done.
The kids were desperate for a hug and an appreciative word.
This little blind girl touched my heart with her beautiful song about the love of Jesus she was singing for us. I so hope to have the time soon again to go again and show the teachers how to use teaching aids.
What I can not do is to buy 360 standard mattresses with plastic covering.
The sad thing is that my skin colour is always putting me in the box of “rich and responsible for everything”. Which is not true – I had to even borrow a car to go there.
The classroom with a teacher I really enjoyed. She was trying to do the best for her grade 1 learners with whatever materials she had.
The teacher urgently needs some toys and learning materials. All she has are some plastic toys in two plastic buckets.
I can rally my friends to help get 360 stuffed toys so the kids do not have to sleep alone on a cold room.
I can make teaching aids.
I can get books and building blocks.
I can try to inspire the teachers to re-open the workshops so that students can produce goods to the benefit of all. (toys can be self made as well).
Tik, a cheap methamphetamine, is swamping South Africa. The rate of addiction can be extremely fast for some people. Tolerance develops rapidly, so users need more and more to get high, and start going on longer and longer binges. Some avoid sleep for several days while using. People also
Once it’s in a community it wreaks havoc on everyone. Our church employes a full time youth pastor who serves as a counselor at the local High school. His charity group, the guardian angels, decided to do something about addressing the substance abuse on the school grounds.
I helped them out and had them “take back some territory” as I asked them under the guidance of Jan, our Emmanuel youth pastor and initiator of the guardian Angels, to pose at some of the “hot spots” of smoking and drug dealing on the school premises.
I took some photos and this was the result:
The tik generation is enrolling into school ten years after the drug (crystal methamphetamine) hit the streets of South Africa. Children born from mothers who abused the substance during pregnancy are now living with side-effects characterized by those similar to foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), but far worse. In some classrooms in the Cape Flats up to half of the students show symptoms of FAS/foetal-tik symptoms, namely brain damage, facial deformities and growth defects.
Luckily the epidemic has not hit Limpopo that hard (yet?).
That’s why we found it necessary to inform our students thoroughly on the subjects of drugs in a very visual way. Last friday I spoke to about 100 youth on the origins of joints that are often mixed with meth, and how meth is produced and why it is so highly addictive. Yes, some chemistry and biology was involved but it was all quite entertaining.
We even did our own “faces of meth” (ever googled that in image search?) experiment:
As the head students of both Primary and High School attend our Youth meetings I find it really important not just only inform the kids present why drugs are never an option but to challenge them to reach out to those who stand at the sidelines. Those kids are often already marginalized by poverty, problematic backgrounds, poor self-esteem and highly vulnerable to drugs. Often kids get introduced into drug-using circles in order to feel more grown up, to “belong”, to be cool.
And even that first joint can ruin such a child’s life forever. Crystal meth, tik, sprinkled on top of marijuana, it is a highly addictive, life-wrecking cocktail, and renders women and girl tik addicts extremely vulnerable.
Sometimes it feel like the “good kids” couldn’t care less about the endangered ones, often even somewhat happy that there’s less competition around for them.
We got some pretty rich people in our towns leadership, building themselves outrageous mansions on top of the hill with municipal money while the schools and roads are in disrepair and the hospitals are less than adequately equipped. A doctor friend of mine just told me this week there weren’t even latex gloves provided and so his nurses refused to treat even badly injured children … this is Africa. In my German home we were taught to care about each other. Africa? it’s every newly empowered BEE winner for himself.
My job? Trying to instill some compassion to reach out to everybody else like the desolate kids in the bushes in front of the mansions …