Tag Archives: charity

Andries in Uganda

My husband is traveling through Uganda again ministering in churches and supporting orphanages and schools.

Here are some vlogs of the trip.

The staple foods are Matooke, a cooking banana, and pineapples. This is how to quickly prepare the pineapple

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You can help: Comfort boxes for kids testifying in court: going into the second year.

Once off projects are great. Having a sustainable community running for its second year is awesome.

Our project has so far provided over 170 victims of child abuse with a box of comfort while awaiting their testimony at court. Here is what it is all about:

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In my work as a pastor and counselor at Emmanuel Church Louis Trichardt and headmistress of Emmanuel Kinderland preschool I have come to work with many people who themselves were survivors of abuse or came on behalf of a close friend or relative who had suffered through sexual abuse and rape.

As you are well aware of South Africa has a devastatingly high rate of rape, wikipedia talks about the highest rape rate in the world.

The SAPS statistics report that there were 64,514 sexual offenses reported to the police in South Africa in 2012 alone of which over 45% percent where child rapes. However, variable reports claim that only 1 in 9 or 1 in 25 rapes actually get reported. This means that the numbers could actually run up to 1,548,336 rapes every year

This means that someone is raped as often as every 4 minutes

Interpol has named South Africa the “Rape Capital of the World”

The greatest increase in sexual crimes is against infants and children under the age of seven (Rape Statistics South Africa & Worldwide 2011 www.rape.co.za) 50% of South Africa’s children will be abused before the age of 18. 85% of them will be by perpetrators known to the child. It is crucial that perpetrators will be identified and severely punished.

When predators get away with it, it will happen again and again. 40%percent of South African men have raped for the first time when they were under aged themselves. Why is it possible? Cases do not get to court and when they do, it can mean a potentially traumatizing experience to the child and the family. In many rural communities to report abuse means to risk ones life. Houses get burned down and families ostracized for telling on the criminal. It is crucial that cases do go to court as to send a clear message that abuse is not acceptable.

Most rapists are serial rapists. Seeing them severely punished for their crime acts as a deterrent for other potential rapists while every one that “gets away” is per implication an encouragement in his social circles to others to keep doing the same.
There are so many facets where we need to be involved in to start preventing these crimes.

We as Emmanuel Church and community need to do our utmost to make the conditions for survivors testifying as bearable as possible.

I am asking church members, parents of our preschool and community members to assist in putting together comfort boxes for children testifying in court, as these parcels can provide a minimum of comfort to a child in such a stressful situation.

20141110_130032_resizedIt 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. 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. The children are often spending an entire day at court without having even had a breakfast. The children are often nervous and shy. When they are not able to establish proper communication and to prove that they actually say the truth, the case gets dismissed and the offender cannot be judged.

Often the girls and boys (we make special boxes for boys) 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.

All items are all new and the fruit juice and snack are high quality. The box is closed with a sticker (picture provided) that says you are special and indicates whether the box is for a boy or a girl.

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At the Magistrate Court in Sibasa. Children often have not had anything to eat or drink when they arrive in the morning. often trials take more than 4 hours. Our boxes give the children something to occupy themselves with during waiting times.
“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
A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls.
A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls.

We have handed out over 100 boxes in 2014 of the value of 70 -100 Rand each. This year we have been able to make 70 boxes so far. We are weekly informed by the intermediaries working with the children in court on how many boxes have been handed out and what the age and gender of the children is, to ensure we provide for the right needs. Monthly we need about 30 to 40 boxes as they go to the different Magistrate Courts in the are such as Sibasa, Waterval, Musina etc. This project has been developed with the approval of the SA Department of Justice.

Your assistance in providing juices, snacks, colouring in and sticker activity books, stuffed toys and sweets is highly appreciated.

Christiane van Heerden

Check out my blog for the option to support with a paypal donation

Comfort Boxes in the Newspaper

New courtboxes delivered to the intermediaries

On Sunday November 16th I had the big privilige to hand over 40 more court care boxes to magistrate court representatives Mulaudzi Mukondeleli and Ntabisini Dzivhani visiting our church. 40 more boxes will be delivered once these are all given out to the young witnesses of assault. _MG_2816 _MG_2818 courtboxesThe court representatives were so excited about our practical help. Ntabisini then proceeded to share with our senior class in children’s church about the dangers of abuse and how to avoid abusive situations and help friends who can not help themselves. Definitely not your average sunday school topic but since the Limpopo province has such high numbers of child abuse, we can not shut our eyes. On that sunday we also launched our first book, so we have been keeping really, really busy! _MG_2826a

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Care Boxes in the local paper

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Thanks to everyone who helped making this possible.

