Arrived in South Africa

I have arrived safely in South Africa for the first leg of my journey.  I was expecting to update the website regularly while here but my laptop was stolen between Cairo and South Africa and it has crippled my ability to blog.

I will be interviewing 3 schools this week to assess the feasibility of partnering with them; I want to develop a grant program to pay for at-risk children’s school fees.  $195/year pays for a child’s education, uniforms, books, and a daily meal.  Median income for this area is $300/year, making it impossible for most children to receive an education. Tough Angels has sponsored Lesipho, Lady Fair’s granddaughter, for the past 3 years and she is thriving.  I will go to class with her tomorrow and meet with the Principal to discuss funding possibilities for other children.

Lesipho proudly reports that she is #1 in her class!

I will not enter into any agreements unless I am absolutely convinced of the school’s credibility and dedication to the children’s education.  At the moment the education system in South Africa is under extreme scrutiny.  The front page headlines in the newspaper (The Mercury KZN) this morning read, “Failure rate spells doom”.  While this is referring to Grades 10 and above, there is general consensus that many rural schools in this area lack qualified teachers, books, and adequate management.  That said, there are leaders at rural schools who are personally taking responsibility to insure the education of their students.  Some principals have purchased text books themselves, photocopied material and borrowed from more affluent schools in order to maintain or exceed the standards of acceptable education.

I feel that education is absolutely a long-term solution to helping at-risk street children.  I believe it’s a step in the right direction for dramatically decreasing the rate of rape and child trafficking, in addition to breaking the cycle of HIV.  Education gets beneath the immediate crisis support, begins to unravel the myths around HIV, and introduces a broader view of life.  However, I am saddened to recognize the realities that some schools may be little more than a daycare center.  The challenge becomes finding the right school that will be able to educate children appropriately.

Lady Fair’s house is built and they are now safe and protected from the elements.  I asked Lady Fair how many people she now cares for and she answered that they set 16 plates for meals!  She is an extraordinary woman!

It is bittersweet being back in South Africa.  The problems and struggles for these people remain, yet nothing compares to seeing and hugging the women and children that have moved me so deeply.  They have changed my life on so many levels.

As soon as my meetings in South Africa are finished, I fly to Nairobi.  There I will meet with the other members of the steering committee: UN, UNICEF, IRC, Strategic Applications International, and Tough Angels.  We will assess and implement the creation of a gender based violence (GBV) resource center for the refugee camp in the Turkana region.  Famine, GBV, and lack of medical attention plague this region.  By the time I arrive in Nairobi, I am hoping to have access to a laptop and will update whenever internet is available.

I am safe and healthy.  I wish everyone who has great privilege could bear witness to life in developing countries.  I think it would shift our priorities, soften our hearts, and certainly make us grateful.  My prayer is that you will continue to read my stories, become involved, or at the very least, think twice before judging or ignoring other people’s strife.

Signing off for now from Kwa Zulu Natal
Peace and blessings

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