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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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