We delivered care boxes to 6 different district magistrate courts and helped many under aged victims of abuse in testifying at court.

Sorry for my short posts. I am busy writing reports for my students at preschool most of them will enter formal school next year. I will keep you posted on our preschool concert and everything!

New Comfort Boxes for Child Abuse Survivors

IMG-20141110-WA0003_resizedYes, 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.

20141110_134747_resizedWe 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.

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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.

boxesOn 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!

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Thank you from the courts

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Intermediary Salome Phaho and myself when I handed R 4000 worth of comfort over to the court. Yeah, sorry we had no professional camera with us, just cell phones. But that’s exactly it – helping is gritty and not about looking pretty right?

Thank you from the courts

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.

DSC02559Thank you once again Woman of God for your heart for souls.

Pass my regards to Pastor

Salome Phaho

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:

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The ladies working with the children who come to testify in court.
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the entrance to the court room
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the tiny space available for children to wait for their court hearing. Our boxes make it so much more comforting for them.

At the Magistrate Court in Sibasa

A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls.
A typical comfort box contains a snack, juice, new stuffed toy (that was cuddled and blessed to carry some comfort before putting into the box), a book, sticker or colouring activity, toys for boys or girls. A typical carebox contains a friendly stuffed animal for girls, hotwheels (matchbox cars) for boys, a book, sticker activities, a snack, some sweets and a fruit juice. Many children come hungry to court and have to wait for hours until their hearing.

 

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Handing out my first set of 40 comfort boxes containing R4000 worth of items such as fruit juices, snacks, a lovely stuffed toy, sticker activity books, toy cars, crayons etc.
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To get to the rural Magistrate courts one drives about an hour from Louis Trichardt in the North of Limpopo province. A truly underdeveloped infrastructure in the rural courts makes serving justice a challenge.

As many of my followers know, here in South Africa we deal with child abuse and child rape in a severity that is unbelievable.

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.

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Teaching our local high School students the importance of getting involved when they see abuse happen instead of lookign the other way is another leg of our efforts to fight the rape epidemic in our province.

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.

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Packing out in total 40 care boxes (more will come the next months as the project takes of) in front of the court staff.
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Magistrate Court in Sibasa- the family courtroom in a mobile trailer! The infrastructure around the court is basic, to say the least. The judges and lawyers work tirelessly under challenging conditions, even in protable offices. The main road leading to this court is a dirt road.

 

As I wrote in my post about courts, https://germanytoafrica.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/going-to-court/ this is a crucial part of the right against rape in South Africa.

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The court staff responsible for keeping the children safe during the trial. They have a very tiny office and it is not easy to keep children comfortable there. I hope the snacks, toys and books will be of some help.
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The children are testifying through a CCTV system so they do not have to face the criminals.
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The office where the children are waiting for the hearing or coming to for delivering their testimony via CCTV.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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
“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
Talking to the court staff about the importance to support the under aged victims when they testify at court. Intense words for an intense situation.
Talking to the court staff about the importance to support the under aged victims when they testify at court. Intense words for an intense situation.
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Intermediary Salome Phaho (left of me) shared with me her challenges in keeping the children busy. Some NGOs are coming and going with own project ideas, not always practical. they are looking for long-term commitment in a cooperative way. I prefer to first go in and assess the real needs at the base.

 

 

 Statistics from the South African Police regarding child abuse

 

 

 We later received a BIG thank you from the court staff.

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Wendy house for young victims at the back of the Sibasa court.
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We also visited a Wendy house in the back of the court property where we were greeted by a volunteer who had put up his office inside of it. The purpose of the Wendy house is for children to spend their waiting time in.  It seemed a bit unpractical as according to the court staff the young girls get separated from their mothers and during the warmer month it becomes a “hothouse” and can not be used. The toys inside are broken and dirty. The tiny room is filled with the NGO’s computer, coffee table and feels not very inviting.

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Visiting orphans in Uganda and equipping their carers

Yippeh, my husband just returned from a real intense trip to Uganda/South Sudan. He went to encourage Christian leaders, ministers and educators, conducted leadership seminars and visited a lot, a LOT of orphans ministering to the children as well.

