Township Environment

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Knysna township

There are few days when we are not reminded that there is plenty to be thankful for in life. Given what we do in South Africa, we would need to be blind, in a physical and emotional sense, to not experience this sentiment. The living conditions and depth of poverty experienced by so many Africans, while in close proximity to areas of affluence and abundance, is jarring. Imagine visiting another planet each day,

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Shacks which will be demolished to allow for construction of government-provided homes

Similar to most of our supporters, we grew up in proper homes, a safe neighbourhood, raised by educated, employed parents, who provided us the material necessities of life. We attended good schools. Our friends and families lived similar lives.

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Temporary government-supplied, single-room wooden homes for former shack-dwellers awaiting construction of government-provided concrete-block houses (subject to a means-test).

We can’t recall a day as a child or adult when we lacked food, electricity, a dry, warm place of safety, or worried whether there would be food to eat.

Like anywhere, the environment in which one grows up is a critical factor. While there are many positive aspects of the township environment, such as a wonderful sense of community, and a vibrancy, there are also negatives. The impact of poverty, crime, drugs, alcoholism, poor nutrition, and under-resourced schools, take their toll.

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photo by Emzini tours

Jim recalls the disbelief of an 18 year-old when discussing how Jim had never experienced a day when he had to wonder whether there would be sufficient food. There was similar surprise at a mentorship group when Jim conveyed that, prior to coming to South Africa, he had never seen a stab wound. The boys wondered aloud how this could be possible?

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Jim’s friends: all of whom dropped out of school and can’t read

At the age of 6, one of the boys in the above photo witnessed his father stabbed and killed metres away from their home. The boy smokes ganja (marijuana) each afternoon and evening to suppress the nightmares, and enable him to sleep. None of the 4 boys can read, and all dropped out of school between grades 5-8.

Another boy Jim knows (not in photo) was present when his father tried to hang himself. The boy was 13 years-old and he collapsed at the sight, fell into a coma, and was hospitalized for 8 months. The rope around his father’s neck broke, and he survived. The boy is now 18 years-old, can’t read, and dropped out of grade 10 in January of this year.

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Primary school-children lining up for the bus home

Excerpt from April 2016 Knysna-Plett Herald newspaper article regarding our initiatives:  Developing Male Role Models

“Onke Sibindi (17) from Percy Mdala said, “I no longer take them as my mentors but my parents, since my interaction with them I have stopped taking things for granted. I am more focused on my future and investing in it. They keep motivating us.”

The Grade 12 learner and top achiever continued, “The literary festival was fantastic, I loved the politics.” He said he always wanted to work in the public sector, but through different interactions during the mentorship programme he is now enlightened and wishes to grow in the private sector.

Ntokozo Rwaphuluza, a Grade 10 learner from Oakhill, said, “I met the Jamers two years ago when I was doing my Grade 8 at Percy Mdala, and they introduced me to their friend who is now funding my education at Oakhill.” The 16-year-old said he has learnt so much about life skills and how to deal with problems. “More than anything I have learnt how to strive to be better,” said Rwaphuluza.

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Ongeziwe (far right) and friends

Last week Jim accompanied another boy to the township medical clinic for an HIV test. This was the youth’s first visit to the clinic, so a medical file had to opened. One of the questions asked of the 17 year-old was “do you have a mother or father?”

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sign outside entrance to medical clinic

The good news is that the boy was negative for HIV. This was his first HIV test and 100 days had elapsed since his risk of exposure to HIV (it can take up to 90 days for the HIV virus to become detectable). Each of the 3 other boys Jim accompanied for HIV-screening this year also tested negative.

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Your donations: One of our largest expenditures is shoes. In particular, school-schools. At a cost of approximately 300 Rand ($30.00 CDN / $25.00 USD), this type of shoe is a mandatory part of of the school uniform. Shoes take a beating with some kids having long walks to school, gravel roads, kicking a soccer ball while at school, etc. With many households surviving on R1,500 – R2,500 per month, and having to choose between buying food and electricity or shoes, there may be no money for school-shoes.

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Thomas and Nolu – April 2016

Congratulations to Thomas on his recent graduation from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) with a 4 year diploma in financial management! Thomas is now augmenting his diploma with 1 year B. Tech. at NMMU and will seek employment in 2017. His special friend, Nolu, is completing her final year of a forestry degree at NMMU. Their education has been generously supported by a Canadian couple. Thank you!

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March 2016

Excerpt from “Writing My Wrongs”, by Shaka Senghor:

“Many well-meaning people come to Detroit with a missionary mentality,” he said. “Then they realize just how tough our problems are. If you want to make a real impact, you have to go out among the people in the communities and not buy into the romanticized view of Detroit based on midtown and downtown.”

Thank you, Shaka. We followed your advice, and your words have served us well. Our lives have been changed forever.

Thank you for your continued support, and helping us bring hope and opportunity into the lives of disadvantaged youth. The next blog post will be from Canada!  Janet & Jim

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