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The best room in his hosts house – no electricity, just a gas stove. They shared their food with him, beans, a little rice, a bit of pineapple.
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So happy to have a guest from South Africa!
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Many people came for prayer
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Children from the orphanage presenting an item
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All the children are eating a day: one cup of liquid porridge and maybe a fruit for tea. Resources are scarce.
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Preparation of the porridge
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Traveling on the back of a pick up truck to the next destination.
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Sunday lunch. although Uganda has fertile soil, people lack the knowledge to generate wealth from farming. Much more training needs to happen for people to be able to look after themselves. Many rely on the bananas that grow everywhere for food!
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Leadership seminar
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Equipping pastors and educators who are the ones looking after the needy in their communities.

Here is what he saw: IMG-20140312-WA031 IMG-20140313-WA002 IMG-20140313-WA003 IMG-20140313-WA004 IMG-20140313-WA008  IMG-20140313-WA011  IMG-20140313-WA013 IMG-20140313-WA014 IMG-20140313-WA015 IMG-20140313-WA017 IMG-20140313-WA018 IMG-20140314-WA014 IMG-20140314-WA016 IMG-20140314-WA018 IMG-20140314-WA020 IMG-20140314-WA024 IMG-20140314-WA025 IMG-20140314-WA028 IMG-20140315-WA002 IMG-20140315-WA003 uganda (2) uganda (6) uganda (13)

Care Packets for Children testifying in court

In a previous post I have talked about the high rate of child abuse and rape resulting in death in South Africa. Only an estimated 10 percent of all cases do go to court and the children as young as 3 have to testify under horrible conditions against the perpetrators. To encourage the children and bless them while waiting, often for hours, in the drab corridors of rural courts, I put together these care boxes containing a fruit juice, a snack, a new soft toy, a mini book and some stickers to keep themselves busy for a moment and be comforted from this unpleasant setting.

A box costs me about 7 US dollars to make seeing that these items are all new and the fruit juice and snack are high quality.

If you want to help me make more boxes, please donate to my paypal account. You can find it on the left hand side of my blog. Thanks.

If you are from around Limpopo you are welcome to provide us with new soft toys, fruit juices and snacks!

Thanks,

Christiane

 

Heavenly minded

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.

On the other hand I am faced daily with the lack of appropriate educational facilities and the most basic of provision for people. In South Africa, 10 % of all 0-4 year olds are malnourished, according to UNICEF 84 percent of South African children do not have any access to educational stimulation before they start grade 1.

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.

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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!

Find more information in the discussion below.

Collecting and making

Schools have opened again in South Africa and my little preschool is working hard to deliver excellent schooling to all children.

At the same time I am working hard on creating and purchasing sensory teaching aids for the blind and deaf children at the Tshilidzini Special school. I will be going in about 2 weeks time to help and assist the teachers. We also want to get a local African artist to paint a nice mural to brighten up the drab environment of the doormrooms.

I need to purchase paint, ornaments, fruit and veg for a better diet for the children, mattresses and some CD players. I have put together a collection of music CDs that are ideal to teach with.

The South African educational system lacks on every level. Education, public schooling, is expensive. The government is not putting the taxes into education (nor into roads, health care etc. It goes into villas and luxury cars). Teachers haven’t heard of pedagogics and are very little schooled in education theory, educational psychology, scientific background.

Sigh.

In Africa, you do never know where to start. Jump in and believe that every drop of sweat you put in has the power to drive away the darkness. Prayers are welcome.

A Special Needs School: Love the Children

PS: Read the update on this post here: Revisited

 

When you live in South Africa, chances are that you are barely making it through your month.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Classrooms around a courtyard.

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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.

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Just get me some paint a a few arty aunties and lets paint this happy!

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.

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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.

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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!

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The library and resource room. The materials where basically 20 years old or older.

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Kids are between grade K (in South Africa it is called grade R) and grade 7.

The severity of their disability differs greatly.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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These teens were all desperate for a hug and some praise for their samplers of their work.

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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.

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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.

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This lovely young first grader sang for us a song with a voice as clear as a mountain stream. So beautiful. Her teacher was the mopst enthusiastic of all the teachers we met, although she has to make do with materials more than 20 years old – only two buckets full of plastic toys, no numbers or counting beads, no alphabet to feel etc. I want to make her some tools like that.

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.

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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).

Can you help us contact organizations who might donate modern day teaching aids to the school?

I can talk to farmers to donate fresh produce and food.

I can buy treats.

I can inspire my youth group to come and do a show for the kids and minister the love of Jesus to them.

Can you find sponsors for the mattresses and other material needs?

Lots of blessings to you from South Africa,

Christiane van Heerden

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A Southafrican Pilgrimage

Come and follow the link below to travel with me to South Africa

and to understand why I chose this place (or dit it choose me) to build our future.

In doing so, the future of the woman and her family the future of the nation are becoming strangely intertwined, because if you consciously choose a nation (not by birth and not by job opportunity) you do that out of conviction. Out of this conviction we want to make it better – we predict the future by creating it.

Right now, we are busy assessing the needs and potential of this country in order to be a voice of inspiration, to wake the sleeping beauties and to strengthen the disheartened knights to build a better South Africa, together.

Read here: —>  A Southafrican Pilgrimage.

Enjoy the journey! I would love to hear from you, especially if you are South African or otherwise passionate about helping to build South Africa.

Surviving the Grey

mama3aI once heard an awesome speaker talking about the “meanness” of the meantime. You know, the mean time it takes inbetween conceiving a great idea, dreaming up a fantastic vision, and the final birthing of it. This in-between time is where our character gets to mature, our relationship with God gets tried and tested, and, if we are to make it one day, our roots have to shoot deep into the soil before our projects and ventures can rise high up into the sky.

That is the time when our hair turns grey. Literally. Mine did ever since I was brave enough to give away my stuff in Germany and come over to South Africa to “do this thing” and help my husband impact our town and province with God’s blessings in many practical ways. The discrepancies of “is” and “should-could be” soon got to me, lots of cultural differences to overcome and a general depression in a people who lost a lot of hope into their country, government, community, each other and eventually God.

2012 saw a lot of people go bankrupt or struggle severely. There are countless refugees on the streets and in the bushes, many of them teenagers with own children. Peoples lives seem to have spun out of control and there are few taking responsibility. To be confronted with so much need – with no one but God to turn to yourself who you could ask how to heal the world – mistakes will be made and hair will turn grey. I encountered a couple of destitute people for whom I was literally the only hope. Not always could I help the way I would have wanted to. The feeling to have failed somebody – that maybe there is a young teenage girl with her baby out there whose life might be in danger, while she could have stayed here safely with me – is unbearable.

This morning my little boy Steven, 3 and exceptionally bright for his age, started singing “read your bible pray every day, it does nothing for you”. I cannot describe the pang of pain going straight through my guts. Where did this come from? Have I, with all the planning for tomorrow and surviving today stopped making the joy of Lord the center of my life? We can not preach to our kids, we must be their living bible, their life guard and guide to a wholesome understanding of here and beyond. Time to focus on that. We can dye grey hair, but our hearts are what they are. If we want to give life, it must be visible for our children, so much so that they passionately join the chorus. At the end of the year it is high time to read my bible and pray to God to keep the flame and everything that’s good and worthy alive.

1Co 13:1-3  If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

walkingSurviving the time when my hair turns grey because of all the pain and heartache and need in the world is only possible when I cultivate my love for God. He loves us fiercely. He wants us to love like He does. No lukewarmness, no half-hearted commitment. Total. Intense and with lots of joy.

If you have watched the movie “Machine Gun Preacher” (i would have loved to see Robert Downey Jr in it 🙂 you know how much the need in this world can consume a person. I am NOT talking about that kind of passion that looses sight of anything and anyone else. I want my children to grow up with a social consciousness, alright. But I also need them to know they are my champions, superstars and everything that’s pure and precious to me.

So while we are in the “meantime”, between one year and another, between dreams and fulfilment, we need to be careful to grow roots deep enough to support the vision, to hone our skills and protect our hearts. Africa is intense, no pastels, mainly strong oil paint in boldly contrasting  colours. People say “Africa is nie vir sussies nie” – it’s not for the faint hearted. Counselors would have a feast diagnosing me of post traumatic stress disorders and whatever I guess, but in the end,  who of those making a difference ever was “normal”. It is the hope that you can make a dent into the brick wall, the excitement that here, your life can matter more than there, which keeps us going.

Yesterday late afternoon we closed our office for the holidays although I doubt it will stay closed, but the thought counts. Time to relax and have some fun in the meantime!